This screenplay has been gestating for a good while — one of those stories that’s been niggling and niggling at me to be told.
Like all too many of my stories, it started out with a misreading that turned into a pun. Don’t ask me at what point I looked at (or heard) “bed and breakfast” and kicked it a couple of consonants along into “dead and breakfast”.
And then of course the conjectures began. What kind of place is a “dead and breakfast”? Who lives there? Why? And what’s the nature of the “broken bone” that for me is the heart of fantasy fiction — the painful interface where the fantastic element rubs up against reality and causes the drama? This script is my answer to those questions.
It’s been kind of a hectic weekend here, so I wasn’t able to start ScriptFrenzy along with everyone else: but this screenplay will be going up here, five pages or so per day, until it completes at the end of April. (Complete with fantasy casting… as you can see from the poster.) 🙂
DEAD AND BREAKFAST
INT. ERICKSON COMPUTERS, LONDON, NIGHT — ESTABLISHING
A WHOLE FLOOR of a high-rise office building, HQ of a big high-tech company. Evening CITY LIGHTS show through floor-to-ceiling windows. The complex of private and open offices is occupied by late-working white-collar EMPLOYEES of both sexes. It’s after end-of-business. Staff are leaving.
CAMERA MOVES THROUGH the outer office as ND EMPLOYEES say their good-nights, EXIT. Beyond desks and filing systems is a big office built against the outer windows — a glossy, tech-rich private corporate control center. Its walls are made of OPAQUE black glass. A door in the glass SLIDES open; a SECRETARY comes out.
Good night, Mr. Erickson.
She EXITS. After a moment, behind her, the black glass walls FADE TO TRANSPARENCY. A MAN, ROBERT ERICKSON, handsome, fresh-faced and young-looking, sits inside. His feet are up on the desk, his hands behind his head: he talks animatedly on a headpiece phone, watching the departing Secretary. After a moment, he waves at the windows: they DARKEN TO BLACK again.
Off to one side is the floor’s master computer area, GLASSED IN to control temperature and sound. All around it, office lights TURN OFF, the main room DARKENS. Only the computer area remains lit as CAMERA PUSHES IN on it. A last OFFICE WORKER moves around it, turning things off. Terminals GO DARK: telltales BLINK OUT on the big blocks of supercomputers and server farms. The Office Worker moves to the biggest server stack, TOUCHES a switch on its side. It GOES DARK. The man EXITS: the room lights DIM behind him.
CAMERA PUSHES IN on the computers: still, dark… until suddenly one SMALL LIGHT SOURCE is visible. Red letters GLOW on an LED display on one computer. They form a word; then another. The letters display slowly, as if with an effort.
HELP. ME. HELP ME. A beat, and then: PLEASE. PLEASE HELP ME. The words SCROLL horizontally across the tiny display. PLEASE SOMEBODY HELP ME. HELP ME OH GOD PLEASE HELP ME HELP HELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…..
— until nothing remains but the constantly repeating EEEEEEE, a silent electronic scream….[/scrippet]
(Click on “read more” to continue…)
[scrippet]EXT. SKY OVER ENGLAND — DAWN
Heading for a gorgeous airline sunrise. A JET PLANE drops eastward toward the cloud cover — big white puffy clouds, with heaven knows what underneath them. PILOT CHATTER TO AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL can be heard, the usual drawly filtered voices discussing wind speed, runways, radio frequencies, etc.
The plane drops into the clouds.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now making our final approach to London’s Heathrow Airport. As the Captain has turned on the seat belt sign…
INT. 747 — EARLY MORNING
The red-eye, and everybody looks it. Blankets are being shoved under seats, headphones handed back, the usual mayhem of the end of a transatlantic flight. FADE IN ANNOUNCEMENT INSIDE PLANE as it makes its preparations for landing.
…we ask that you make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in the upright and locked position…
Oh, Harry, we’re here! We’re here!
You mentioned. Several times.
Off to one side, a man and a woman sit on either side of an empty seat. The woman, JOY COLLINS, is thirtyish, enthusiastic, pretty, like a young girl when she’s excited — which she is now. In the aisle seat, her husband HARRY, late thirties, middle-executive type, is bored with all this and weary with jetlag.
You’re just jaded.
My body thinks it’s three in the morning. I wish I felt as good as “jaded”.
Joy has her face pressed against the window like a kid longing to get into a candy store.
Look at all the beautiful little old houses!
That one’s got cows around it!
It’s called “a farm.”
So close to the city!
We’re not that close.
I don’t care! Harry, it’s merrie England! Haunted castles, and thatched houses, and quaint little pubs, and royalty!
Harry looks at her with tired but amused affection.
Look, there’s a river! Is that the Thames?
(rhymes it with “names”)
Give me the camera!
“Temz.” Joy, it won’t come out. They never do.
Ignoring him, she begins happily snapping pictures.
It would if he’d stop turning. He’s doing it again.
Visible out the window is the glitter of the outskirts of London as seen from above in the early morning, including WINDSOR CASTLE.
Harry, look at that!
Why did they build their castle so close to the airport? The noise must be terrible.
Yeah, Henry the Eighth’s wives used to complain about it all the time. That’s why he went through so many.
Joy gives him a look…amused, but with a slight edgeef.
INT. HEATHROW IMMIGRATION FACILITY — EARLY MORNING
Hundreds of people waiting in line. Prominent in b.g., a transparency-holder on the wall has an ad for ERICKSON COMPUTERS — REAL POWER, REAL AFFORDABLE, with the Erickson logo, a jazzy “brushstroke” five-point-star-in-circle (NB: the star is upside down). The ad’s background features Robert Erickson, leaning there casually in jacket and jeans, young, earnest and wholesome-looking, like some kind of dream geek.
Harry and Joy are in line, inching forward toward the desks with the immigration officers. Harry checks his watch, tired and bored. Joy has her nose buried in a guidebook already.
I don’t know what to see first. The Crown Jewels… the National Portrait Gallery… Buckingham Palace!
You’ve got plenty of time.
We’ve got plenty of time. You promised you’d get a couple days off from the sales seminars.
Hon, don’t push it. If it wasn’t for the company discount, you’d be sitting home complaining that we never go anywhere together. Don’t sit around waiting for me.
But her face makes it plain that she wants him with her, no matter what she says.
At the head of the line. they pause, then are waved forward by the LINE-MINDER to one of the immigration desks, where an IMMIGRATION OFFICER waits: a handsome black lady with a pronounced Jamaican accent.
Good morning. Can I have your passports, Please?
Harry hands his over to the Officer. Joy hurriedly gives Harry the guidebook and starts searching through the many VELCRO’d pockets of her “traveller’s skirt”.
Oh, I’m sorry — just a minute —
(amused: to the officer)
Six secret pockets in that skirt and she can’t find any of them.
Much RIPPING VELCRO as Joy keeps going through the pockets. Finally she finds the right one, comes up with her passport and hands it over, abashed.
That’s all right — Mr. and Mrs. Collins. What is the purpose of your trip, please?
HARRY / JOY
Business. / Pleasure.
Amusement as they step on each other’s line. The Officer smiles at them.
I’m with Erickson Computing. I’m in for the national computer show. My wife’s along for a holiday.
(smiles at Joy)
Your first time, I see. How long will you be staying in the United Kingdom?
JOY / HARRY
Not long enough. / Two weeks.
The Immigration lady stamps their passports, hands them back.
That’s fine. Enjoy your stay.
They head past the desks, toward the escalators to the baggage claim area…
Was that an English accent?
The officer OVERHEARS, amused, and turns to her next customer as Joy and Harry EXIT.[/scrippet]