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Coma By Tom Hayes
Copyright © 2008 Tom Hayes
All Rights Reserved
Royova 27

Bratislava
Slovakia
<tomhayes1961@yahoo.com> <tomhayes1961@gmail.com> INT. NURSING HOME CORRIDOR - DAY

Black screen, then a quote from Pablo Picasso appears, "Everything you can imagine is real."

We hear the lead-in drum licks from the LEONARD COHEN song, In My Secret Life. The song begins. Show title and roll credits.

Slam cut to: Two pairs of feet walking side by side on a tile floor in a corridor. On the left, a pair of white nurse shoes and white stockings. On the right, brown wingtips and dress pants.

Credits roll and the camera begins to pan up as Cohen begins to sing. Throughout this scene, there is no dialog, only song.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) (singing)
I saw you this morning. You were moving so fast. Can’t seem to loosen my grip on the past. And I miss you so much. There’s no one in sight. And we’re still making love

In My Secret Life....

Song continues as credits roll and camera pans up to reveal DR. PETER ZITTERAAL and NURSE 1 walking down the hallway. Nurse is dressed in standard white nurse’s dress and Zitteraal is wearing dress clothes and a neatly pressed white lab coat, carrying a clipboard. Zitteraal, early 30s, is tall with a crewcut, clean shaven, wearing tight wire-rim glasses. He has flinty green eyes, pale skin, looks rather like a fish of some sort.

They pass an old woman struggling along with the assistance of a walker. She seems to be chattering angrily, points an accusatory finger at Zitteraal as he passes. They ignore her and pass on, turn a corner.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) (singing)
I’ll be marching through the morning, marching through the night, moving cross the borders of my secret life ....

Zitteraal and Nurse 1 pass an old man sitting alone in a chair. He seems almost like a statue. Close in and hold on the vacuous stare in his eyes as they pass him without stopping.
They pass an old woman having a pleasant conversation with herself. She is smiling and laughing, gesturing in an animated way.

They come to another turn and go to the right.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) Looked through the paper, makes you want to cry. Nobody cares if the people live or die. And the dealer wants you thinking that it’s either black or white. Thank God, it’s not that simple in My Secret Life....

The two of them come to a door with a sign that reads SECTION 7 COMA WARD. They press a button and the door slowly opens. Credits end, song fades.

FADE TO BLACK. FADE INTO:
INT. ROOM IN A NURSING HOME - DAY

A spartan room in a nursing home, dimly lit, sterile white walls, a crucifix on one wall, an adjustable hospital bed against another with an empty nightstand to one side.

JOHN WEST, about 40, lies in the bed, covered to his waist by a sheet. His robust frame shows he was once muscular, but now his arms are emaciated, his chest wasted away, his cheeks hollow.

Equipment on a second nightstand on the other side of the bed beeps occasionally, monitoring his heartbeat, blood pressure and other vital signs. A bit of sunlight streams in through some ratty, beat-up blinds hanging in front of a window opposite the equipment.

The door to the room swings open lighting the room briefly. Zitteraal flips on the light. Next to him is Nurse 1. John does not move, does not open his eyes.

Zitteraal stands next to John’s bed, looks through some papers on his clipboard, turns his head halfway to the nurse behind him.

ZITTERAAL And this one?

He makes notes on a file. (detached)
Six years ago. Head trauma. Hit by a car on the Santa Monica Freeway. He was at St. Marks for a month or two.

A beat. The nurse inspects one of her fingernails.

NURSE 1(CONT’D)
No ID, no money ... nothing. No one
ever came to ask about him. They
sent him to us about the time I
started working here.

Zitteraal puts the file down on the empty nightstand, takes out a small penlight, bends over John, opens one of his eyes, takes a brief look.

Cut to John’s POV: We vaguely see the penlight, then the light from the penlight grows in size until we can see nothing else, then, suddenly, darkness again.

Cut back to: Room in nursing home. Zitteraal turns off the penlight, stands up straight, takes out a hospital lancet from his coat pocket, opens the package, starts to gently prick the ends of John’s fingers. John doesn’t move. He tries another spot. No response.

Zitteraal drops the lancet in a nearby waste can, picks up the clipboard, makes a notation. He takes a final look at John.

ZITTERAAL
No one knows anything about him? The nurse shakes her head.

NURSE1
No, doctor. After the accident, no one came to ask about him. That’s why they brought him here.

Zitteraal cocks his head quizzically.

ZITTERAAL
A human being disappears from the face of the earth. Strange.

He turns to look at the nurse. The nurse shrugs, obviously not interested.

(flat)
After a few hundred ... you get used to it.

Zitteraal nods, turns back to John.

ZITTERAAL
(back to business)
OK, see that he gets 50 milligrams, twice daily.

NURSE 1
Yes, Doctor Zitteraal.

He flips the papers on his clipboard back into place and the two leave, turning out the dim light just before closing the door.

John opens one of his eyes slightly. John’s POV: We see sunlight streaming through a blind, then John closes his eye.
FADE TO BLACK. FADE IN:
INT. A BEDROOM - MORNING

A large, airy, well-lit bedroom with pastel blue walls and a white, vaulted ceiling, tasteful antique furniture, a canopy bed in the center of the room on a small dais. On one side of the bedroom, white lace curtains flutter lazily in the open doorway to a balcony, where a wind chime tinkles softly in the breeze.

John, lying on one side of the bed, wakes with a start. His eyes shift nervously about, then he relaxes, puts his hand on his forehead. Next to him is CLARISSE, late-20s, her long raven hair spilling over her pillow and John’s arm on which she is resting. She stirs, mumbles sleepily, snuggles against him. He runs his fingers down her arm, then her thigh, pulls her closer to him, inspects her hair, kisses it.

He removes his arm gently, turns away, rubs his face, props himself on one arm, looks around the bedroom. The sun is streaming through the doors leading to the balcony. Outside he sees the tops of some palm trees.
He pulls off the sheet covering him, sits on the edge of the bed, puts his feet on the dais, stares at the wall in front of him.

Cut to: John again sees the light of the penlight approaching, the light growing in size until he can see nothing else.

Cut back to: The bedroom. John rubs his face again, shakes his head, tries to forget it, rubs his arm, then looks at it. He is muscular. He feels his bicep, lets his hand slide across his well-developed chest, gives a small smile of satisfaction.

CLARISSE
(sleepy)
Hey, looking good, Superman. John turns back to her. She is smiling. He scoops her gently into his arms.

JOHN
You’re not so bad yourself, Wonderwoman.

She runs one hand across his chest, lets it linger there, sighs.

CLARISSE
Do you really have to fly over to Texas today?

JOHN
Back tomorrow, baby.
She pouts.
CLARISSE
Yeah, but what about tonight? She pats her hand softly on the bed.

JOHN
Maybe you can get a guest husband. This is LA, you know.

She gives his chest a playful slap.

CLARISSE
(teasing)
Maybe I will. That would shut you up.
JOHN

You could kiss me and that would shut me up.
She kisses him on the lips, a little peck, lets her head fall back on her pillow.
CLARISSE (teasing)
Shut up.
He leans down, gives her a good kiss, pulls away slowly. CLARISSE (CONT’D) (still teasing)
I said, "Shut up."

She takes his face in her hands, gives him a long passionate kiss. He holds her close and covers them both with the sheet with his free hand as they continue to kiss.

INT. BATHROOM - MOMENTS LATER A spacious master bathroom just off of the bedroom from the last scene.

John and Clarisse are in the bathroom, she in the shower, he in front of the mirror, dressing, adjusting his tie. The bathroom door is ajar, but the room is a little steamy. He pushes the door open some more, wipes the mirror with a small towel. He turns to look at Clarisse’s body through the frosted glass of the shower door, watches her a few moments as she washes her hair.

CLARISSE
Who did you say you were going to interview?

JOHN
(absently)
Marvin Wilcox, one of Bush’s advisers ....

He watches as she begins to shave her long, sultry legs in the shower. John turns back to the mirror, feels of his cheeks.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Marvin Wilcox ... about as exciting as watching a hedge grow. We’re doing an analysis piece on the war and we want to get some juicy stuff

(MORE)

JOHN (CONT’D) (cont’d) from a few "unnamed sources close to the president."

He makes little quotation marks in the air with his fingers. Clarisse is not really listening.
CLARISSE Hmm....
He turns, leans against the sink, watches her shave her legs through the glass. She turns the water back on.

JOHN
Pretty desperate if you ask me. Wilcox is about as likely to say something interesting as our couch.

A beat. Clarisse turns off the shower, slides the shower door back, stands there dripping wet and stunningly naked. She winks at him, wags her finger.

CLARISSE
Oooh, but if that couch could only talk ....

INT. A BMW - A SHORT TIME LATER

John drives on the expressway, a travel mug of coffee in one hand. He takes a sip, puts the cup in a holder, reaches over and turns on the radio, catches a NEWS ANCHOR in the middle of his broadcast.

NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, when Jose Valasquez was beaned with bases loaded in the 13th inning to force in the game-ending run....

John drinks from his coffee cup. 8.
EXT. BMW - MOMENTS LATER

John pulls into a parking garage. He stops the car in front of a parking gate, puts a card into a slot and the gate opens. He drives through.

EXT. BMW - CONTINUOUS

A sign on a wall in front of a parking space reads, "Reserved for No. 287." John finds his parking space, pulls in, turns off his car. He gets out, travel mug in one hand, shuts the door, flips his keys around in his other hand, catches them, pushes the button on his key fob and the car beeps, head lights flash momentarily. John puts the keys in his pants pocket, seems to stumble. He puts one hand on the car to support himself, puts his other hand over his eyes, slumps forward as if he were in pain.

He drops his travel mug.

John’s POV: John sees a small round light growing in size and intensity in his field of vision until he can see nothing else. The light fades suddenly.

Shaken, John supports himself against the car. He straightens slowly, then leans back against the car, rubs his eyes, takes a deep breath.

INT. A BUSY NEWSROOM - MORNING

Typical newsroom at a big-city daily. Reporters type away at terminals in individual cubicles, some speak on the telephone, a couple of them shoot the shit and drink coffee in another reporter’s cubicle. John walks into the newsroom, travel mug in hand, checks his mailbox, starts leafing through some papers as he walks along. His editor, JAY COBB, grizzled, unshaven, bald and 50-something, glances up from his computer as John crosses the newsroom.

COBB
(while typing)
West!
He motions for John to come over. Cobb watches him as he walks closer, but continues to type.

COBB (CONT’D)
You look like shit. Still having
those headaches?

John nods, Cobb leers at a pretty reporter, TAMMY, as she passes his cubicle. He stands up.
COBB (CONT’D) Hey, Tammy.
She looks up, smiles. TAMMY Hey, Jay.
She gives him a little wink.

COBB
(to John, still watching Tammy)

You should go to a doctor.
He hands John a piece of paper. John reads it. JOHN
What’s this?

COBB
(looks back at John)
A doctor. Want you to go over and interview him before you fly down to Waco.

JOHN (annoyed) Why?

COBB
(smirking)
Because I told you to. Also because he just came on staff at Serenity East and they’ve started a new therapy program.

JOHN
(sarcastic)
Whoa, stop the presses. Can’t you get one of the interns to do this? That’s why they hang around here, isn’t it?

Cobb glances at his screen, starts to type again, looks back at John while continuing to type.

COBB
What devotion to duty. Look it’s on the way to the airport and ... the old man wants it.
He nods at a corner office, stops typing. John glances behind him at the office. A man about 70 is looking straight at him through the glass door of the office, upon which is written, "Managing Editor DON HERBERT FARR." Farr smiles smugly at John, holds up his coffee cup.

JOHN
(mutters)
Serenity East ... Farr’s favorite charity.

John sighs. JOHN (CONT’D) Can’t you get Nabakov ...? Cobb shakes his head, starts to type again while talking to/looking at John.
COBB You, John.
JOHN Me?
COBB
You. The old man wants you. Cobb stops typing, hands John an envelop, smiles, winks.

COBB (CONT’D)
Hey, he likes you. You should be happy.

JOHN What’s this?

COBB (CONT’D)
Tickets to Waco, Texas. You’ll be staying in the luxurious Motel 6 Downtown. I was there once. Great ice machine! Rental Car is waiting for you at the Avis counter at the airport.

Cobb grins, starts typing again. Tammy walks back past and his eyes follow her butt while he talks to John. She stops to talk to a reporter near Cobb’ desk. He watches her ass as she bends slightly forward to talk to the reporter.

A beat, Cobb drifts away, turns back to John suddenly, stops typing.

COBB
Ah, and here’s some more good news, my friend: Bush has consented to an interview with us.

JOHN No shit?
COBB
Sheer desperation, man.

Cobb follows Tammy’s with his eyes as she walks away. A beat. He looks back at John, starts typing again, his eyes on John.

COBB (CONT’D)
You’re going to interview him. JOHN (excited) You’re kidding.

COBB
You the man. We’ve got 30 minutes arranged for you ... still
tentative, but it looks like it’s going to happen.

JOHN
What about the Wilcox interview?
Cobb scoffs, stops typing, makes a dismissive gesture. He stands.

COBB
Ah, if you got time, give him a few minutes. This is A1, son, Front Page for Sunday. You got as much space as you want.

He shoos John away from his desk, sits back down and begins to type again.
COBB (CONT’D) Now, go forth and conquer.

INT. NEWSROOM BREAKROOM - MOMENTS LATER Standard company breakroom: coffee machine, sandwich machine, cola machine, etc., a microwave and coffee maker, a few tables and plastic chairs. Two reporters, ANDY and KEVIN, are sitting at a table. Andy is eating a sandwich and Kevin is having a cup of coffee. John enters, travel mug in hand.

ANDY
Hey ... mighty Zeus descendeth from Olympus. How does it feel to walk among the mortals, oh god of thunder?

JOHN
(winks)
About like you’d imagine. KEVIN
(excited)
You really going to interview Bush? John grins, nods, begins to fill his travel mug at the coffee maker.
JOHN Looks that way.

ANDY
Can I take care of Clarisse while you’re gone?

JOHN
You wish.
Andy laughs out loud.

ANDY
Well, sit down, Scoop. You’ve got five minutes for your lowly brethren, haven’t you?

John sits down.
KEVIN
When’s your flight?

JOHN
Not till three, but Jay wants me to go do a fluff piece for Farr over at Serenity East before I leave.

KEVIN
He snagged me last week. Did he tell you you should be happy because the "old man likes you"?

He makes quotation marks in the air with his fingers. John pretends to be hurt.
JOHN
You mean it was just a lie? Andy laughs out loud again.

ANDY
Farr loves everyone. Haven’t you heard? He’s like Jesus. His love is unconditional. He raineth down upon us all ... golden showers of love.

JOHN
Seems like I always get to bear the cross though.

ANDY
Hey, I’ve done my share of Farr stories.

He holds out one hand, palm up, fingers extended. ANDY (CONT’D)
See the nail scars?

KEVIN
So what’s the old man got you
doing?

JOHN
Serenity East has a new director.

ANDY
(munching his sandwich) Hey, I’ve done a story on him. Kind of a cold bastard, a real lizard. He came up with some new type of drug therapy ... when was that...? Eh, must’ve been a couple of months back.

KEVIN
It’s one of Farr’s pet charities ... so you better not fuck it up. He reads every word of those stories.

ANDY
(leans forward)
To hell with that shit. What about Bush?

JOHN What about him? KEVIN
Well, you going to the ranch?

JOHN
Dunno. Bush’s people are going to let me know when I get to Waco.

ANDY
If he picks up his coon dogs by the ears, make sure and get some
pictures.

JOHN That was LBJ. KEVIN
You sure it wasn’t Carter? John nods. Andy keeps munching on his sandwich, lost in thought.

ANDY
(hopefully)
You sure you don’t want me to watch Clarisse for you?

INT. BMW - DAY John drives his car somewhere in the city. He turns on the radio and the same news announcer is blabbing away. NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, when Jose Ricardo was beaned with bases loaded in the 13th inning to force in the game-ending run.
The San Francisco Giants scored two runs in the eighth inning to
complete a three-game series sweep

(MORE)

NEWS ANCHOR (cont’d) of the San Diego Padres in a 7-4 decision. Toronto slugger Bob Wilson hit career homerun
number ....

He turns off the radio. JOHN
(mumbling)
Damn pre-recorded shit.

He shakes his head, pulls into a parking lot next to a hospital compound. A sign on one of the buildings reads, "Serenity East, Long Term Care Facility." He parks in a spot reserved for visitors next to the building.

INT. AN OFFICE - MOMENTS LATER

The main office of the long-term care facility. A counter divides the room into an office for the secretary and a small waiting area with a few chairs and a coffee table covered with magazines. A secretary, BETTY, about 60, sits behind a desk, typing away on a computer. She looks up, smiles pleasantly, when John enters.

BETTY
Hello, hon! Can I help you? John looks in confusion at a scrap of paper in his hand.

JOHN
I’m looking for a Doctor ....
Sitterfaal?

BETTY
Zitteraal. Peter Zitteraal. You
must be the nice man from the
newspaper.

John looks at her askance.

JOHN
Well, I don’t know if I’m so nice,
but, yes, I am from the newspaper.

Betty smiles.

BETTY
You’re cute. I’ll just see if the doctor is free right now.

She picks up the phone. BETTY (CONT’D) What’s your name, hon? JOHN
John ... John West. Betty dials a number, waits.

BETTY (CONT’D)
(on the phone)
Dr. Zitteraal? The man from the newspaper is here.

She listens. BETTY (CONT’D) I’ll tell him.
Betty hangs up the phone. She stands, walks over to the counter.

BETTY (CONT’D)
He said he’ll be just a minute. He’s coming over from the West Building. Why don’t you have a seat? Would you like some coffee?

John sits in a chair next to the coffee table. JOHN
I’m fine, thank you.
Betty leans against the counter.

BETTY
Wow, must be exciting being a reporter.

John looks around the room.
JOHN
(deadpan)
Yeah. Real exciting.
BETTY
I always wanted to be a reporter. JOHN
Really?
Betty nods.
JOHN (CONT’D) Why didn’t you then?

BETTY
(sighs)
Got married when I was 17. Had kids and that was it. We all make our choices.

John nods. JOHN
So, how did your choices end up?

BETTY
Kids are OK. One’s a lawyer, makes a ton of money. The other’s a minister in the Anglican Church.

JOHN
Well ... that sure is different. Betty shrugs, rests her chin on her hands on the counter.

BETTY
Everybody makes their choices. Just like you ... you chose to come here today, didn’t you?

JOHN
Not exactly. So, what about your husband?

BETTY
Ah, he was a bum. Finally got rid of him 20 years ago. All he wanted to do was drink.

JOHN Sorry.
Betty shrugs.

BETTY
Be sorry for him, not for me. We all make our choices.

A beat, Betty watches him.

BETTY (CONT’D)
So, why did you choose to come here today, Mr. West? You didn’t have to, you know. For all you know, it might have been better had you not. John looks at her askance, unsure what she is getting at.

The door opens, Dr. Zitteraal walks into the room. It’s the same Dr. Zitteraal as in the opening scene, dressed again in the pressed white lab coat, a dress shirt and a tie, carrying his clipboard with attached files and documents. He turns to John, holds out his hand stiffly.

ZITTERAAL
You’re from the newspaper, I presume.

JOHN
Yeah ... West ... John West. John shakes hands. JOHN (CONT’D) Dr. Sitsenfaal?
Zitteraal cringes, smiles tightly.

ZITTERAAL
It’s Zitteraal, actually. Z-I-T-T-E-R-A-A-L.

JOHN
(a bit embarrassed) Sorry.

ZITTERAAL
I suppose it’s not a common name. People are continually
mispronouncing it.

A beat.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) (somewhat coldly)
I’m happy you came. Mr. Farr, your editor, has shown a great
interest in this facility and we ...

(searching)
... appreciate his support. We receive very little public funding, and many of our patients are indigent.

JOHN
I’m sorry, but you’re very young to be a director, aren’t you? I expected someone a bit older. Zitteraal arches an eyebrow.

ZITTERAAL
Perhaps, I am, as you put it, a bit young ... but I can assure you that I have ... all the necessary
qualifications. I had many other offers as well, but I knew I would be able to continue my research here ... and that was the deciding factor for me.

JOHN
What’s your area of expertise?

ZITTERAAL
Coma. Especially trauma-induced coma. Many of our patients have suffered ... severe brain injuries. They were either brought here by their families, who were no longer able or willing to care for them, or they were placed here by the state of California.

JOHN
I see. Sounds kind of depressing.

ZITTERAAL
(without emotion)
Yes, I suppose. Generally long-term cases of coma lapse into vegetative states and the prognosis is rarely favorable, though there have been cases in which patients have
spontaneously regained
consciousness after years in a coma. In fact, one man regained consciousness and recovered a great deal of his previous mobility after 19 years in a coma. This is usually not what one reads in the
literature though. What we
typically see is a progressive degeneration of bodily functions that leads almost certainly to death.

JOHN Sorry I asked. Zitteraal stares back, no reaction at first. ZITTERAAL

(deadpan)
I’m sorry, Mr. West. I’m afraid I’ve gotten rather used to these things.

JOHN
Must be difficult.

ZITTERAAL
One learns to adapt. In any case, there is some hope. We’re beginning clinical testing on a new drug, diplomithol, that has been shown to promote regenerative cerebral cell growth in laboratory animals.

JOHN Really?
Zitteraal nods.

ZITTERAAL
Yes. Anti-depressants like
fluoxetine, that is, Prozac, and cannabinoids, drugs derived from cannibas, have been shown to cause cerebral cell regeneration in laboratory mice. Diplomithol combines the effects of both a cannabinoid and a fluoxetine-class drug.

JOHN
Isn’t that ... a bit dangerous, experimenting with new drugs ... on people?

ZITTERAAL
The risk factors are minimal, I can assure you, Mr. West. And in any case ... our patients have little to lose. For most of them, a slow, progressive, degenerative death is certain unless some change can be effected to reverse their
condition.

A beat. ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) It’s really their last chance.

A beat. He stares at John, waits. JOHN
Have you ... had any success so far?

ZITTERAAL
It’s a bit premature to make a judgment at this point.

A beat. Zitteraal looks at his watch.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) Might I show you around?
Familiarize you with our facility and our work, perhaps?

EXT. LONG TERM CARE FACILITY - MOMENTS LATER

John and Dr. Zitteraal walk out from the administrative building into a large rectangular courtyard surrounded by other buildings. A fountain gurgles in the middle of the courtyard. There are stone benches and many large trees shading the courtyard. Residents of the facility sit on some of the benches. Some stare vacantly straight ahead. Others mutter or mumble to themselves. One lady sitting by herself chatters happily. A couple of hospital workers sit on a bench nearby, chatting, keeping an eye on things.

The hospital workers stand, looking somewhat nervous, as Zitteraal approaches. John and Dr. Zitteraal stop by the fountain. John nods to the hospital workers, but Zitteraal ignores his employees.

ZITTERAAL
As you might have guessed, a portion of this facility is a long-term care facility for the elderly, mostly for patients with Alzheimer’s or other degenerative cerebral conditions.

JOHN
Are these patients ... part of the experiment?

ZITTERAAL
(quickly)
Oh, no. No, not at all. If we can show some positive results with our coma patients ... perhaps someday, but for the moment, no.
John nods. They stand and watch the patients. An old man sitting on one of the benches nearby, GABRIEL, looks up at John.

GABRIEL (friendly) Hello, young man. JOHN
(smiles)
Hello. How are you today? GABRIEL
Why, I’m doing well. Thank you.

ZITTERAAL
This is Gabriel. He’s been a resident at our facility for a number of years now, I’m told.

JOHN
(to Gabriel)
Do you like it here, sir?

GABRIEL
Oh, yes, very much so. The people here are kind and it’s nice sitting in the sunshine, listening to the fountain.

John glances at the fountain.
JOHN
Yes, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

GABRIEL
(seriously)
Oh, yes. You’d never know we’re all flying in a rocket ship to the
moon, would you?

John fights back a smile.
JOHN
No ... no, you wouldn’t.
Gabriel nods. He looks steadily at John.
GABRIEL
(suddenly)
It’s all just a dream, son.
A beat. He watches John, who unconsciously takes a step back.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)
Are you sure you want to open that door?

JOHN
(disconcerted) Uh ... I ....
GABRIEL
It’s a big price to pay. Gabriel keeps looking at him steadily. An uncomfortable moment passes.

ZITTERAAL
Well, as you might have gathered ... some of our residents can be ... rather outspoken.

John nods, is at a loss for words. Zitteraal motions to a nearby building.

ZITTERAAL
Perhaps we should view the rest of the facility?

John nods. JOHN
Yes. That’s a good idea. They walk toward another building on the other side of the courtyard and Gabriel watches them steadily as they leave.
INT. A CORRIDOR - CONTINUOUS

A long, drab corridor illuminated with fluorescent lights. Walls are pale lime, the floor has square, plastic white tile. There’s a fire extinguisher on the wall. The doors at the end of the corridor open inward automatically with an annoying buzzing sound, and John and Zitteraal enter.

ZITTERAAL
This is Section 7, our coma ward.
Most of our patients ....

John’s cell phone rings. He takes it out of his pocket, checks to see who is calling.
JOHN
(looks embarrassed)
I’m sorry. I have to take this.
ZITTERAAL
(tinge of annoyance) I see.
JOHN Just be a second. Zitteraal nods, walks away a few paces down the corridor, stands near the fire extinguisher, waiting.
JOHN
(on the phone)
What’s up?
Cut to: Clarisse talking on her cell phone, sitting on the couch in their apartment.
CLARISSE
(nervous)
Hey, baby. What are you doing?
Cut back to John:
JOHN
I’m on a story. What’s up? Cut to Clarisse. A beat. Clarisse begins to cry.

CLARISSE
I want you to come home, John. I want you to come home now.

Cut back to John:

JOHN
Clarisse ... I can’t do that. I have a flight in three hours to Waco. I’m going to interview the President.

We hear Clarisse’s voice on John’s phone.

CLARISSE
(on John’s phone)
John, something bad is going to happen.

JOHN
What? What’s going to happen? CLARISSE
(on John’s phone)

I want you to come home now. JOHN
I’ll ... I’ll swing by the house on the way to the airport.

CLARISSE
(on John’s phone) No, John, come home now.

JOHN
I can’t. You know that. What’s wrong?

CLARISSE
(on John’s phone)
If you don’t come home now .... JOHN
What, Clarisse? What? Zitteraal walks over, looks at his watch.

ZITTERAAL
I’m sorry. I’m on a rather tight schedule today. Perhaps we should reschedule?

John shakes his head.

JOHN
Clarisse, I have to go. I’ll drop by on the way to the airport.

He ends the call.

ZITTERAAL
If you have an emergency situation, we can always reschedule.

JOHN
(uncertain)
No, no ... I want to finish the story. I have to go to Texas this afternoon.

Zitteraal nods. ZITTERAAL As you wish.
26.
INT. A CORRIDOR - MOMENTS LATER

A corridor in the same building. John and Dr. Zitteraal walk together. John seems still a bit troubled from his conversation with Clarisse. A nurse passes with a clipboard. A WORKER in a white coat, young kid with long blond hair, rock-and-roll t-shirt approaches pushing a gurney with a patient on it. He stops.

WORKER
Hey, Dr. Zitteraal. What’s up?

ZITTERAAL
(brusque)
Karl, are you taking Mr. Wilson
outside?

The worker nods.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) Please ensure that everyone gets his or her 15-minute rotation today. And make sure you keep Mr. Wilson out of the sun.

The worker nods. WORKER
(tinge of annoyance)
Yes, sir.
The worker continues on his way with the patient. They watch him leave, then Zitteraal shakes his head, turns to John.

ZITTERAAL
I’m afraid as director of a large
facility like this one, it falls to
me to remind everyone on staff of
his or her duties. There are so
many liability issues to consider.

What a cold, cold fish. A beat passes as they walk.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D)
So, you’re flying down to Texas
today?

JOHN
(perking up a bit) Yes, I’m going to interview President Bush.

(sarcastic)
Bush? Did he learn to speak the English language?

John smiles.

JOHN
I take it you don’t care much for the President.

ZITTERAAL
Actually, I’m rather apolitical. I find politicians to be basically of the same type, to be quite honest ....

Dr. Zitteraal stops in front of a door, puts his hand on the door handle.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D)
Now, before we enter the patient’s room, I just wanted to provide you with a little background
information. First of all, the good news. Since we began treatment, this patient seems to be making modest progress. "Seems" is the key word here. Of course, it’s too early to decide if the medication is having any substantive effect, but there has been a steady
increase in reflex response over the past 3 weeks. We had assumed he was nearly brain dead, but that does not seem to be the case.

JOHN And the bad news?

ZITTERAAL
He’s still comatose and there’s been no measurable increase in higher functions. No significant brain wave activity, for example.

JOHN
Does that discourage you?

ZITTERAAL
No. Not yet. I still feel that it’s early to make any kind of judgment. This individual suffered massive

(MORE)

ZITTERAAL (cont’d) brain trauma. I would have been amazed if we would have seen sudden significant improvement.

John takes out a reporter’s pad and a pen. JOHN
So, what’s his name?

ZITTERAAL
Even if I knew the answer to that question, I couldn’t tell you. Hospital confidentially policy.

JOHN
Of course. But why don’t you know his name?

ZITTERAAL
Well, he was struck by an
automobile on the Santa Monica Freeway some six years ago. He was in a hospital for a few weeks, then they brought him to this facility. He’s a ward of the state.

JOHN
So, why was he on the highway?

ZITTERAAL
That’s unclear. From what I understand, he was running down the middle of the expressway.

JOHN
You’re kidding.
Zitteraal shakes his head.
JOHN (CONT’D)
No one ... claimed him?

ZITTERAAL
No. As I noted, he’s a ward of the state.

John nods, writes in his notebook.

JOHN
Could he have been a transient? Apparently not. According to the information in his patient file ...

Zitteraal flips through the file.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) ... he was transported to the emergency room wearing a dress shirt and a tie, slacks, and was wearing a watch. We’re holding the watch in a file in the property room. It’s a Rolex, by the way.

JOHN
No one missed him? Zitteraal shakes his head.

ZITTERAAL
He’s been a patient here for six years and no one has inquired about him. Not once.

JOHN Sad....
Zitteraal stares back, says nothing.

Zitteraal depresses the door handle and pushes the door open slowly. John looks inside, sees an emaciated body lying in the bed, then slowly turns his attention to the face. Despite the wasted and spare frame, the man lying in the bed is unmistakably John himself. He stares in transfixed horror, then looks at Zitteraal, then back at the body in the bed. Slowly, the notebook falls from his hand.

ZITTERAAL (concerned) Mr. West?

John shakes his head, takes a step back. He looks at Zitteraal and then again at the man in the bed. Obviously, Zitteraal doesn’t understand John’s reaction.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) Is something wrong? You look ill. John backs up some more.

JOHN
This can’t be true. Zitteraal looks at him as if he had no idea what John is talking about.

ZITTERAAL
Do you ... know ... this man? John’s breathing is becoming erratic. JOHN
How ... how did you ... do this? Now Zitteraal shakes his head.

ZITTERAAL
I’m sorry ... I have no idea what you’re referring to.

JOHN
(angry)
How did you do this!

John looks back at comatose John lying in bed and the man in bed slowly turns his head, raises up slightly, looks directly at John with eyes anything other than comatose. Comatose John gives John a big wink, lays his head back down and closes his eyes. John turns again to Zitteraal, who has seen nothing.

JOHN
(frightened and angry)
What are you trying to pull here?
Zitteraal holds up his hands to calm John.

ZITTERAAL
Look, I really don’t know ... what
you’re talking about, Mr. West.

John looks at Zitteraal, at the patient in the bed, back at Zitteraal, then walks quickly away down the corridor through which he just entered, leaving Zitteraal speechless and confused, his head cocked at an angle as he watches John retreat. John fumbles for the exit door button. Annoying buzz, the door slowly opens as he watches Zitteraal all the while. He exits.

Zitteraal looks back once more at the comatose patient, John West, lying in bed with his eyes closed. Nothing appears out of the ordinary. He shakes his head in confusion, slowly closes the door.
31.

EXT. HOSPITAL - MOMENTS LATER

John returns to his car in the parking lot near the administration building. He is upset, his hands trembling as he tries to open the car door with his key, then remembers his key fob, pushes a button, unlocks the door. He sits in the car, runs his fingers through his hair, rams the keys in the ignition, drops them on the floor, picks them up, tries again, starts the car, runs his fingers through his hair again, puts the car in reverse, backs out, begins to pull away, stops and takes one last look at the hospital compound.

In one of the windows of the building he just exited, he sees himself, dressed in hospital patient attire, looking out the window. John-In-The-Window raises his hand and waves slowly.

John puts the car in park, jumps out of the car for a better view, but when he gets out, he sees no one in the window. He shakes his head, gets back into the car. John pulls away quickly, watching the building he just exited, turns out of the parking lot and races down the street.

INT. BMW - MOMENTS LATER

Still upset, John drives on a highway somewhere. He takes out his cellphone, slaps it open, speed dials a number, waits for the person to pick up on the other end. No answer. Finally he hangs up, tosses his phone on the passenger’s seat, reaches over and turns on the radio. We hear the same News Anchor again.

NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, when Jose Ricardo was beaned with bases loaded in the 13th inning to force in the game-ending run.
The San Francisco Giants scored two runs in the eighth inning to
complete a three-game series sweep of the San Diego Padres in a 7-4 decision. Toronto slugger Bob Wilson hit career homerun
number ....
He turns off the radio, waits a couple of seconds, turns the radio back on again, listens with a growing look of shock and alarm.

NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, when Jose Ricardo was beaned with bases loaded in the 13th inning to force in the game-ending run....

John switches the station. We hear the same news anchor. NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League ....

He switches to another station. It’s the same news anchor. NEWS ANCHOR
... sunny and 81 degrees.

(a beat)
In Major League Baseball, in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the Atlanta Braves ....

John switches off his radio, just as his cell phone rings. He slaps the phone to his ear. We hear Clarisse’s voice from John’s phone.

CLARISSE
(frightened)
John, are you OK? Where are you? A long pause. John doesn’t know what to say. CLARISSE (CONT’D) John? Are you there, baby?

JOHN
(fumbling)
I ... I’m coming home. I’m ... on the freeway.

CLARISSE (concerned) Come home now, OK? John nods. JOHN
Clarisse? You ... You’re .... CLARISSE
What, baby?
John is unable to speak.

JOHN
(blurts out)
I think I’m losing my mind, Clarisse!

CLARISSE
Come home, baby, and we’ll talk. John nods again. CLARISSE (CONT’D) Did you hear me?

JOHN
Yes ... Yes ... I’m ... I’m coming home.

John ends the call, tosses the phone on the passenger’s seat.
EXT. JOHN’S APARTMENT BUILDING - MOMENTS LATER

A modern apartment complex surrounded by towering palms somewhere in the Los Angeles area. John pulls into a parking space in front of one of the three-story buildings, gets out of his car, then suddenly staggers backwards, holding onto his car to support himself.

John’s POV: We see darkness, then a small light growing in size until it dominates almost all of John’s field of vision. The light moves suddenly away and we see the fuzzy image of a person in John’s field of view, then quite clearly we see Zitteraal with a pen light in his hand, looking down at John. He switches off the pen light.

Slam cut back to John in the parking lot. John staggers forward a step or two.
(muttering) No ... no.... He flails his arms at something or someone only he can see. JOHN (CONT’D)
Get away! Get ... back!
John staggers a few more feet, falls on his knees in the parking lot. He mutters and flails his arms about. Cut to John’s POV: Fuzzy and out-of-focus, Zitteraal stands by his bed in the hospital, taking his pulse.
JOHN
No!

Slam cut back to parking lot. Clarisse kneels in front of John trying to put her arms around him. John thrashes about as if in a trance.

CLARISSE
(shouting)
John ... John ... John! It’s me, baby! It’s me!

John finally realizes she is there. He stops thrashing about, his eyes focus on Clarisse. He is panting and sweating. He embraces her tightly.

JOHN
Clarisse!

He touches her face. Clarisse helps him to his feet, he puts his arm around her shoulder for support, and they walk toward the apartment building.

INT. JOHN AND CLARISSE’S BEDROOM - DAY

John and Clarisse make love under satin sheets while a gentle breeze stirs the lace curtains in their bedroom. Clarisse is on top. She pushes her hair back behind one ear.

CLARISSE
(soothing voice)
Now really, baby ... do I seem like a dream to you?

John smiles, touches her face. Oh, god, yes ... a beautiful dream. INT. JOHN AND CLARISSE’S BEDROOM - moments later

John lies on his back resting with his eyes open, the sheets covering his body up to his waist. Clarisse sits in the nude on her calves beside John in their bed. Her hands and her head rest upon his bare chest.

She kisses him on the chest. A moment passes.

JOHN (CONT’D)
I don’t know what could’ve happened to me.

He closes his eyes.

JOHN (CONT’D)
The headaches ... the
hallucinations. Maybe I should see a doctor.

He looks at her. Clarisse says nothing.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Do you think I shouldn’t go over to Texas?

CLARISSE
(quickly)
Are you kidding? How could you think of such a thing? John, this is your chance. Your dream.

John turns his face away from her. She puts her hand on his cheek, gently turns his face back to her.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
Think of how hard you’ve worked for this, John. How much you sacrificed to get to this point.

John says nothing.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
If you ask me, you’re just working too hard. Go and do the interview and if you’re still having the headaches, then go and see a doctor when you get back.

A beat. CLARISSE (CONT’D) Or ... you can try my cure. She gives him a wicked little smile. JOHN
(raises an eyebrow)
And what would that be?

CLARISSE
How about two weeks in Mexico? Don’t you think you deserve a vacation? It’s been two years since we went to Mexico.

JOHN
Two weeks?

CLARISSE
Hey, one week on the beach ... and one week in bed.

She kisses his chest, looks at him seductively. JOHN Mexico?
CLARISSE Mexico.
She begins kissing him over and over on the chest, working her way up his neck.
JOHN (aroused) And if I say no? CLARISSE
I’ll have to overpower you. She finds his lips, they begin to kiss.
INT. A JET AIRLINER - DAY

John puts a bag in the overhead, settles into a window seat, puts his laptop on his knees. He looks out the window. Other passengers take their seats around him, some stowing luggage in the overhead areas before sitting.
37.

EXT. AIRPORT RUNWAY - DAY

The jet in which John is traveling makes a routine landing at the airport in Waco, Texas. A sign near the runway reads, "Welcome to Waco Regional Airport. The Hometown Airport of President George W. Bush!" A waving President Bush smiles from the billboard, upon which about a dozen crows are sitting. One of the crows shits just as John’s plane passes. Two of the crows fly away.

INT. A RENTAL CAR - DAY

John drives a compact rental car along Prairie Chapel Road near Crawford, Texas. The countryside is flat as a board and mostly grassland, burned over by the summer sun. Here and there a few scrubby trees break the monotony somewhat. A couple of dozen Longhorn cattle graze indolently in a field next to the highway. Stands of prickly pear cactus dot the landscape. John passes a weathered billboard, "To Our US Armed Forces: America Stands With You! Finish The Job And Come On Home!" Another ripped and faded sign nailed to a tree beside the road reads, "This is Bush Country."

He passes a small pond, where an old man, ENOCH, fishes. John stops, gets out of his car.
JOHN
(shouting)
Excuse me!
Enoch turns his head, looks mistrustfully at John a moment, begins to slowly reel in his line.

JOHN (CONT’D)
(shouting)
Sorry to bother you. I was just
wondering if you could tell me if
this is the right road to the Bush
ranch?

Enoch finishes reeling in his line, walks leisurely over to John, his rod in his hand. John walks down a bit to meet him.

JOHN (CONT’D) The Bush ranch?
ENOCH
(suspiciously) Who wants to know? JOHN

(irritated)
I was just wondering if this is the road to Bush ranch.

ENOCH
Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t. Who’re
you supposed to be?

JOHN
(frustrated)
I’m a reporter. I have an
appointment with the President.

ENOCH
You ain’t no reporter.
A beat. John gives him a pissed look.
JOHN
Look ... sorry I asked.
He turns to get back in his car, but stops as Enoch speaks.

ENOCH
(pointing)
Just up the road yonder a piece.
You’ll see the gate on the right.

JOHN
(a little sarcastic)
Thank yuh kindly.
He walks toward his car.
ENOCH
You ain’t no reporter.
John turns, gives the man a dirty look.
JOHN
Look ...

ENOCH (CONT’D) (interrupts)
You jes thank you are.

JOHN
... Beg your pardon? Enoch walks a little closer to John.

Now ... the New York Times ... there’s a fine newspaper. Run by Jews, you know.

JOHN Is that right? Enoch smiles.

ENOCH
Yeah ... that’s right. You know, we don’t got no Jews much down here in Crawford. Just the guy what runs the furniture store downtown ... Bernard Fitz is his name.

JOHN
I’ll have to look him up when I go back down to Crawford.

ENOCH
You do that. Corner of Fifth and
Avenue G. Big brick building with
the Menorah in the window. Now,
Bernie ... Bernie’s a pure Jew ...
distilled essence ... dropped a
quarter on the sidewalk one time
and it hit him on the neck when he
bent over to pick it up.

He laughs. John raises an eyebrow, shakes his head, looks at his watch.

JOHN
You don’t say? Well ... I gotta be go--

Enoch interrupts, ignoring John’s obvious dislike for the conversation. He plows ahead with his treatise.

ENOCH
(reflectively)
I never much cared for Jews, but you got to give ’em one thing for sure. They’re better organized and smarter than we are.

JOHN
That’s actually two things, but I can see how you might feel
inferior.
(ignores his sarcasm)

God’s chosen, it’s the damn truth. A beat as they look at one another. John shakes his head.

JOHN
Well ... thank you for your help ....

ENOCH
(distracted)
I never much cared for the whole God-shtick in general, to tell the truth. You know, all the
Bible-thumpin’, fundamentalist, Jesus-loves-you-yes-I-know crap. Of course, the boss says we gotta play the game. Keep the peckerwoods in line.

JOHN Hmm....

ENOCH (CONT’D)
(confidentially)
You know, the only thing worse than a Jew is an A-rab ... grind up an A-rab and you can make about 10 Jewburgers ... at least that what the boss says.

John raises one hand, shakes his head in shock and disbelief, turns to leave.

JOHN
Well, party on, old dude. I can see you have a lot of carp to land.

ENOCH
(aggressively)
You sure you wanna open that door, boy?

John stops, turns back to Enoch.
JOHN
(suspiciously)
Who are you?

ENOCH
There ain’t no going back ... you understand that, don’t you?
John takes a step back. Enoch grins sheepishly, looks at his watch.

ENOCH (CONT’D)
Well, lawz-a-day, it’s getting
late. Time to land me some carp, I
reckon. Bush ranch is just up the
road on the right. Y’all have a
nice day!

Enoch walks back to the pond. John watches him as he goes. He stops by the pond, casts his line, begins to fish again, pays no more attention to John. John looks about at the barren and bleak countryside. His cellphone rings. John looks at his phone, sees who it is, closes his eyes, sighs. He puts the phone slowly to his ear.

JOHN Yeah, hello, Jay. He listens.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Look, I’m sorry, Jay. I don’t know what happened. I just kind of ... blanked out.

He listens some more, looks around.

JOHN (CONT’D)
What? You think it’s not
embarrassing for me? Just tell Farr I’ll do the story when I get back.

He listens some more, runs his fingers through his hair. JOHN (CONT’D) No, I’m fine now.
Listens. JOHN (CONT’D) (insistent)
I’m fine.
Listens.

JOHN(CONT’D)
Yes, I’ll go to the doctor when I get back.

He listens some more. JOHN (CONT’D)

(voice trembles a bit)
I know it’s important. I won’t mess it up.

He listens.

JOHN (CONT’D)
OK ... OK .... I’ll call when it’s finished. I’ll call just as soon as I leave the ranch.

John ends the call. Leans against the car, looking worried. He watches Enoch fish for a moment. Enoch doesn’t look back. JOHN (CONT’D) (mutters)
Great, just fucking great. He gets back into his car.
EXT. BUSH RANCH - MOMENTS LATER

Exhaust belches from a Ford Crown Victoria as the camera pulls back to show a Texas state trooper patrol car sitting across the driveway. A second patrol car sits behind and parallel to the first, also with it’s engine idling. The camera pulls back more to show the entrance to the Bush Crawford ranch in Texas.

John drives up to the gate, a cowboy-ish affair topped with an arch of three wagon wheels flanked by a saguaro cactus and a coyote on one side and a prickly pear bush on the other. A fake helicopter lands on the center wagon wheel, which is bigger than the other two.

The two patrol cars are positioned to block the drive. Beyond them, a black Lincoln with tinted windows also sits across the road, belching exhaust.

A trooper sits behind the wheel in each car with the windows rolled up and air conditioners running. TROOPER 1 opens his door and we hear his door-ajar alarm begin to bong automatically. The trooper gets out reluctantly, walks over to John’s car, waving him away lazily as if shooing a fly.

John rolls down his window and the trooper waddles over. TROOPER 1
(heavy Texas drawl)

You lost boy?
I’m a reporter with the Orange County Times. I have an appointment with President Bush.

The trooper yawns, scratches under his arm.

TROOPER 1
(lazily)
You’ll have to git out of the car, sir.

John obliges him. TROOPER 2 exits his vehicle and waddles over. A man in a PLAIN DARK SUIT WEARING MIDNIGHT FRAMES gets out of the Lincoln, his eyes on John and the troopers. He begins to speak into a shoulder held microphone.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D) (to Trooper 2)
Tell him he’s got an appointment. Orange County Times.

Trooper 2 turns and walks back to his car, talks into his shoulder-held microphone.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D) I’m going have to search you and the car, son.

JOHN OK.
TROOPER 1 You got any ID?

John reaches in his pocket for his wallet. He hands the trooper his Driver’s License and Press credentials. The trooper squints his eyes, holds the cards at arms length, reads them.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D) (overdoing the Southern drawl) John West. Orange County
Taihmes....

He smiles a big, fake smile. TROOPER 1 (CONT’D) Never read it.

He hands the press ID and the license back. Probably hard to get home delivery out here, isn’t it?

TROOPER 1
(smirks)
Prob’ly. Empty out your pockets and put everything here on the hood of the car, son.

INT. REC ROOM, BUSH HOME, CRAWFORD -- MOMENTS LATER

An air-conditioner whirs while a small fire crackles in a cut-stone fireplace in a split level room. In front of the fireplace are two squarish armchairs with overstuffed pillows against the backrests, flanking a low glass coffee table with some oversize illustrated books on top. Some heavy wood furniture, a couple of side tables, a small desk, etc., lines the walls. In the elevated portion of the room, there is a large pool table and along the walls are pictures of Bush in flight uniform aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, including the infamous, "Mission Accomplished" photo.

John is ushered into the room by Assistant Press Secretary, JED BAKER, 40-something, graying temples, neatly trimmed hair and a smart gray suit with mirror finish shoes.

He’s quite an asshole.

Baker directs John to one of the armchairs, unbuttons his jacket to reveal a gold tie chain, and sits in the other one, leaning forward in John’s direction.

BAKER
(slowly)
Now ... this is an important interview for the president. I kind of expected someone a bit more ... senior. Not a kid.

JOHN
Sorry to disappoint you ... we couldn’t get Dan Rather.

Baker smirks.

BAKER
Cobb could have sent Bill Ward ... he is your White House reporter, isn’t he? ... and the President likes him.
Well ... I’ve been on the national desk for seven years now ... if that’s any consolation.

Baker makes a dismissive gesture.

BAKER
When I was your age I was covering the White House ....

JOHN
And then moved on to an illustrious career at Fox, I believe. Didn’t you used to do commercials for Post Crispies as well? Or was it Apple Jacks?

BAKER
(defensive)
No one likes a smart-ass. Fox is the only network out there with the guts to tell it like it is.

JOHN
Like it is, huh? Interesting. Baker shakes his head.

BAKER
In any case, Bush wanted you. He asked for you.

JOHN He asked for me?

BAKER
Called Farr personally. He liked your series on the Indian
reservations ... what was it? Economic development on the rez ... some crap like that. You got an award for it didn’t you? Have to say, I didn’t read it though.

A beat passes while John soaks in this revelation.

BAKER (CONT’D)
Don’t look so shocked ... Bush reads the papers.
(quickly)

I’m sure he does. Baker gives him a sideways glance.

BAKER
You think he’s a huge dumbass ... don’t you? Just like the rest of the press.

JOHN
I don’t suppose what I think matters, does it?

Baker watches John, chuckles.

BAKER
Just don’t fuck it up, OK? Too much is riding on this ... I think you know what I mean.

John shakes his head.

JOHN
No, I don’t. Maybe you could illuminate things for me.

BAKER
(irritated)
Maybe I should ... you don’t seem up to the task, to be quite honest.

JOHN
I think I already clued into your thoughts on the subject of my abilities.

BAKER
(ignores him)
Ok, smart boy. Off the record? John nods reluctantly.

BAKER (CONT’D)
You don’t understand this, most of the world doesn’t get it either, but this is a crusade, buddy boy. And whoever wins this thing is going to call the shots for the next hundred years ... up until the end of oil. There’s about a
century of crude left in the ground

(MORE)

BAKER (CONT’D) (cont’d) and whoever controls that, controls the planet. Everyone sees it. Putin sees it, the Chinese see it, the Brits and the EU understand that, hell, even the terrorists
understand ... and so do we. Now this thing is a long-haul
adventure, and we’re tanking in the polls. That sound like high stakes to you?

JOHN
Yes, it does sound rather dramatic. But I’m not your press agent.

BAKER
We don’t need you to be our rah-rah boy. We just need you to get it right.

A beat. BAKER (CONT’D) (threatening undertone) Don’t fuck it up.
John bristles, but says nothing. He watches John a moment, stands to leave.
BAKER (CONT’D)
He’ll be here in about 10 minutes
JOHN
How long do we have?

BAKER
He blocked in the whole afternoon
for you. Impressed?

Baker walks to the door, turns back.
BAKER (CONT’D)
(suddenly friendly)

Like some coffee? Tea? Espresso?
John shakes his head and Baker leaves.
His cellphone rings. John checks the number, answers it.

JOHN
Hey, baby.

He listens. Grins.
JOHN (CONT’D) Nothing. Just waiting on the prez....

Listens. JOHN(CONT’D)
No, I’m better now. No problems. Listens. JOHN (CONT’D)
Yeah, me too. Love you, baby. Listens. JOHN (CONT’D) Bye.
He ends the call, puts the phone away. John watches the fire crackle in the fireplace.
INT. ROOM IN A NURSING HOME - CONTINUOUSLY

The "other" John lies in a bed in the nursing home. He is just as we saw him before, unconscious, dressed in hospital garb. Someone has opened the windows in the room and a gentle breeze is stirring.

The door opens, Zitteraal enters, clipboard in hand. He walks over slowly and closes the window, comes over to John, takes his pulse, makes a notation. He opens a lancet, begins to prick the end of John’s fingers.

John’s middle finger jerks noticeably when he pricks it. He pricks another finger and John’s hand jerks slightly. Zitteraal’ eyes widen. He tries again and John’s hand jerks. Zitteraal smiles. He reaches over and pushes the call button for the nurse, begins to make a notation on a file.

After a moment, the same nurse we saw at the beginning enters the room.
NURSE 1
Yes, Doctor Zitteraal?

ZITTERAAL
I want to increase his dosage to 100 milligrams every 3 hours.

The nurse looks surprised. NURSE 1 Are you sure?
He stops writing, looks over his glasses at the nurse.

NURSE 1(CONT’D)
(flustered)
Of course, doctor....

She leaves. Zitteraal takes out his penlight, opens one of John’s eyes, watches as the pupil contracts immediately when he shines the light into John’s eye.

ZITTERAAL
(under his breath)
Unbelievable....

Fade to: John watching the fire crackle as he waits to interview the President. John leans forward suddenly, his hands over his face.

JOHN No, no ....

John’s POV: The fire fades into Zitteraal standing over him at the side of the bed, the penlight in hand. Zitteraal smiles down at him, fade back slowly to the room with the crackling fire.

INT. REC ROOM, BUSH HOME, CRAWFORD -- CONTINUOUS

GEORGE BUSH puts his hand on John’s shoulder. John starts, looks up into the face of the president, who is smiling down pleasantly. Bush is dressed casually in jeans and a gray cloth jacket and cashmere sweater.

BUSH
Well, John, did you fall asleep
there? It’s a mighty comfortable
chair, idn’t it? I’ve been known to
doze off there myself ... listening
to the cracking fire.

John tries to shake it off. He seems disoriented.

JOHN
I’m really sorry. Guess I did kind
of doze off.

BUSH
(still smiling)
Long trip, huh?
John nods.

JOHN
Yeah, I’ll have to admit that I’m a bit tired.

BUSH
Can I get you a coffee ... a cappuccino ... a latte ...? They got most everything in the kitchen. Whatever you like.

JOHN
Just a coffee would be nice. Bush turns. We see that Enoch is standing in the room behind him.

BUSH
(to Enoch)
You think you might could get this young man a coffee?

ENOCH
Sure enough, George. Enoch leaves and a surprised John watches him go. Bush watches John.

BUSH
Enoch told me he saw you down by the old McClellan place. He’s somethin, idn’t he?

JOHN Who is he?

BUSH
Oh ... he’s what you would call local color, I guess. He’s lived around here forever. Does odd jobs for us from time to time. I was just going to show him some stone that needs to be replaced on the fireplace. He’s a good stone mason.

John nods.

BUSH (CONT’D)
Did he tell you any of his theories about Jews?

John nods vigorously. JOHN Oh yeah.
Bush shakes his head.

BUSH
Well ... I hope you won’t hold it against him. Like people say down here ... he’s a bit "tetched."

Bush points at his head.
JOHN
And he works for the president. Bush smirks.

BUSH
Well ... if you call rakin leaves working for the president ....

JOHN
Isn’t it a bit improper to have a man with views like that around?

Bush laughs.

BUSH
Son, you can’t choose your
neighbors. The best you can do is just try to understand ’em and help ’em on their way. Look, if we didn’t give Enoch an odd job ever now and then ... he’d be on welfare or worse, I imagine.

Bush makes a dismissive gesture with one hand.

BUSH (CONT’D)
John did you come all the way down here from LA to talk about the guy who takes out our garage or was there something more important on your mind?

John laughs.

JOHN
Fair enough. Well, I did have a couple of questions.

BUSH
(smiling)
Well, that’s good. That’s real good.

Enoch returns with the coffee, including one for Bush.

ENOCH
I brung you one too. Poured a little Irish whiskey in it to take off the chill of mid-summer.

He turns to John.

ENOCH (CONT’D)
Just kiddin, Mr. reporter fella ....

Bush winks at John.

BUSH
You’re just determined to get me in trouble, aren’t you, Enoch?

ENOCH
Trouble falls on everybody every once in a while ... just like the rain.

Enoch gives John his coffee, then gives the other to Bush.

ENOCH (CONT’D)
Whelp, you gonna show me what needs
to be fixed?

Bush puts his coffee aside, stands up.
BUSH
This won’t take but a second, John.

He and Enoch walk over next to the fireplace, where Bush points at some stonework and explains something to Enoch in a low voice, his arm around the older man’s shoulder. After a few second Enoch nods and Bush gives him a pat on the back, comes back to sit down across from John. Enoch leaves the room without a word.

BUSH (CONT’D)
You want to go ahead and get
started?

John nods, takes out a reporter’s pad and a pen. BUSH (CONT’D)
First of all, I just wanna give you a little background on ....

INT. REC ROOM, BUSH HOME, CRAWFORD -- MOMENTS LATER Bush and John continue the interview.

BUSH
... and so, yes, we’re making progress. But, no, I fully
understand those who say you can’t win this thing military. That’s exactly what the United States military says, that you can’t win this thing military. I’ve been saying this all along too. You can’t ... win ... this thing ... military. That’s why it’s very important that we continue to work with the Iraqis on economic
progress, as well as political progress. Because, you know, you can’t win this thing military ... not just military, I mean.

John scribbles notes for Bush’s response. Bush watches him while he writes, begins to pick his nose. Enoch enters the room again, some tools and materials in hand: a trowel, mortar board, a small bucket of what looks like cement, etc. John looks up, sees Bush picking his nose, but the president doesn’t seem to care, keeps on digging in his nostrils.

Oblivious to the interview behind him, Enoch takes out a hammer and starts banging on the fireplace, trying to break out and remove a stone ... perhaps to replace it. John is taken aback, but Bush hardly seems to notice. He looks at Bush and then at Enoch, but Bush shows no reaction, keeps picking his nose.

JOHN
Mr. President ... uh .... He motions toward Enoch, who is happily hammering away. He breaks one stone free and begins on another.
BUSH
(still oblivious) Yeah?
Enoch has broken two stones now and is starting on a third. He seems intent on destroying the fireplace.

JOHN
Could we ...? I mean, this is kind of loud. It’s rather difficult to work with this dust and noise....

He motions toward Enoch.

BUSH
(still oblivious, still digging)

Really?
John stares at the President for a couple of beats. JOHN
Yes, really.
BUSH
(still oblivious)
Oh.

Bush takes his finger out of his nose, wipes his finger on the arm of the chair, but otherwise doesn’t move. John cocks his head in confusion.

JOHN
Mr. President ... I really am going
to have to insist that we move ....
I ....

Bush suddenly springs to his feet.
BUSH
(enthusiastically)
Let’s shoot pool!
John is flabbergasted.
JOHN
What?

BUSH
Pool! Let’s play a game of eight-ball!

Bush starts to walk over to the pool table, but John stands up, calls to him.
JOHN
Mr. President .... Bush stops, turns to look at John. Enoch continues to batter the fireplace.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Mr. President ... respectfully, I didn’t come here to play pool.

A beat. BUSH
(hurt)
You don’t like me.
John looks like a duck that has been slapped on the head.

JOHN
(fumbling)
Mr. President ... I ... I don’t
know ... I ....

BUSH
(exaggerated whining)
Oh, come on .... Please!
John shrugs his shoulders.
JOHN
(confused, reluctant)
OK.
BUSH All right!

He bounces over to the pool table on the other side of the room. John follows, pad and pencil in hand, clearly uncomfortable with things. He watches while Bush racks the balls, takes up a stick and chalks the end of it.

(While they are playing, Enoch continues to bang away like a moron, reducing the fireplace to more or less rubble.) BUSH (CONT’D) You mind if I break? JOHN
No ... no, not at all. Your table. Bush breaks. Two balls fall in on the break. BUSH
Yeah! I got stripes. He pumps his arm, looks at John with a satisfied grin. BUSH (CONT’D) Actually, it’s Laura’s. JOHN What’s Laura’s? He points at the pool table with his stick. BUSH Laura’s table. JOHN Really?

BUSH
Yep. She’s quite a pool shark. Wanna beer?

Bush strips off his jacket, tosses it in the corner, walks over to a refrigerator against the wall, opens it up, takes out a can of beer, pops the top and begins to chug-a-lug. John stares at him in speechless horror.

BUSH (CONT’D) You want one?

JOHN
Mr. President ... you’re an alcoholic.

Now Bush seems confused.
BUSH
Really?

He thinks about it a minute, shrugs his shoulders, chugs some more until the beer is empty, tosses the can in the corner on top of his jacket. He walks over, lines up his stick on the cue ball, expertly sinks a shot.

BUSH (CONT’D)
You know why I like pool?
John just shakes his head slowly, clearly disturbed with things.

BUSH
Because you can learn so much about life from pool.

JOHN (weakly)

Yeah?
Bush snatches up the cue ball, holds it up for John to see. Enoch stops banging, walks slowly over to the table, hammer in hand. He is covered in dust. The fireplace is destroyed.

BUSH
You see, the way I got it figured
is ... the whole universe is just
like these here pool balls. Once I
get em going ...

He slams the cue ball into some other balls, watches as the balls bounce around the table.

BUSH (CONT’D)
... once I get ’em going, what
happens after that is absolutely
certain ... the Seven hits the Nine
... the Nine strikes the wall, just
at this point right here ... there
can be no variation ....

Bush looks at John.

BUSH
No variation. You understand that?
You see, when God set the universe
in motion, it all fell into place,
one event automatically following
from the next with inevitable
certainty.

He walks over, puts his arm around John. Enoch stands by the table staring at the balls as they slowly roll to a stop.

BUSH (CONT’D)
(confidentially)
John, there is no free will ...
from the very beginning of the
universe, everything was
preordained. A supernova would
occur 5 billion years ago, the Sun
would form from the remnants of
that tragedy ... which incidentally
destroyed an advanced civilization,
the likes of which you can not even
begin to imagine.

Bush stops one of the balls with his hand, picks it up, looks at it closely.

BUSH (CONT’D)
Life would form on the earth, and out of that primeval slime, our

(MORE)

BUSH (CONT’D) (cont’d) ancestors would crawl ashore a few
-odd hundred million years ago ... then, a lizard-like creature would eat a butterfly a few eons back, a volcano would erupt in what are now the Philippines ... and those seemingly ... seemingly random, unconnected events would lead inexorably to this precise moment ... to you and I standing in this room, having this ridiculous
conversation.

Bush looks at John, grins.

BUSH
You like to play pool, son? Great game. Laura and I just love it.

John has stopped writing, is staring at the President in obvious shock.
JOHN
(voice trembling) This is not real, is it?

Bush keeps grinning at him. He takes one of the pool balls and slams it into several others bunched at one end of the table.

BUSH
I just love this game.
EXT. BUSH RANCH - MOMENTS LATER

John is in full retreat. He exits the Bush home, drops his reporter’s pad and his pen on the grass, stumbles like a drunken man toward his rental parked nearby. He gets into his car, tries to start it, but nothing happens. He tries again. Nothing. He gets out of the car and slams the door, runs his fingers through his hair, looks around, leans with his back against his car. The state trooper who spoke with him in the previous scene waddles up lethargically from across the parking lot, except this time he has
shoulder-length dreadlocks and is smoking a huge joint.

He takes a deep toke, holds it. TROOPER 1 You lost, boy?
A long pause. The trooper waits, takes another toke. JOHN
My ... my car won’t start. TROOPER 1 Won’t start?
JOHN (nods)
Yeah.

TROOPER 1
Whelp ... you got yurself a problem then, don’t you, Mister New York Times.

JOHN
(tense)
Orange County Times.

TROOPER 1
Whatever ... hell, it’s just
bullshit anyways. Might as well say you’re the US correspondent for Le Monde in Paris. Hell, might as well say you work for a newspaper on Mars. Just make it up as you go along ... hell, sounds better like that, don’t it?

He takes another deep drag, passes it to John.
TROOPER 1 (CONT’D)
You want some of this, boy?

John eyes fill with anger. He lurches at the Trooper, pushes him and grabs his gun simultaneously, points it at his chest.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D) Whoa, son, now you have done carried thangs into a new dimension.

JOHN
I’m taking your car! The trooper laughs.

TROOPER 1
Take it, boy! Take whatever you fucking want. Dumbass!
The Trooper brings the joint up for another toke, just as John shoots him twice in the chest. The trooper staggers backward, feels of his chest, holds up his fingers to show no blood, looks at John with a mocking grin.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D)
(sarcastic)
Whoa, cowboy ... you done shot me!
John lets the gun slowly drop to his side, fear and disbelief in his eyes.

TROOPER 1 (CONT’D)
(mock sympathy)
Oh, I’m sorry ... is this what you
wanted.

Blood spurts from the Trooper’s wounds as he falls on one knee choking on blood. He grabs his chest in obvious pain, falls on his knees, tumbles over backward, dead, as a pool of blood begins to spread about his body.

The Trooper looks up one last time.
TROOPER 1 (CONT’D)
(big grin)
Much better, huh?

He drops his head back onto the pavement, the glassy look of death sweeps over his eyes. After a moment, John lets the gun fall upon the pavement. He runs for the trooper’s car, jumps inside, as Trooper 2 gets out of his car, leans against it, watches John burn rubber and speed away. Trooper 2 speaks into his shoulder-held microphone.

TROOPER 2
We got a raging hallucination,
southbound on Prairie Chapel Road.
Over.

Cut to PLAIN DARK SUIT WEARING MIDNIGHT FRAMES sitting in his Lincoln. He speaks into his shoulder-held microphone.

PLAIN DARK SUIT WEARING MIDNIGHT FRAMES Reality is just a very persistent
illusion. Over.
INT. STATE TROOPER’S VEHICLE - MOMENTS LATER

John races south on Prairie Chapel Road. He fishes his cellphone from his pocket, speed dials a number and waits. No answer. He tries again. No answer. He tosses the phone on the seat, looks up, sees something that disturbs him, slams on the brakes.

JOHN
Shit!(in disbelief)
EXT. A POND ON PRAIRIE CHAPEL ROAD - CONTINUOUS

The same pond that John stopped by previously. Enoch is fishing just as he was before, just as if he had never left the place. Next to him is "Comatose John," emaciated John from the nursing home, fishing pole in his hand. John jumps out of the car.

JOHN Hey!
They both ignore or don’t hear him.

JOHN (CONT’D)
(louder)
Hey! Hey, you sons of bitches! Look at me!

Enoch doesn’t react. Comatose John reaches up and scratches his head. John beats his fist on the hood of the state trooper’s car.

JOHN (CONT’D) Look at me, you insane motherfuckers! Look at me!

Still no reaction. He opens the door of the state trooper’s car, takes out the shotgun, pumps a round into the chamber and fires it in the air. No reaction.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Look at me, goddamn you both!

He pumps it again, levels the gun at Enoch and Comatose John, fires again ... and again and again. No reaction. He throws the gun aside and falls against the hood of the vehicle, defeated. Finally, Enoch slowly begins to reel in his line. Comatose John does the same. Enoch picks up his tackle box and walks up the small incline to the side of the road where John is now standing erect, watching him. Comatose John follows.
ENOCH

I told you you wudn’t a reporter.

JOHN
God, I hate you, you crazy fuck. Isn’t there anyway to kill you?

Enoch is unperturbed, glances over his shoulder, then back at John.
ENOCH
Fish ain’t a-biting today .... JOHN Who are you? Enoch shakes his head sadly. ENOCH
... ain’t a-biting.... He walks away, past John and then up Prairie Chapel Road. Comatose John now passes. COMATOSE JOHN ... ain’t a-biting.

John’s POV: John watches them as they go, until about 50 yards away a small light begins to glow in the middle of Enoch’s back and then grows larger and larger until it consumes everything.

INT A HOSPITAL ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Suddenly, very vividly, John sees Dr. Zitteraal standing over him beside the bed in the nursing home with penlight in his hand. Zitteraal switches off the light, a look of surprise or disbelief in his eyes.

ZITTERAAL (voice a whisper) You’re awake.
Weakly, John shakes his head from side to side, begins to cry. He closes his eyes.

FADE TO BLACK. FADE INTO: INT. JOHN & CLARISSE’S BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS

John opens his eyes slowly, finds himself again in his bedroom, next to Clarisse. It is morning again, a gentle, perfect breeze is stirring through the window, all is idyllic, peaceful and calm. Sunshine pours into the room and outside the sky is blue.

He rubs his face, gets slowly out of bed, goes and sits in a chair near the bed, staring at Clarisse, naked, dark and beautiful, the sheets wrapped about her body in a haphazard way.

He watches her for a few seconds. She stirs, feels for him, turns and looks at him sitting in the chair.
CLARISSE (groggy)
You up already? JOHN (slowly) I’m awake.
She smiles. CLARISSE
(coaxing)
Come back to bed, baby. John continues to stare at her, says nothing. She sees something is the matter.
CLARISSE (CONT’D) What’s wrong?
JOHN
Where do we live, Clarisse? CLARISSE (shrugs)
Paradise. Why?
JOHN
Where do I work, Clarisse? She smiles.

CLARISSE
What kind of a question is that? You know where you work.

She holds out her hand to him. CLARISSE (CONT’D) (cute pout)
Come, baby.
JOHN
(tinge of desperation) Where do I work?
Clarisse looks concerned. CLARISSE Come here, baby ....

JOHN
(shouting)
Where do I work? Can’t you answer one simple, fucking question?

She begins to cry.

CLARISSE
You work at the newspaper ... the Orange County Times!

He throws his pillow at her.

JOHN
(angry)
There is no Orange County Times! Where do I work, damn it?

CLARISSE
(sobbing)
I... I don’t know. Anywhere you want to, baby. I’m sorry. I just want to please you. What do you want from me?

John picks up a book lying nearby, throws it at the wall. She cringes in fright. The book slams into a lamp, knocking it off.

JOHN
(shouting, out of control) You’re not even fucking here! None of this shit is here! It’s all bullshit, isn’t it?

She looks at him in terror. JOHN (shouting)

Isn’t it?
(sobbing)
I’m sorry.... I... please, John. Please come ....

She holds out her hand. JOHN
(loud, but not shouting)
You are not real! You are not here!
He gestures in a frustrated way.
JOHN (CONT’D)
Here? There is no fucking here!
She gets out of bed, trembling, cautiously approaches, her hands out.
CLARISSE
Come ... come, my baby, please.... Now John begins to cry.

JOHN
(mumbling)
No, Clarisse ... no ... I won’t ....

She embraces him.

CLARISSE
Don’t let them do this to us, John. I beg you. Don’t let them do this. You can stop this, baby. Please. Don’t let them take this from us. You don’t have to do this. I won’t let you ... I need you ....

John buries his face against her bosom, sobs uncontrollably. She takes him by the hand, leads him to the bed.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
Please come to bed ... Please, I’ll make it right. I promise.

INT. JOHN & CLARISSE’S BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS

John lays with Clarisse in the bed, obviously after making love. He doesn’t seem that happy about it though. He is leaned against a few pillows, staring straight ahead, and she is lying across his chest, looking up at him, watching him carefully.
(cautiously)

We can go away, John. He looks at her.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
We can go away forever and they’ll never find you again.

He looks away again. JOHN
(flat)
Where would we go? CLARISSE Mexico.
John smirks.

JOHN
You mean, fantasy Mexico .... Can I pretend like I’m president of Mexico?

She buries her face against his chest. CLARISSE
(hurt, mumbles)
We can go anywhere you like. He pulls her by the hair so that she is looking up at him. She cringes with pain, but doesn’t resist.

JOHN
(aggressive)
How ’bout to the moon? Can we go to the fucking moon? Can we go to Pluto?

She reaches up and takes his hand. CLARISSE
You’re hurting me, John. He lets go of her hair.

JOHN
Who am I, Clarisse? Who am I really?

She looks away. JOHN (CONT’D) You know, don’t you? She shakes her head.

JOHN (CONT’D)
(angry)
You know, you little bitch ... you’ve known all along ... haven’t you?

She starts to get up, but he grabs her arm.

CLARISSE
(pleading)
Don’t John ... please don’t. I’ve
loved you, John. I’ve loved you
with all my heart ... I ....

He moves close, inches from her face.
JOHN
(shouting)
You are not even here! Goddamn you! He pushes her away. Now she gets angry.

CLARISSE
Goddamn you, John! I am not here?
Do you not understand anything?
This is not real? I am not real? Do you not see me standing before you? Do you not feel me?

She takes his hand, puts it against her breast.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
Do you not feel the beating of my
heart? Kill me, John. Kill me and
see how real I am.

Suddenly she produces a knife from god only knows where, presses it into John’s hand.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
Kill me, John. Kill me. I can’t
stand this. I won’t go on this way.

He backs away from her, knife in hand.
JOHN
(afraid)

Stay away, Clarisse.
(shouting)
Kill me! Rip out my heart and see that I live!

She lunges at him, but John drops the knife, backs away onto the balcony. She picks up the knife, follows until both of them are standing naked in the door to the balcony, a huge semicircular structure attached to the building. They struggle and John looks about as he backs up. A look of awe slowly overcomes him as they move out onto the balcony, and they slowly stop struggling with each other. He holds still-upset Clarisse close to him, gently takes the knife away from her, drops it onto the balcony.

JOHN (quietly) Stop Clarisse.

He holds her until she is calmer.
EXT. BALCONY - NIGHT

The balcony is made of white marble with an ornate balustrade and a railing about chest high. The palm trees and garden are gone. It is dark. Above, the sky is filled with thousands of stars and a nearby swirling spiral galaxy. Shooting stars light up the sky. An enormous planet much like Saturn rises on the horizon. John leave Clarisse, walks to the edge, carefully looks over the side. Below him, the balcony drops for thousands of feet into a turbulent ocean below. The house is standing alone in a vast, empty darkness with the starlit sky above and the ominous churning sea below.

John steps back from the edge, turns to see Clarisse standing behind him. She is radiant, glowing, angelic. She comes closer, takes his hand and they lean against the balustrade, admiring a night sky of unbelievable beauty.

JOHN
It’s beyond words ....

CLARISSE
It comes from you, John. All this beauty ... it’s in your soul ....

She snuggles against his arm. JOHN
But, it’s not real.

She turns him to face her, looks steadily into his eyes. It’s real, John. In your heart, what is ... and what can be ... are the same. It is your story.

They watch the night sky, holding hands.

CLARISSE (CONT’D)
I waited for you ... trapped in an eternity of possibility, like an image imprisoned in a mirror. When you touched me, you gave me life.

She reaches up, takes a glowing star into her hand, watches it transform into a hibiscus. She puts it in her hair behind her ear.

CLARISSE (CONT’D) I would gladly give everything I have for one second of the life that you gave me ....

She kisses his cheek. There is a low rumbling and the balcony shakes. Clarisse is suddenly troubled. Tears well up in her eyes.

CLARISSE Hold me....
John takes her in his arms. JOHN (concerned) What is it?
She shakes her head sadly, pushes away.

CLARISSE
He’s coming, John. Goodbye, my love ....

She touches his chest with the palm of her hand, her eyes fixed on his.

In an instant, the tentacles of a huge sea monster, slam over the side of the balustrade, crushing it and simultaneously grabbing and wrapping about Clarisse. It begins to crush her as John watches. He claws uselessly at the arms of the beast as bright red blood oozes from her lips and the monster begins to retreat over the side of the balustrade with its prey. John takes her hand, tries to hold on, but she is gone in another second. He watches the arm of the monster disappear over the side of the balcony, ripping out a fresh section of the balustrade as it retreats. He runs to the side, watches the huge arm pulling a thousand feet backwards into the dark ocean with Clarisse wrapped in its tentacles. Pieces of balcony fall and John’s entire world is shaking, crumbling as if there were an earthquake. John looks back, sees the balcony and house collapsing simultaneously.

JOHN (sobbing) No .... No .... FADE TO BLACK. FADE INTO:
INT A HOSPITAL ROOM - CONTINUOUS

John awakes groggily in his hospital bed with Zitteraal standing over him. Nurse 1 is standing to one side of the bed. The light in the room is bright, sterile and unpleasant. Zitteraal is excited.

ZITTERAAL Can you hear me? John nods slowly. He brings his emaciated hand up to shield his eyes.

JOHN
(mumbles)
Why ... why ... did you do this ...?

Zitteraal nods to the nurse.

ZITTERAAL
(oblivious)
I think the lights are disturbing the patient.

She walks over and flips the switch. Now the only illumination is the dim light pouring through the window. ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) (clear and loud)
Wel-come back!
John lets his eyes wander around the darkened room, the life-support equipment beeping away at the side of his bed. JOHN
(flat)
Yeah ... welcome ... back. Zitteraal leans in close. ZITTERAAL
Can you tell me your name?
John shakes his head. Feebly, he takes Zitteraal by his white lab jacket.
JOHN
You had no right .... John can’t finish the sentence, drops his hand. Zitteraal looks at the nurse.

ZITTERAAL
Give him 50 milligrams of Demerol ... let him rest.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) (to John)
That’s enough for today. You rest. JOHN
(mumbling)
Don’t give me Demerol. What? ZITTERAAL
JOHN Just ... go away. He grabs Zitteraal’ coat again feebly. JOHN (CONT’D) Sea monster ....
He loses consciousness. FADE OUT. FADE INTO: 72.
INT. SAME HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY

During the next three scenes, there is no dialog. Intro music, then voice over, Leonard Cohen singing, Alexandra Leaving. Song continues for next three scenes:

A day or two has passed. John, weak and unhappy, is being fed some sort of gruel-like substance by a nurse in his bed. He takes a spoonful, feebly tries to push the nurse away. She moves his arm, seems to scold him, continues with the feeding.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) Suddenly the night has grown
colder. The god of love preparing to depart. Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder, they slip between the sentries of the heart

John eats his gruel, tears welling in his eyes.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) Upheld by the simplicities of pleasure, they gain the light, they formlessly entwine; And radiant beyond your widest measure, they fall among the voices and the wine.

INT HOSPITAL CORRIDOR - DAY

John exercises. He is being helped to walk down the corridor by a burly hospital worker, who pulls him this way and that. John tries to sit but the worker keeps him on his feet.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.)
It’s not a trick, your senses all
deceiving, a fitful dream, the
morning will exhaust - Say goodbye
to Alexandra leaving. Then say
goodbye to Alexandra lost.

INT. NURSING HOME CAFETERIA - DAY

A sterile and tacky cafeteria room. Plastic flowers stand in vases here and there. The tables and chairs are made of white plastic. A buffet with workers doling out steaming hospital slop lines one wall of the room as residents queue up. John takes his tray and finds a seat beside an elderly man, who is staring off into space, drooling. He looks around the room, sees other patients staring off into space, chattering to themselves, etc. An elderly woman nearby is having an animated conversation with someone only she can see. She seems very happy. John watches her, lost in thought.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) Even though she sleeps upon your satin; Even though she wakes you with a kiss. Do not say the moment was imagined; Do not stoop to strategies like this.

Slow close up on the elderly woman having an animated conversation with herself, cutting tighter and tighter until we can only see her eyes.

LEONARD COHEN (V.O.) It’s not a trick, your senses all deceiving, a fitful dream, the morning will exhaust - Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving. Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.

FADE OUT, SONG AND SCENE. FADE INTO:
INT. SAME HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY

A few days have passed and John is now sitting up in bed. He has gained a little weight back. He’s in the same crappy room, but the window is open and he is looking at the trees outside his window. Zitteraal is standing by his bed. Nurse 1 is nearby with a small paper bag in her hand. John doesn’t look at either of them.

ZITTERAAL
We’ve arranged for you to occupy a room in a half-way house. You’ll be able to meet with a psychologist everyday to discuss your ... issues.

Zitteraal watches him carefully.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) (evasively)
With time ... we feel sure you’ll be able to regain ... at least part of your memory.

No reaction from John. You ... still have no idea who you are? Nothing has come back?

JOHN
The only thing I remember is waking up here.

Zitteraal looks at the nurse. She steps forward. NURSE 1
Here.
She puts the bag on his bed. John picks it up, opens it. Inside he finds his Rolex.
JOHN
A going-away present?

ZITTERAAL
No. Apparently, it was your
property when you arrived at this
institution. You were wearing it.
Do ... you remember anything about
it?

John gives it a cursory inspection.
JOHN
Nope.
Zitteraal looks at the nurse. He is clearly frustrated at John’s lack of progress.
ZITTERAAL
Nothing?
John looks at Zitteraal for the first time.
JOHN
Nothing.
ZITTERAAL Are you sure?
John turns red with anger.

JOHN
(bitterly)
You want to know what I remember, doctor? I remember I was happy. I remember clearly that I was with someone who loved me with all her

(MORE)

JOHN (cont’d)
heart, who would do anything for me, and I remember I had a great life and a wonderful job ... and I remember that you took all that from me.

He drops the Rolex in a trash can by his bed. JOHN (CONT’D)
That’s what I remember.
Zitteraal shakes his head impatiently.

ZITTERAAL
I know this has been very difficult for you, but I think it would be
beneficial if you listen to me.
Your experiences during your coma
were fantasies. The sooner you come to terms with that reality, the
sooner you can begin your recovery.

The nurse takes the watch from the waste can. Puts it on John’s nightstand.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) And the sooner you will start to remember what is really important in terms of your past ... and your future.

John looks at the trees outside the window.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) No matter how appealing or
comforting your hallucinations were during your coma, they were not reality ... and it’s illogical to continue hoping that they will return. Do you understand that?

JOHN
You are a gigantic prick, do you understand that?

Zitteraal smirks. A beat.
ZITTERAAL
Ok.
He turns to the nurse.
Let’s go. The nurse leaves. Zitteraal starts to do the same, tarries in the doorway a moment. Turns back to John.

ZITTERAAL (CONT’D) Give life a chance, John. Real life.

JOHN
What the fuck would you know about it? Half the people in this
hospital are living better lives than you could ever imagine ... and you pity them for it.

ZITTERAAL
No, John. I don’t pity them. I just know the difference between reality and fantasy.

He looks at John a beat to let that sink in. Turns and leaves. John looks out the window for a few seconds, then turns and looks at the watch. He picks it up slowly and begins to examine it, carefully turning it around and around in his hands while he looks at it.

INT. HALFWAY HOUSE - DAY

John enters a tiny, spartan room with WORKER 2 at the halfway house. There’s a single bed on one wall, a tiny closet, a desk and a chair against a window facing out on a courtyard, a couple of fading prints in gilded frames on the walls. He is carrying a small travel bag. Worker 2 seems to be in a hurry.

WORKER 2
(quickly)
Ok, dinner’s at 5, about 15
minutes. Don’t be late. We’ll give you an orientation on house rules after that.

He starts to leave. WORKER 2 (CONT’D)
Oh, there’s no smoking in the room. John seems confused, looks at him quizzically. JOHN Smoking what? The worker looks irritated.

WORKER 2
Oh, boy. Are you going to be a
problem, chief? No smoking anything
... capiche? No cigs ... no wacky
backy ... nothing.

The worker leaves. John stands looking about the drab and depressing room, sits on the bed, stares straight ahead. Finally, he opens the travel bag, takes out his Rolex, looks at it.

INT. ROOM IN THE HALFWAY HOUSE - DAY

A group therapy session in progress. John sits with five other men on fold-up chairs while a YOUNG PSYCHOLOGIST in a cheap suit leads a session. There are bars on the windows and the same genre of drab reproductions in gilded frames that we saw in John’s room adorns the walls. The men seemed bored as the therapist chatters away in an animated way. John stares out the window at some trees in the courtyard. He is wearing his Rolex. One of the men, DAVID WELLS, a crusty old fart about 65, vigorous with
closed-cropped butane lighter. hair, starts to light a cigarette with a

YOUNG PSYCHOLOGIST (irritated)
Mr. Wells, I believe you know that smoking is not allowed. We’ve had this discussion before.

DAVE
(smirks)
Sorry, your lordship.

Dave puts his lighter away, but keeps his cigarette between his lips. The psychologist gives him the stink eye, then looks about at the apathetic faces before him, finally settling on John.

YOUNG PSYCHOLOGIST (CONT’D) Well ... John ... I was just
wondering if maybe today you might want to share with us? I think you’ve been with us a month now ....

John shakes his head. (under his breath)
Maybe he’d like to share that fucking Rolex with us....

John and a couple of the men snicker. The Young Psychologist shoots Dave another dirty look, turns back to John.

YOUNG PSYCHOLOGIST As you can see, a lot of the men are interested in knowing a bit more about you ....

John shakes his head. JOHN No thanks.
INT. JOHN’S ROOM - NIGHT

A man screams from his room down the hallway outside John’s room. John flips on the night light on his wall, sits up in bed. He sees Worker 2 shuffle past his room. Worker 2 backtracks quickly, sticks his head inside the room.

WORKER 2
Don’t sweat it, Chief. It’s Mr. Dempsey. Thinks he’s in Nam again.

Worker 2 hustles off to help Mr. Dempsey. John lays back in his bed again.
JOHN
He is in Nam again ... Chief. He turns off his light. A beat. JOHN (CONT’D)
Goodnight, Clarisse. I miss you. A beat. JOHN (CONT’D) I won’t forget.
EXT. A SHOPPING MALL - DAY

A mini school bus, bright yellow, pulls up into the parking lot at a large suburban mall. On the side of the bus is written, "Helping Hands Halfway House." About a dozen men pile off the bus, John last of all. Some run for the mall, others mill about absently, waiting for Worker 2, who gets off the bus after John, to organize things.

WORKER 2
Ok, back here in 2 hours. That’s two hours sharp. Understand, Mr. Johnson?

MR. JOHNSON nods his head, winks.
JOHNSON
No problemo.

WORKER 2
And stay out of the video arcade,
damn it!

Johnson runs off. John and the others, including Dave, walk toward the mall entrance.

DAVE
(to John)
Why do we have to ride that goddamn
dumbass yellow school bus? God I
feel like a retard on a class trip.

A beat.
JOHN
How long you been here, Dave? DAVE Too fucking long. JOHN
Why don’t you leave then?

DAVE
And do what? Bag groceries at Kroger’s? I tried being a greeter at Walmart, but they fired me when I told this guy to get fucked when he asked for an extra smiley face on his bag ... I got that kind of cheery, can-do disposition, you know. Did I tell you I used to be an attorney? I was a damned good one too.

JOHN
I heard you mention it, yeah. Why don’t you go back?

Dave laughs. Well, there’s just one little problemo. Since I got sick, I can’t control my anger without the medication. But when I’m on the medication, I can’t think ... I can’t concentrate .... Kind of fucked up, huh?

A beat. John says nothing.

JOHN
Do you know if there is a watch repair shop in the mall?

DAVE
Why, something wrong with the Rolex?

JOHN
Needs a new battery, I think.
INT. WATCH REPAIR SHOP - MOMENTS LATER

John and Dave stand inside a small shop while the SHOP OWNER opens the back of the Rolex with a tool, a jeweler’s lens on one eye. The back snaps open and a piece of paper falls out on the counter.

SHOP OWNER
Well ... here’s your problem.
He unfolds the piece of paper, hands it to John, continues to inspect the watch.
John opens the paper, reads it.
DAVE
What’s it say?

JOHN
First City Bank 37854B. What the
hell does that mean?

DAVE
It’s a safety deposit box number.
They look at each other. The shop owner clears his throat. SHOP OWNER
There’s more.
He shows John the inside of the watch’s back cover. It’s a PIN Number. JOHN
Well, I’ll be damned. DAVE
Looks like a message in a bottle.
INT. BANK OFFICE - DAY

Typical manager’s office in a city bank. Desk with two chairs in front of it, small corner sofa with a coffee table, a filing cabinet, small desktop printer, computer.

Dave and John sit next to one another in the chairs in front of the BANK MANAGER, mid-30s, gray suit and glasses. He finishes reading a document, takes off his glasses puts them on the table.

BANK MANAGER
(to John)
This is an amazing story, Mr. Harvest.

He reads from the document.

BANK MANAGER (CONT’D) Paul Wellford Harvest ...
fingerprints a spot-on match, photo ... very much the same. There’s no doubt that the safety deposit box is yours.

BANK MANAGER (CONT’D) (incredulous)
You don’t remember anything? John shakes his head. JOHN Afraid not.

BANK MANAGER
We’ve also done a bit of checking. You have a bank account here with more than $250,000 in it, we set up a 401k for you 10 years ago and a home mortgage 8 years ago. Lucky you that you set up an automatic payment on the mortgage. We have had some notification on some late

(MORE)

BANK MANAGER (cont’d) taxes from the county and the state, but that should be easy enough to clear up ... given the circumstances.

He stands, shakes John’s hand.

BANK MANAGER
Well ... welcome back to the world, Mr. Harvest.

INT. A SMALL ROOM IN THE BANK - MOMENTS LATER

Four walls painted pastel blue adorned with framed photos of a seaside, a small table in the center, overhead florescent lights. John and Dave sit on one side of the table. The Bank Manager enters carrying a safety deposit box about the size of a desktop printer. He puts it on the table in front of John.

BANK MANAGER
Enter the code right here on the key pad and push the pound sign. You can stay as long as you want ... just let me know when you’re finished and I’ll put the box back in the vault.

JOHN Thank you.
The Bank Manager leaves, Dave gets up to follow him. DAVE
I’ll wait for you in the lobby.

JOHN
I’d rather you stayed. I might need your help.

DAVE Sure.

He shuts the door, comes back and sits beside John. John takes a deep breath, enters the Pin number and pushes the pound sign. The lid of the box snaps open. He slowly opens it.

He takes out various documents, a set of keys, some stock certificates, some men’s and some women’s jewelry. Dave sorts through the papers.
Well, I’ll be damned. You’ve got shares of stock in Microsoft and here some for Walmart ... that’s a fucking lot of money.

JOHN
What’s Walmart?
Dave looks at John askance. A beat, then he breaks out into laughter.
DAVE
Man, you have been in a coma.
EXT. A HOME IN SUBURBAN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA - DAY

John and Dave drive up in a rental car beside a home in suburban Southern California. Parked outside is a van, upon which is written, "Superior Lawn Service." Four workers mow the grass, trim the bushes, etc. It looks as if the yard has been well-cared for. The house itself is also quite nice, not a mansion, but not a shack either. It’s a two-story brick home. Obviously, it belongs to someone in the upper middle class. The only indication that something might not be quite right is that one of the rain gutters in front has broken loose and is hanging down in front of the front door. No one has bothered to fix it.

John and Dave pull up into the driveway. One of the workers, WORKER 3, repairing a sprinkler, watches them as they get out of the car. He stands up.

WORKER 3 (friendly)
Can I help you guys?

Dave nods at John. DAVE He’s the owner. WORKER 3 (surprised) Really?
He comes over and shakes hands with John.

WORKER 3 (CONT’D) Jim Swenson. I own Superior Lawn Service.

JOHN Nice to meet you.

WORKER 3
I was wondering if anyone actually lived in this house. I’ve never seen anyone come in or out.

DAVE
Well, he’s been away ... in Europe. He looks around

DAVE (CONT’D)
You’re paid by direct deposit, aren’t you?

WORKER 3
Yeah, I am. My dad built this business and I took over four years ago when he retired. Never saw anyone come in or go out of the house. I was starting to think a ghost lived here.

John and Dave look at one another.

WORKER 3 (CONT’D)
(to John, a bit eager)
Say ... since I finally get to meet you, I was wondering if you have a second to come around back with me. You’ve got a major infestation of dandelions near the pool and I was wondering if you’d like us to take care of that for you. I didn’t want to get into anything like that without the owner’s permission because it can get costly ....

John again looks at Dave, seems unsure what to say.

DAVE
Uh, I’ll tell you what, if you could just leave your card ....

He walks aside with Worker 3 and John goes over to the front door, takes out the keys he took from the safety deposit box, finds the right key, opens it.
85.

INT. JOHN’S HOME - CONTINUOUS

John opens the door and walks inside. An air conditioner whirs somewhere, but inside the home is dusty and neglected. Dead plants stand, dry and brown, in pots near a window. All the furniture is dusty. A radio plays at a low volume in the kitchen.

Other than the musty appearance of the home, the furniture is nice, again not rich, but upper-middle class.

JOHN
(to himself)
I don’t ever remember being here in my life....

He walks into the kitchen, switches off the radio. Again all is covered in dust, but on the kitchen table are two plates, two cups, forks, spoons, a couple used paper napkins, yellowed with age ... all indicating that a couple had breakfast long ago before they left one morning, never to return. John picks up one of the coffee cups, looks inside at the dried coffee on the bottom of the cup. He turns it. There is a lipstick stain on the side of the cup.

Dave walks into the kitchen.

DAVE
You’re gonna have to give that guy a big tip. He took damn good care of the yard. He’s right though ... you got dandelions coming out the ass out back.

John keeps looking at the cup. DAVE (CONT’D) What did you find?
John shows him the cup with the lipstick on the side.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Could have been yours. Maybe you were a transvestite before.

John smirks. DAVE (CONT’D)
OK, it probably wasn’t yours.

Dave opens the frig, peeks in, shuts it quickly. DAVE (CONT’D)
Oh, my god ... Don’t even think about looking in there.

JOHN Pretty bad?
He puts his arm around John’s shoulder. DAVE (CONT’D)
(in a low voice)
Just buy a new refrigerator. John laughs, puts down the cup.
JOHN
I don’t remember anything, David.

DAVE
Take it slow, bud. Just give it some time.

A beat. John looks at the table.
DAVE (CONT’D)
Did you go in the bedroom yet?
INT. JOHN’S BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS

A bedroom overlooking the pool in the back yard. The king-size bed is unmade and covered in dust. There are two pillows on the bed, both with the indentations of heads where two people were sleeping. The covers are in disarray.

Typical bedroom furniture, a wardrobe, walk-in closets, chest of drawers, a dresser, etc. Outside the bedroom is a deck that overlooks the pool. Locked sliding doors lead to the deck. John walks into the bedroom. Dave follows, stands in the doorway.

John opens one of the walk-in closets. It’s filled with women’s clothes, some of which appear moth eaten. He touches the clothes with his hand, turns back to the room.

On the chest of drawers on the other side of the room is a studio photograph of a woman. It’s Clarisse.

John inhales sharply as if in fright. He staggers backward, then crosses the room quickly, picks up the photograph with trembling hands.

JOHN
(trembling, crying) Clarisse!
QUICK FADE OUT. FADE INTO:

INT. JOHN’S BEDROOM - SIX YEARS EARLIER (VISION SEQUENCE) Begin Vision Sequence:

John’s POV: The past comes rushing back to him now. In rapid succession, John sees:

Clarisse puts on her pantyhose in the bedroom in which John and Dave are standing. She turns and smiles at him, comes over and kisses him, puts her arms around him.

EXT. DRIVEWAY AT JOHN’S HOUSE - CONTINUOUS (VISION SEQUENCE) Cont’d Vision Sequence:

John opens the door for Clarisse and she gets into a silver Beemer. He goes around to the other side and opens the door for himself, gets in. He’s dressed in a suit and wearing sunglasses. It seems they are going to work.

EXT. ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER BUILDING - CONTINUOUS (VISION SEQUENCE)
Cont’d Vision Sequence:

John goes to his job at the Orange County Register. He gets out of the Beemer in front of the building and Clarisse comes around, gives him a kiss, gets into the driver’s seat and drives away.

EXT. A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT SCENE - CONTINUOUS (VISION SEQUENCE) Cont’d Vision Sequence:

An agitated John watches as police and a rescue team clear wreckage at a freeway accident site maybe 30 yards away. A policeman is standing in front of him, obviously trying to make sure he doesn’t go any closer. His Beemer is crashed against a bridge support, totally destroyed, a smoldering wreckage. A couple of rescue workers open the car with a hydraulic rescue tool, a "Jaws of Life." Rescue teams remove what appears to be a horribly burned, blackened, smoldering corpse from the vehicle. It is impossible to tell who it might have been.

John turns away, begins to vomit.

EXT. A BUSY FREEWAY - CONTINUOUS (VISION SEQUENCE) Cont’d Vision Sequence:

John runs down the middle of a busy freeway somewhere in Southern California. He seems oblivious to any danger. He takes off his suit jacket and throws it in the air. He kicks off his shoes, keeps on running. Cars swerve and blow their horns, trying to avoid him. Suddenly one appears directly in front of him and the horrified female driver screams just as she slams into John, who flips over the top of the car like a rag doll.

SLAM FADE TO BLACK. FADE SLOWLY INTO:
INT. JOHN’S LIVING ROOM - EVENING

John awakens on the couch in his living room. Dave has tossed one of the blankets from the bed over him. He sits up slowly, finds Dave sitting in an armchair next to him, watching TV, drinking Jack Daniels from a bottle. Dave leans over toward John when he sees him sit up, offers John the bottle.

DAVE Want some?
John takes the bottle, takes a swig. John screws up his face after he drinks.

JOHN
Know what? Jack Daniels doesn’t get better with age.

Dave smiles, turns off the TV with a remote control. John drinks some more.

DAVE (CONT’D)
(slowly)
I thought it was her ... the photograph. She was the woman you saw when you were in a coma, wasn’t she? And she was your wife too ... in this world?
A beat.

DAVE (CONT’D) Am I right?
John nods. DAVE
You must have loved her dearly. JOHN
(quietly)
Yeah.
DAVE
Do you remember everything now? John nods. JOHN
I think so. Most everything anyway.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Lucky you. I still can’t remember lots of things from before. I remember my second wife leaving me though. Soon as the money stopped coming in, she skedaddled ... didn’t even let the door smack her tremendous fat ass on the way out. She divorced me and took what little I had left.

He takes the bottle back, takes a big swig.

DAVE (CONT’D)
After I got out of the hospital, I would get so mad I would pound on the walls until my fists were bloody, then I’d laugh like a moron for hours. Couldn’t control myself.

He shakes his head, passes the bottle back to John. JOHN And now?

DAVE
Well, I take the drugs ... and I can function ... sort of ....

JOHN
You know, you never told me what happened to you.

DAVE
Fucking stupid, it was. I don’t really remember much. I was late, was on my way to court, was
hustling down the street from my office ... just up the block. I was talking on the cell phone with a client, I saw a bright flash of light and felt a tremendous pain in my head, and the next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital and two months were gone.

John drinks, passes the bottle back. Dave puts the bottle to his lips, takes a drink.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Stroke. Couldn’t even sue anyone ... not even God.

He leans back in the armchair.

DAVE (CONT’D)
They said I’d never walk again, but that was just bullshit. Doctors don’t know shit from Shinola, I tell you.

A beat.

JOHN
Well, I guess I was a reporter after all. I worked at the
Register, covered national news. I even remember that I did interview Bush .... He wasn’t that funny though.

Dave smiles, drinks more whiskey. JOHN (CONT’D)
At least, not in this reality. Dave passes the bottle back.

JOHN (CONT’D)
I met Clarisse in college ... Berkley. She was in Marketing. We were going to have a child the year ... the year it all happened. John falls silent.

DAVE
What happened to her?

JOHN
(flat)
She was on her way to work and a truck cut her off. She slammed into a bridge support and the car exploded. Just like that ....

He snaps his fingers. Both fall silent. John drinks, passes the bottle back. Dave drinks.
John looks up. JOHN (CONT’D) You got any kids?

DAVE
Me? Yeah, I’ve got a kid by my first wife. Never should have left that woman. She wasn’t pretty, but she was good to me. Better than I deserved. You know, you get making the big money and your head gets all fucked up. Start thinking that maybe you’re just a bit better, ... a bit smarter than everyone else. I guess I wanted a trophy wife. Some trophy, huh?

He drinks some more. DAVE (CONT’D) Fat ass bitch.
He shakes his head. DAVE (CONT’D)
I got what I deserved, I suppose. He takes out his wallet, opens it, passes a photo to John. DAVE (CONT’D) This is her, my second wife.

JOHN
She does have a fat ass, doesn’t she?

DAVE (CONT’D)
She could pull a truck with it ... easy.

He passes another photo to John. DAVE (CONT’D)
This is my kid.

John looks at the picture. It’s a woman about 25 years old with curly blond hair and blue eyes. She is smiling and has her arm around Dave.

JOHN
She looks like you. John hands the photo back.

DAVE
She’s a marine biologist. Loves the sea. We used to go sailing all the time when we I was married to her mother. Real smart kid. If there’s one thing I’ve done in this life that was right ... it was her.

Dave drinks again.

JOHN
(slowly)
David, I ... I’ve got to go to Mexico ... to a beach in Sonora.

A beat. JOHN (CONT’D) Do you wanna come with me? Dave puts the bottle down.

DAVE
Well ... I’m so fucking busy, you know ....

John shakes his head, grins.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Sure. Why not? Of course, you know we’ll have to miss group therapy.

JOHN
That would be a shame, wouldn’t it? Give me that bottle.
93.

He takes it back, takes a big swig.
EXT. ROAD IN MEXICO - DAY

John and Dave bounce along in an old Jeep on an isolated gravel road in some back country mountains in Western Mexico. The area is high desert terrain, barren hills and sandy, rocky soil. The road follows a creek with scrubby brush growing along the edges and here and there a small cottonwood tree. John is driving.

INT. THE OLD JEEP - CONTINUOUS

John and Dave pass over an especially bad and bone-jarring segment of the road. Dave grabs the seat and the arm rest on the door to steady himself.

DAVE
Geez-Louise, I thought you said we were going to a beach. I had visions of daiquiris, dark
senoritas and soft sand.

JOHN
We are going to a beach ... by the long road.

DAVE
Well where is this fucking place and do they have lots of tequila?

JOHN
It’s Mexico, isn’t it? We’re almost there. We just have to cross those mountains up there and then 20 miles or so ....

Dave peers at the distant mountains.

DAVE
Those mountains up there. That’s almost there for you, huh?

EXT. THE OLD JEEP - CONTINUOUS The old Jeep bounces along somewhere in the desert, late in the evening, maybe an hour before sunset in summer.

DAVE (V.O.)
Almost there, he says. This bumfuck place got a name?

JOHN (V.O.) Sueno. It’s called Sueno. DAVE (V.O.)
And they got tequila?
JOHN (V.O.)
Lots of tequila. Trust me. The old Jeep rounds a corner, out of sight.
EXT. A BEND IN THE ROAD - MOMENTS LATER

An OLD MAN, bent back, barefoot, wearing ragged clothes and a beat-up straw hat, sits astride a donkey in the middle of the road. From the unfocused look in his eyes, it’s clear he is blind.

The old Jeep bounces around the curve and John breaks suddenly, slides to a halt in front of the old man and his donkey. Neither move or appear to take any notice.

CUT TO: Inside the car. John and Dave lurch forward as the car slams to a halt.
JOHN Jesus!

CUT TO: Outside the car. Dave sticks his head out the window.

DAVE
Hey, you dumbass! Are you trying to get yourself killed?

A beat. The old man says nothing, doesn’t move.

Finally, the old man turns his head slowly toward them, slides down off the donkey. He walks over toward the car, his arms stretched out, feeling his way. He finds the car and guides himself toward the driver’s side window.

CUT TO: Inside the car. John and Dave look at one another. DAVE
What the hell is this? JOHN Gatekeeper.
DAVE What?(confused)

Finally the man reaches John’s side of the car. He takes off his hat, sticks his head inside the car abruptly as if to look around. John moves back out of the way.

DAVE Hey!
JOHN
It’s cool, David. Don’t worry. The man pulls his head out, looks at them both with his scary blind eyes, then speaks in a gravelly voice. OLD MAN Bueno.

He stands up and stares off into the distance as if he had totally forgotten about them. As if on cue, the donkey steps out of the path of the vehicle.

John drives slowly on.
INT. THE OLD JEEP - CONTINUOUS

Dave and John bounce along on the road toward to Sueno. Dave is still scratching his head over the encounter with the old man, but John doesn’t seem concerned.

DAVE
Well, what the fuck was that?

JOHN
The people in Sueno call him, "the Gatekeeper."

John shrugs. DAVE
The Gatekeeper, huh? John nods. JOHN
Sueno Welcome Wagon.

DAVE (CONT’D) (under his breath) What is this ... the fucking

Twilight Zone?
EXT. VILLAGE OF SUENO - LATE DUSK

About an hour after sunset, the old Jeep pulls up in the hamlet of Sueno, a collection of maybe a dozen dwellings on a bluff overlooking a vast and empty, sandy beach on the Gulf of California.

John stops the Jeep on the bluff near a small cantina constructed of corrugated iron and plywood. There is a stone patio next to the building overlooking the pounding waves and a couple of local men sit drinking a beer at a plastic table and talking. They look up as John and Dave stop, then go back to their beers and conversation.

John and Dave get out of the Jeep.

DAVE
Look at that, will you. There must be a billion goddamn stars up there.

A beat as they admire the sky.
JOHN
(quietly)
Yeah, Clarisse loved it here.
Dave looks at John as if to say something, but then decides not to.

JOHN (CONT’D)
There’s about a half dozen bungalows down there, just down from the cantina, and a little fleabag hotel up there.

He points back up toward the bluff.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Otherwise, it’s just a fishing village. Hardly anyone ever comes here.

DAVE Sweet.

JOHN
Clarisse and me came here many times.

John shuts the door of the Jeep.

JOHN (CONT’D)
A German guy named Jurgen owns the cantina and the bungalows. Let’s go see if he remembers me.

INT. SUENO CANTINA - CONTINUOUS

The cantina is a rather sad affair on the inside. A broken down pool table on one end, a few ancient, dusty video games (Pacman, Space Invaders, etc.) line the walls, in between are some plastic tables and chairs like the ones outside, a worn wooden bar lines the wall opposite the pool table. Behind that is a small kitchen with a window into the bar for passing food. A large black dog of undetermined breed lies dreaming in front of the bar, it’s front leg twitching as it sleeps.

JURGEN, about 40, a big guy, 6 feet and 250+ pounds, the owner of the cantina, wipes off a table and simultaneously argues in Spanish and German with ROSITA, 30-something, a waitress and his sometimes girlfriend.

JURGEN
(sarcastic)
Ja, ja, das waere bestimmt das
beste. Bueno. Muchas gracias.

He waves her away with a dismissive hand gesture, looks up, sees John standing in the doorway with Dave.

JURGEN
John West! Gott in Himmel! It’s
been years zince you darkened my
door.

JOHN
Jurgen! It’s good to see you again. Jurgen bounds across the room, gives John a bear hug. They look at one another, beaming.

JURGEN
John West. Mein Gott. I buy you ein beer!

He motions to Rosita, who goes over to a rusty yellow horizontal refrigerator with a bottle opener on the side. On the side of the refrigerator in faded red lettering is "Drink Royal Crown Cola." She opens the door on top and takes out four bottles of beer.

The dog looks up from his place on the floor, barks indolently, lays his head back down and falls to sleep. JOHN
Still got old Max, I see.

JURGEN
Ja, and now all he does is eat and
dig the holes everywhere.

DAVE
What kind of dog is it?

JURGEN
I zink he is the full-blooded sheet
eater.

Max looks up, wags his tail lazily, goes right back to sleep. John nods at Dave.
JOHN
This is Dave.
Jurgen and Dave shake hands.
JURGEN
I am pleasured.
Jurgen motions for them to sit
JURGEN (CONT’D)
Please ... bitte sehr.
They all sit and Rosita brings the beer, sits with them. She says something to Jurgen in Spanish, nods at Dave, giggles. DAVE
(eying Rosita)
Something funny?

JURGEN
She says, you have the face like
the eagle, bald with a big hook-ed
noses. She like your face.
Rosita keeps eying Dave, who is pleased at the attention.

DAVE
Well, thank you very much .... uh?

JURGEN
She is Rosita. A local girl, una chica muy loca.

Rosita slaps Jurgen’s arm. He grins at her.

JURGEN
(to Dave)
She is the only the tourist attraction in the Sueno.

DAVE
Well, put me on the tour bus, hell! Jurgen turns his attention to John.

JURGEN
And vere is the beautiful Clarisse, the flower of California, Johann?

John takes a deep breath.
JOHN
Long story, my friend.
He nods his head.

JURGEN
Ja, it is alvays a long story vith the vimmen. The vimmen is a story vithout end.

He brings up his bottle to toast. JURGEN (CONT’D) Salut!
They clink their bottles together.
INT. A BUNGALOW - NIGHT

Three room bungalow with two bedrooms and a shower/toilet, a kitchen/living room area. There is no TV or phone and the furniture is below basic, a ratty sofa with a coffee table, a frayed armchair, a small kitchen table with two chairs. That’s about it. The roof is corrugated iron and the walls are unpainted concrete. There is no electricity. John and Dave enter holding travel bags in one hand, glowing kerosene lanterns in the other, behind them is Rosita, carrying blankets and towels. John puts his lantern on the table, Dave on the coffee table. Dave looks around at the stark surroundings.

DAVE
(sarcastic)
Wow! Now this is fucking luxury! Concrete walls and floor!

John grins.

JOHN
Best place in town. You should see the hotel.

Rosita hands her load of blankets to Dave. She doesn’t move away from him.

ROSITA
I think you get very cold here tonight, Eagle man.

Dave looks at John. Wow, she can speak English!

ROSITA (CONT’D)
What you look at him for? It is I who speak to you.

Dave grins at her. DAVE
Should I look at you, then?

ROSITA
(bold)
You look where the hell you want, old man.

A beat. She reaches up touches his cheek.

ROSITA (CONT’D) I think you get very, very cold here tonight, old Eagle.

John knows when three’s a crowd.

JOHN
Hey, I’m going to go for a walk on the beach.

DAVE
(not really listening) Hmmm ....
John shakes his head, walks out the door, living Rosita stroking Dave’ cheek.
EXT. THE BEACH - NIGHT

John walks under the starry sky, the waves crashing to shore just to his left. The full moon has risen about 30 minutes before. John stops, sits in the sand, watches the moon rising.

After a minute, a second full moon begins to appear above the horizon. John quietly watches the second moon as it rises.

EXT. THE BEACH - NIGHT

A couple of hours later. Both moons are high in the sky now as Dave staggers along the beach staring at them with his mouth agape. He walks over to John, who sees him, looks up.

DAVE
No wonder he called you John. John gives him a confused look.
DAVE (CONT’D) Jurgen. Jurgen called you John. JOHN
So?

DAVE
Well, your name is Paul, now isn’t it? Paul Harvest? At least in the real world.

John looks back out at the sea.

DAVE (CONT’D)
What is this fucking place, John? Two moons, more stars in the sky than a Walt Disney movie, a
gatekeeper ...? Just what the hell is this place?

JOHN It’s Sueno.

DAVE
Sueno, Draino ... whatever the fuck it is, just what the fuck is it? Where are we?

JOHN
Sueno means "dream," David. Dave sits beside John. A beat. They listen to the waves pounding on the shore.

DAVE
So, you’re trying to tell me that this is not real?

John picks up some sand, gives it to Dave. JOHN
What do you think? Dave feels the cool sand sliding between his fingers.

JOHN (CONT’D)
Most of us spend our lives ... like a little bug crawling across the sand on a beach, never knowing there’s a huge ocean just a few feet away.

He looks at Dave.

JOHN (CONT’D)
We can only read one word at a time, but God sees everything at once, all the present, all the past, all the future. Everything.

DAVE
(skeptical)
That may be true ... but there is a reality. One reality.

As Dave finishes speaking, one of the moons and many of the stars fade from the sky.
JOHN See what you did?

Dave looks at the sky in shock, then at John. JOHN (CONT’D)
Just imagine that one thought has

so much power ... the power of one negative thought can reverberate across the entire universe.

He snaps his fingers. Slowly, the rest of the stars and the moon fade until the sky is pitch dark, the waves stop pounding, the breeze stops and there is total silence.

JOHN (CONT’D)
I kind of think there’s more ...
than one way of looking at things.

Slowly, the moons and all the brilliant stars return, the sea pounds, the wind blows. Dave watches in astonishment.

JOHN (CONT’D)
You can call it a dream if you
like.

Dave thinks about this.
JOHN (CONT’D)
So, how was it with Rosita.
DAVE
(quietly)
Aye caramba! What a dream!
John laughs.

DAVE
Then ... Clarisse ... is still alive ...?

John shakes his head.

JOHN
(quietly)
I don’t know. I have to find her, but I don’t know where to look.

They both look out at the sea for a moment. DAVE
(suddenly)
Maybe that’s why I’m here. John looks confused. DAVE (CONT’D)
Can we get a boat from Jurgen?
EXT. A DOCK - MORNING

Jurgen, Dave, John and Rosita stand on a decrepit dock, next to a rather dubious-looking sailboat. A couple of Mexican fishermen stand nearby. John and Dave load supplies, water and food, into the sailboat. Dave and John shake hands with Jurgen and Rosita and then Dave gives Rosita a big hug and a kiss. She wipes a tear. John gets into the boat and then Dave climbs aboard, hoists the sail and the boat moves out onto the rough ocean.

INT. THE BOAT - CONTINUOUS

John settles in as Dave gets things underway. They look back at the dock, now more than a hundred yards back. Jurgen and the Mexicans have already left, but Rosita is still standing on the dock. She waves.

JOHN
Are you sure you can sail this thing?

DAVE
You want the fucking truth?
Maybe.JOHN

DAVE
(grins)
I can sail it. I’ve sailed all my life. I had a boat on Lake Erie when I was a teen-ager. I used to take tourists out. I can sail it, sure.

JOHN
I guess the next question is where are we going?

DAVE
I thought it might be better if you told me.

John thinks about it, nods. OK, then. That way. John points southwest and Dave steers the boat in that direction.
They look back. Rosita is still there. JOHN (CONT’D) Maybe we shouldn’t’ve left.

DAVE
Don’t you feel in your guts that this is right?

John thinks about it. JOHN Maybe I’m crazy. DAVE
Well, then you’ve got company. John grins. Dave looks back again at Rosita. DAVE We’ll be back.
INT. THE BOAT - DAYS LATER

The boat is in the doldrums. Not a breeze is stirring, no land in sight on the mirror sea. The sun is pounding down on the vessel. John and Dave are asleep under the sail, which they have rigged up as a shade. Both are sunburned and seemed to have lost weight.

Dave stirs, wakes up, sits up slowly, looks about, wets his finger, holds it up. No breeze. He frowns, kicks John’s foot. John wakes up, sits up, looks around.

DAVE
Sweet dreams, Cinderella?

JOHN
I dreamed that the wind was
blowing.

Dave looks out over the ocean.
DAVE
Three days.
What’re we going to do?

DAVE
We wait. Nothing we fucking can do. We wait.

Dave checks their provisions. There is hardly any food left and only a little water.
JOHN
Pretty bad, huh?
DAVE
Well, it ain’t good.
He passes the water bottle to John.

DAVE (CONT’D)
(smirks)
Hey, where’s your dream now? Why
don’t you dream us up some fucking
wind?

John drinks.

JOHN
There’s always wind. We just have to find it.

Dave scans the flat, hot horizon. DAVE
Maybe it’ll find us.
INT. THE BOAT - THE NEXT DAY

Still in the doldrums, Dave looks through the food supplies. Nothing is left. The water too is almost gone, maybe one good mouthful left. He looks at John.

DAVE Food’s finished. John nods. JOHN What now?
DAVE Now we fish.

Dave baits a line, drops it over the side. DAVE (CONT’D)
I saved a big piece of SPAM for bait.

JOHN
Could have saved it all, as far as I’m concerned.

Dave laughs. He secures the line to an old rusty nail on the boat.

DAVE
You’ll be glad to get some SPAM in a few days. You should have been with me in Nam.

JOHN
You were in Viet Nam?

DAVE
I sure has hell didn’t dream it, I can tell you that.

JOHN
So, tell me about it.

DAVE
You don’t wanna hear about that shit.

Sure I do.JOHN Dave is obviously reluctant to talk about it

DAVE
(slowly, flat voice)
Well, it was a spectacular country ... like paradise ... great food, beautiful women, the people are so fucking friendly, so polite, especially the kids ... I ....

He stammers to a halt. JOHN
You gonna tell me about it or not? Dave takes a deep breath.

DAVE
Ok ... the worst part was one mission I was on, up near the

DAVE (cont’d)
Cambodian-Laotian border, northwest of Camp Enari. That was our base camp, Fighting Fourth Division ....

He looks out over the sea. A beat.

DAVE (CONT’D)
I went out as a volunteer once with a bunch of Green Berets, special ops, really scary macho fucks ... but I was young and I wanted to be a hero or some shit like that. At least I wanted to think I was one.

CUT TO: Night scene, rural Vietnam, jungle, 1967. A much younger Dave in regular army garb walking along with five or six beefy Green Berets wearing camouflage makeup. He is carrying a radio. They pass an old peasant woman on the path who watches them fearfully out of the corner of her eye. One of the Green Berets, GREEN BERET 1, pulls out his gun and points it at the woman.

She holds up her hands in terror. GREEN BERET 1 (quietly)
Bang!
He chuckles, reholsters his weapon and they walk on.

DAVE (V.O.)
They let me be their radio man for the night. Boy, I felt like I was John Wayne. Our mission was to raid a small village up near Laos and try to apprehend this guy.
Intelligence said he was a Vietcong commander and lived in the village.

They cross an exposed area along a levee through a rice field and approach a small collection of homes with thatched roofs on the edge of the field. As the approach, there is some shouting and movement in the village and tracer rounds blip through the night toward them. One of the Green Berets goes down and the rest take cover, begin to return fire. John dives over the levee to protect himself.

DAVE (V.O.)
It was a pretty short firefight. Maybe five minutes. Basically, the VC just ran off into the jungle, but one of the Green Beret was hit,

DAVE (V.O.) (cont’d) took it right through the forehead, stone dead.

Cut back to: Dave and John in the little boat. Dave looks out over the sea, seems reluctant to go on.
A beat.

JOHN
You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.

Dave gives a small smile through his sunburnt, chapped lips.

DAVE
(sadly)
Hey, I’m 65 and I may not even fuckin’ be here tomorrow. I’ve never told anybody about this in my life. After the war, I just wanted to forget it all.

JOHN
Yeah, I can understand. Dave looks back over the sea.

Cut back to the village in Vietnam, 1967. About a dozen villagers huddle on the ground fearfully in front of five angry Green Berets, who shove them about, kick them, brandish their weapons aggressively.

DAVE (V.O.)
First, they rounded up everyone they could find ... women, kids, a couple of old men and some old women.

One of the Green Berets, GREEN BERET 2, pulls an old man to his feet. We see the following action as Dave describes it.

DAVE (V.O.)(CONT’D) One of the Green Berets told this old man he was a VC. The old man spoke some English. He shook his head and pleaded, but then the Green Beret just shot him right in the face pointblank with his M-16, just blew his head right off ....

Cut back to: Dave and John on the ocean in the boat. Dave’s eyes fill with tears and he chokes. He looks at John, then back out over the ocean.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Shit! Dear God, I just walked away. I had to get away from it. I couldn’t watch what they were doing.

Cut back to: Vietnam, 1967. Dave walks to a hut on the edge of the village. Behind him we hear screaming, the rattle of gunfire. We see events happen as John describes below.

DAVE (V.O.)(CONT’D) I was standing there next to a thatched-roof hut, and I heard a baby crying quietly and then it sounded like someone was shushing it and I looked through the door of the hut and there was this girl with a baby in her arms. I bet she wasn’t any older than 17. She put her hand over the baby’s mouth and she looked up at me with fear in her eyes and I knew she thought I was going to kill her ....

Cut back to the boat. JOHN
You helped her escape. Dave nods his head.

DAVE
I helped her get away into the jungle while the Green Berets ....

He shakes his head. John reaches over, puts his hand on Dave’s shoulder.

DAVE
(choked with emotion)
I think about it every fucking night ... 40 years later and I still think about it every fucking night.

He looks into John’s eyes.

DAVE (CONT’D)
I always wonder what happened to that woman ... her kid. There was so much bad shit going on then ... He watches the ocean.

DAVE (CONT’D)
Look ... I know everyone’s gonna die, John ... I’m cool with
that ... I ain’t afraid to die ... it’s just ... I ... I just don’t understand why we lived in the first place. It was just the story, wasn’t it John? Just the story ....

John nods.

JOHN
There’s nothing you could’ve done, Dave.

Dave nods slowly. FADE TO BLACK. FADE INTO:
INT. THE BOAT - MOMENTS LATER

Dave finishes cleaning a fish he has just caught, takes a strip of the flesh and re-baits the hook, tosses it over the side. He cuts the rest of the raw meat of the fish into thin strips, hands a piece to John, puts some in his mouth. John looks at it doubtfully.

DAVE
Pretend it’s sushi. John tries to eat the raw fish, gags on it. Dave laughs.

DAVE (CONT’D)
You’ll get used to it. The blood is good. It will keep you from getting too thirsty.

INT. THE BOAT - A DAY OR TWO LATER

Dave leans over the side of the boat staring at the listless sea. John lays on his back. Both are badly sunburned with ragged scraggly beards, blistered and cracked lips.

JOHN
God, I’ve got to have some water! Dave doesn’t move. DAVE

(coarsely)
End of the day, you’ll have more water than you want.

He points at the horizon. John looks, shrugs. JOHN
I don’t see anything.
DAVE
You don’t see those clouds? John looks again, peering hard at the horizon. JOHN
I see ... some clouds.
Dave chuckles.

DAVE
You’ve never been on the ocean before, have you?

John shakes his head.

DAVE (CONT’D)
(under his breath)
I hope you can drink a lot of water.

INT. THE BOAT - LATER THAT DAY

It is raining fairly hard and the wind is picking up. John is capturing water in a bowl and pouring it into a container as Dave watches the sky, tries to keep the small boat steady.

JOHN
(happy)
I think the wind found us. He drinks some of the water he has collected. DAVE
(concerned)
Son, you don’t even fucking know. John suddenly stops drinking, looks at Dave, who shakes his head.

DAVE (CONT’D)
You better tie your ass down to something. We’re going to be right in the middle of it in about an hour.

INT. THE BOAT - COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

Now they are in deep shit. The waves are swelling meters high all around them, the wind is raging, there is a driving rain, lighting cracks and thunder roars. The sky is almost pitch black and the two are hanging on for dear life inside the small boat as it pitches and rolls at the mercy of the sea. John almost tumbles from the boat. Dave lurches forward, grabs hold of John and the mast.

DAVE
We’ve got to get the fucking sail down! I can’t keep it steady any more. We’re going to capsize.

They work to bring the sail down, but as they do so, the boat turns parallel to the oncoming swells. Dave sees what is happening, tries to get back to the rudder, but it’s too late. The boat flips into the air sideways and comes down upside down, tossing them both into the sea.

Cut to: John under the sea.

Sudden quiet as John sinks beneath the waves. He looks up, vaguely sees the outline of the boat above him, swims like hell. His head finally breaches the surface. He takes a half breath just as a swell breaks over him, choking him. When it passes he sees a piece of the boat floating in the water, swims for it, latches on for dear life just as another swell pounds him. After the swell passes, he sees that the boat has broken into at least three large pieces of wreckage. He clings to the piece he found, searches the turbulent sea for Dave.

JOHN Dave!

Lightning strikes the water about a half-mile away. A tremendous crack is followed by a deafening reverberation of thunder.

JOHN (CONT’D) David!
He searches the waves frantically, sees nothing but the boat’s wreckage and the storm.
JOHN David!
The waves crash against him and the storm roars on. He holds on to the wreckage.
EXT. THE SEA - NIGHT

John clings to the wreckage, completely alone on the vast ocean. The sea is still rough, though the storm seems to be subsiding. Thunder rumbles in the distance as lightning strikes the sea miles away.

EXT. THE SEA - DAYBREAK

The storm has passed but John still clings to the wreckage. He doses off, slips from the wreckage, chokes in the water, grabs hold again, looks about him in terror. In the dim distance, he makes out what seems to be land. Weakly, he pushes the wreckage toward the land, paddling with his feet while still holding on.

EXT. THE SEA - HOURS LATER

It’s clearly land. A tropical island several miles long. Exhausted, John feebly paddles, but he seems to be making little progress. He can’t be more than a kilometer away. Finally he pushes free of the wreckage, begins to swim.

EXT. THE SEA - CONTINUOUS

Maybe 200 yards to the shore, but he’s not going to make it. John chokes, tries to keep swimming, but he is exhausted. He thrashes feebly in the water, begins to sink.

As he sinks, John sees millions of tropical fish below him and a gorgeous reef of pink and blue coral. He swallows water, chokes, tries to reach the surface, but he finally gives up, begins to sink rapidly.

Suddenly, a man grabs him under the arms. Swimming strong and sure, the man pulls John to the surface. John vomits sea water as he surfaces. He loses consciousness.
115.

EXT. THE ISLAND’S BEACH - MAYBE AN HOUR LATER

John is lying on his back on the beach. He begins to cough, turns on the soft, white sand, wretches, coughs some more, tries to get his breath. He turns on his back again finally, looks up to see the silhouette of a man’s face against the blazing tropical sun. He can’t make out who it is.

He sits up on one arm, sees that the man who saved his life is none other than ... George Bush! Bush is grinning.

BUSH
Ah, my old friend. It’s good to see you again.

John loses consciousness. FADE TO BLACK. FADE INTO:
INT. HUT NEAR THE BEACH - EVENING

John awakes on a cot in a thatched hut somewhat Gilligan’s Island-esque. He hears the waves pounding outside, sits up, throws off the blanket, sits on the side of the cot and looks about.

On one wall he sees a framed photograph of a smiling Condoleezza Rice. Some hand tooled leather cowboy boots sit on the sand floor by an old chest. There are some fishing poles in a corner of the hut and a mountain bike against one wall. That’s about it.

John doesn’t see Bush looking in at him through one of the windows of the hut.

BUSH
(grinning)
You about ready to finish that interview, John?

John looks up, smirks.

JOHN
Now I’m certain I’m in la-la land again.

BUSH
I guess you’re probably hungry, aren’t you?

JOHN
You cannot imagine.... Bush nods.
EXT. THE BEACH - CONTINUOUS

John and Bush walk together down the beach to find a barbecue grill smoking happily away about a hundred yards from the hut. The grill is manned by none other than Enoch, who is wearing Bermuda shorts and a bright blue island shirt with a hibiscus motif printed on it. Enoch flips a steak, looks up as John approaches.

ENOCH
I told you you wudn’t no reporter, boy.

BUSH
Be nice, Enoch. John’s come a long way to be here again with us in la-la land.

He grins, winks at John. JOHN
I feel like I’ve taken acid.

BUSH
Actually, in that universe, I would have a parrot growing out of the top of my skull.

He winks again at John.

BUSH (CONT’D)
Have a steak, John. There’s some A-1 over there, if you need it.

He indicates a small table under some palm trees.
EXT. A MOUNTAIN PATH IN THE JUNGLE - COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

John follows Bush, now in hiking gear with a carved wooden walking stick and leather hiking boots. They walk on a winding trail, high on the side of a volcanic mountain with frangipani, hibiscus and other tropical flowers blooming everywhere. They come to a clearing and stop to rest, look off at the vast turquoise ocean hundreds of feet below, the long white sand beach, the green tropical forest ... paradise, the Garden of Eden.

Bush takes out a handkerchief, wipes his brow.

BUSH
I guess this would be your time for questions then, wouldn’t it, Mr. reporter?

JOHN
I guess I was wondering most of all where you are taking me ....

Bush keeps looking at the sea.

BUSH
Some things are better left as surprises.

John smirks.

JOHN
Well, then, who the hell are you ... really?

BUSH
I’m George Bush, president .... JOHN
(interrupts)
... really, who are you?
A beat. Bush looks at him.

BUSH
You know, every few billion years ... I ask myself that same question ....

JOHN
And so ... what answer do you come up with ... every few billion years?

Bush points at the sea.

BUSH
Do you see those waves down there? If you wait long enough, you will see any kind of wave that you can

(MORE)

BUSH (cont’d)
imagine ... but it’s just the same wave in the end, isn’t it?

He looks again at John, winks, grins.

BUSH (CONT’D)
Yeah, the possibilities are endless, my friend, but it all reduces to the same thing in the end ... it’s the ocean.

He looks again at the sea.

BUSH (CONT’D)
But the thing that you don’t
understand ... can’t understand ... can’t even begin to imagine is that everything that can exist, does exist ... every possibility, every random permutation, every chance event that you can imagine ... and even those you can’t imagine.

He looks deeply and calmly into John’s eyes. BUSH (CONT’D)
And here’s the clincher, son ... He puts his hand on John’s shoulder.

BUSH (CONT’D)
... these permutations ... have always existed ... always. At all times. All the present, all the past, all the future ... every possibility ... simultaneously and forever ...

Bush snaps his fingers. The waves stop and the sea is calm. There is no breeze, total silence.

BUSH (CONT’D)
... and never. Can you get your mind around that? If you can, then I’ve answered your question ....

John seems skeptical ... if not fucking just confused.

BUSH (CONT’D)
(extremely disappointed) Ah, son ... do you really think there’s not at least one universe where George Bush is a genius? John chuckles. Bush snaps his fingers and the waves begin again, a gentle breeze blows.

BUSH (CONT’D) (smiling)
Come on, John. It’s not much farther.

Bush walks on. George takes one more look at the ocean, follows.
EXT. SUMMIT OF THE MOUNTAIN - MAYBE 30 MINUTES LATER

At the peak of the lush tropical mountain, the caldera of an ancient volcano is filled with a lake, turquoise blue like the sea. A path runs in a giant circle round the lake, and in the center of the lake is an island with a garden. In the garden, there is a small house, somewhat reminiscent of a Japanese Buddhist temple, a small dwelling with a graceful, sloping roof supported by simple wooden posts.

John and Bush walk down the path that circles the lake.

JOHN
Hey, why don’t we just walk across the lake? You know, pull a Sea of Galilee thing?

BUSH
(sarcastic)
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy Bush....

EXT. A SMALL DOCK - MOMENTS LATER

Bush and John stand on the dock, next to a wooden rowboat. The island, from this vantage point, is about 100 yards away.

BUSH
And this is where I leave you.... John looks at the canoe. JOHN Finished?

BUSH
Who can say for sure? It could be that we’ll meet again. I’d be happy. You can always call on me. He points up at the sky.

JOHN
And you’ll answer my prayer? BUSH
(sarcastic)
I kind of doubt it.
JOHN
Now, that’s the spirit.

Bush gives him a little two-finger salute, turns and walks away. John watches him go. He turns, stands looking at the nearby island, sees no one there. He starts to get in the boat when he is startled by someone walking out of the jungle on a path. It’s Dave.

DAVE
Hey, nobody touches my boat.
John looks around. Dave is smiling at him.
JOHN
David!
The embrace. John is overjoyed at their reunion.

DAVE
Hey, you didn’t think I was that
easy to get rid of, did you?

EXT. A ROWBOAT - CONTINUOUS

Dave, facing John, slowly rows to the island on the lake. The water is crystal clear and John sees colorful tropical fish swimming around fresh water reefs in the lake.

JOHN
I thought you died.

DAVE
Well ... maybe I did. At least I did in that universe.

John laughs. JOHN
Oh, this is just too fucking much.

DAVE
So, now you’re starting to swear. Picking up my bad habits, I see.

JOHN
Yeah, in this universe.

DAVE
(smiling)
It’s good to see you again, John ... or Paul ... or Ringo ... or whoever the fuck you are.

EXT. THE ISLAND - MOMENTS LATER The boat touches the shore of the small island, the Buddhist temple in back. John gets out, turns, waits for Dave. DAVE
Huh-uh, John. Not me. John looks confused.

DAVE
Not my island, friend. It’s your island. I have a date with Rosita.

He winks. Without another word, he pushes off, turns the boat slowly in the lake and rows away as John watches. When Dave is about halfway across, they wave to one another. John turns and walks toward the temple.

The garden is immaculate and simple. He walks along a board walkway that leads to the temple. On one side is a rock garden of small gravel and with large boulders placed here and there with the gravel contoured about them. Ivy and moss grow on some of the boulders. A frangipani flowers at the edge of the garden, near the entrance. He passes on and comes to the open doors of the temple.

The temple is constructed of rough timber and lumber with no ornamentation, the sliding doors are made of rice paper. He walks up on the wooden steps, takes off his shoes and passes inside.

INT. BUDDHIST TEMPLE - CONTINUOUS

The simplicity of the outside construction is continued in the interior. There is no ornamentation. The room is open on all sides and breezy. Neat, clean tatami mats line the floors.
In the center of the temple on an elevated dais is a statue of the Buddha, a copy of the Great Buddha of Kamakura, it’s serene visage turned down to John, who stands looking up into the Buddha’s face.

After a few moments, John slowly sits on the floor in front of the great Buddha, looking up into his face.
INT. BUDDHIST TEMPLE - HOURS LATER

The sun is setting and John still sits before the Buddha, looking up into his face. The breeze blows peacefully and we hear the far away sound of the surf pounding on the shore. John lies on his back, still looking up into the face of the Buddha. Slowly, he begins to doze off.

SLOW FADE TO BLACK. SLOW FADE INTO:
INT. A BEDROOM - MORNING

A large, airy, well-lit bedroom with pastel blue walls and a white, vaulted ceiling, tasteful antique furniture and a canopy bed in the center of the room on a small dais. On one side of the bedroom, white lace curtains flutter lazily in the doorway to a balcony. Yes, it’s John and Clarisse’s bedroom.

John, lying on one side of the bed, wakes, slowly opens his eyes. Clarisse is next to him, her long raven hair spilling over her pillow and John’s arm on which she is resting. She stirs, snuggles against him. He runs his fingers down her arm, then her thigh, pulls her closer to him, inspects her hair, kisses it.

He smiles, tears in his eyes. FADE TO BLACK.
THE END

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