Day 2 of my 13 Horrifically Silly Days of Halloween – Larry George PickettRegan Macaulay
Welcome to Day 2! Today I bring you a dystopian teleplay, or short film or episode, by author and playwright Larry Pickett. Let’s pretend this is an episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits…sit back and enjoy via the TV in your mind…
By Larry George Pickett
Fades in from black:
View is of a bedroom from the main character’s eyes. He sees a woman in a black evening gown standing at the foot of the bed looking at him as if she is trying to see if he is awake or not. He sees that his feet are bound to the bed posts and then looks and realizes that his hands are bound to the headboard. He is naked but is covered from his knees to his waist by a blanket. His name is John Pastor.
Woman: (stepping to his right side of the bed and smiling a smile of relief.) “ Well it’s about time Richard. Are you all right now?”
John Pastor: (totally confused with no idea what’s going on.) “What the fuck is this? Who are you and where the hell am I?” (he tests the ropes and starts to panic a little)
Woman: (trying to keep composure but is showing signs of frustration) “Come on now Richard, you know the script. You have to play it out like I requested or you’ll be regressed.
John: “I don’t know what you’re talking about and my name isn’t Richard it’s John. You’ve got me mixed up with somebody else, lady”.
Woman: (loses the smile and is now getting pissed off.) “Shit, I’ve been waiting six months for this scene and it’s costing me 500 credits.”
John: “What the hell are you talking about? My name is John Pastor and I, I (pauses as he struggles to remember)
“OK I can’t remember much but I do know my name and that I’m married and not to you. So obviously somebody’s screwed up. So will you just untie me and let me get out of here?”
Woman: (shaking her head in disgust.) “Just great, I’ve heard of the odd defective cryer and I guess it was just a matter of time before I got stuck with one. (She pulls back the sheet exposing him completely.)
John: “What the hell are you doing? I told you I’m not this Richard guy. Please just let me go.”
Woman: (looking at his middle area and again showing her disgust.) “Well it looks like you’re not going to be any good to me in that area, are you? Oh well I guess that only leaves the finale. (She reaches under the pillow and brings out a large dagger.)
John: (eyes wide, pulling desperately at the ropes, pleading.) “No! Please don’t do this. You’re making a mistake. I’m not Richard!”
Woman: “Ya, (laughs and plunges the dagger into his chest killing him instantly.) “I know.”
John Pastor is unconscious seated in a primitive holding area and chained to another man. A third man is near them pacing and obviously distraught. They are all dressed in filthy rags and each of the two strangers to John are holding a short two edged Roman sword. The sound of the coliseum games can be heard but not seen.
John Pastor: (Awakes and after one or two seconds pulls his ragged shirt aside and searches for the knife wound. He then speaks under his breath.) “What the fuck?” (Looks at the guy he’s chained to and asks:) “ What the hell is going on? Who are you?”
Chained man: “You forget pal? We don’t get names in this scene. You don’t need a bloody name to get slaughtered by some prick citizen playing gladiator.”
Chained man: (looks toward sound of crowd stretching his neck but not bothering to stand.) “And I don’t know what’s going on or what they’re waiting for. I’ve been regressed to this scene before and last time we were out and killed pretty quick.”
Third man: (almost crying.) “I wish they’d get it over with. I don’t even belong here. It was another cast member who
screwed up the last scene, not me. Next thing I know the whole cast gets regressed to this shit.”
John: (Totally confused and getting more afraid.) “What are you talking about? What is this place?”
Chained man: (still addressing distraught man.) “Take it easy. It’s no big deal. Your pain center has been blocked. You’ll barely feel anything. Just close your eyes after you get out there and you’ll awake in a scene one level up.”
Third Man: “What,only one level of ascension? I regressed two levels because of that asshole screw up.”
John: (pleading now.) “Look you guys, I have no idea what’s happening to me. I think I might be going insane. Do
you think I could find a doctor to have a look at me?”
Chained man: (Laughs and looks at John like he is crazy.) “Did you say doctor?” (laughs again) “What are you from the middle ages of something? You’re kidding, right?”
John: “No I’m not kidding. I really think I need to see a doctor.”
Chained man: (stares at John and the light dawned.) “Wait a minute. That’s why it’s taking them so long to get this scene going. You’re a cryer aren’t you?”
John: “A Cryer? That’s what that woman called me before she stabbed me.” (checks for the knife wound again) “But that couldn’t have happened or I’d be dead, right?” (looking even more perplexed)
Chained man: “That explains why we’re chained together. The directors must want me to explain things to you. It must be part of my regression. I guess I really pissed somebody off this time. It’s like this asshole. You don’t need a doctor. You never will again. We haven’t needed doctors for centuries.”
John: “I think you’re crazy too.”
Chained man: (getting frustrated.) “OK let’s try this. What year is it”
John: (shrugging shoulders.) “It’s 2022 of course”
Chained man: “Wrong, It’s 2367.”
John: “What, 2367? That’s impossible. You’re either lying or crazy. I’m not sure which.”
Chained man: “ What’s the last thing you remember, asshole?”
John: (angrily) “Being tied to a bed and getting stabbed by a woman in black.” (then calming a bit) “ although I don’t remember any pain.”
Chained man: “No, that’s the Black Widow scene. How about before that?”
John: (squinting in an effort to remember.) “I can’t remember much before that except that I was married and happy.”
Chained man: “Look, you have to forget that now. The truth is this. Death and aging were conquered over 150 years ago. After that the citizens got tired of waiting for Jesus to return or Mohammad or Buddha or whatever god they were waiting for and hedonism became the religion of the day. Citizens now live for pleasure either directly or voyeuristically.”
John: “I can’t believe you. Besides, you call this pleasure?”
Chained man: (laughs as does the third man.) “We’re not citizens! We’re either POWs or criminals serving time and of course there are a few of you cryers thrown into the mix. Sometimes a citizen will play a part like that Black Widow scene you just did. In that scene the woman likes to kill her lover. Sounds like you really screwed that one up and that’s why you’ve regressed to this shit hole.”
John: (Yelling as the possibility of this being real sinks in.) “I don’t believe you. I can’t live like this.”
Chained man: “Hey, it’s not that bad. If you play your parts well you’ll ascend higher and higher. There’s no
limit to pleasure. I’ve never gotten that high but I’ve heard of scenes that can only be described as heaven. But you have to get with it or you will continue to regress.”
John: “I won’t be anybody’s trained monkey.”
Third Man: What the hell do you think you can do about it?”
John: “ I’ll just refuse to cooperate.”
The two other men start laughing again as the gate to the arena opens.
Chained man: “You stupid fool, why do you think you’re chained to me.”
(he looks at third man and beckons) “Come on and give me a hand or we’ll be regressed even further.”
Third man: (moving to help drag John into the arena.) “Shit, I think we should go up two levels for all of this trouble.”
They drag John kicking and screaming through the gate and the scene fades to black as his screams diminish and then end.
The scene opens with John Pastor lying in his bedroom in his home dressed in his office clothes as if napping after a long day at the office. A woman, his wife Joan, enters the room dressed for a party and wakes him.
Joan: (speaking gently and smiling.) “Wake up John. I can’t let you nap any longer. My parents and your sister are downstairs waiting for the birthday boy.” ( She sits on the edge of the bed next to his chest.)
John: (awakes and realizes in a second or two where he is and immediately sits up and puts a crushing embrace on Joan.) “Joan! Thank God! You won’t believe the nightmare I just had. I dreamt I died, ah, I mean I didn’t die, no I mean I couldn’t die…”
Joan: “Take it easy John. You look white as a ghost. I warned you about having that double scotch when you got home on an empty stomach. No wonder you had a bad dream.”
John: (still shaking but smiling with relief.) “No this wasn’t a bad dream, this was a full blown, off the Richter scale nightmare. You wouldn’t believe how real it seemed.”
Joan: “Are you alright sweetheart? You look like you’re about to cry.”
John: (Somewhat lost in his own thoughts but catching her last word.) “What? Cry? No I think I’m OK (then remembers) but you know that’s what they kept calling me, a crier. I guess I looked like I was going to cry. I….”
Joan: (interrupting to remind him.) “John! Remember it was only a dream. Nobody was seeing you about to do anything. Now, are you OK to come downstairs?
John: (pulling himself together and giving Joan one more quick hug.) “Ya I’ll be fine. You’re right . I better lay off the scotch. Do I look presentable?”
Joan: (laughs while saying.) “You look great, especially for a guy who just turned 40. Let’s go and get this party started.” (then as they step toward the door) “By the way, John, your dad and your brother Jim called and said they were going to be a little late. Something about picking up something special for your birthday.” (they both start downstairs and the camera follows them. People start well-wishing before they’re even all the way down the stairs. Then after reaching the bottom of the steps lots of hugs and kisses. They then sit him in the center of the room to open gifts.)
Kate, Johns’ sister: Here John you better open mine first. It’ll help you get through the rest.”
John: “Thanks sis.” (opens gift to find a bottle of Geritol and everyone laughs including him and then:)
“Hey, I’m only 40. I’m not exactly dying.” (the word dying reminds John of his nightmare and his face shows it for a moment.)
Joans” father: (Steps up quickly with an envelope. Almost as if to break John’s line of thought.) “Here John, Joans’ mom and I got you something special this year. Happy 40th.”
John: (coming back into the moment, taking the envelope and opening it.) “Thanks dad.” (he finds 2 airline tickets in the envelope.)
Joan’s mom: (stepping forward quickly even before John could react.) “It’s a trip for you and Joan to Hawaii for 13 days this February. You’ll be able to get out of this deep freeze for almost two full weeks.”
John: (overjoyed at first.) “Wow, that’s great dad and mom. How can I thank you? It sure will be nice to avoid the
deep freeze for a change. (John stops and starts to think about something. Something didn’t feel right. He repeated his last phrase.) “Deep freeze, deep freeze, why does that seem so familiar?”
Joan: (trying to get him off the thought.) “Here sweetheart, open mine now.”
John: (pushes her gift aside and confronts his father in law.) “Why am I getting this major case of deja vu? What is it with your gift and deep freeze?”
Joan: (trying to sound normal but showing a desperate tone in her voice.) “It’s nothing dear, just forget it and open your presents.”
John: (still staring at his father in law his eyes go wide with a shocking recall.) “Wait a minute. I remember this. We already did this but you didn’t give me a trip. You gave me something to do with a deep freeze.” (then the final realization) “Oh my God. That’s it. You gave me a reserved cryonics chamber! A deep freeze.”
Joans’ father: (nervous now and appearing to ad lib and make up lines as he goes on.) “Ah, what are you talking about, ah, are you crazy?”
John: “No! I remember now. It was a thing with you. You gave us all our own chamber when it was our birthday. You always said, “What’s the point of being a billionaire if you can’t take it with you?” I always thought we were just humoring an old fool.” (turns to Joan) “Joan what the hell is going on? What’s with the charade?
Joan’s father: (breaking character completely now and speaking before Joan could try and answer.) “Ah hell, his pre-freeze memory is totally coming back. Just like his dad and his brother.” (turns and yells at his wife) “You had to say deep freeze didn’t you, you stupid bitch. Now there’s no way we can break things to him slowly.”
Joan’s mom: “It was in the script you old fool. The director probably wanted to test to see if they were successful in eliminating those specific memories.”
John: (has turned toward his in-laws when his father began to speak and stares blankly as he listens to their exchange. Then he realizes what they are saying.) “What, you mean it’s true?”
Joan: (John turns back to Joan looking for help but Joan whispers slowly and under her breath, as if someone unseen may be listening. She speaks directly into his face in a last desperate attempt to save the scene.) “Listen John, yes it’s all true. You’re the last to be brought out of stasis. Most of us have been out 50 to 100 years. We’ve adapted, but your dad and brother were difficult like you. You have to play along. You have no idea what will happen if you don’t.”
John: “What happened to my dad and Jim? Are they still alive? Where are they?”
Joan: “We don’t know if they’re still alive. People can live almost indefinitely now but people can be obliterated if the citizens council decides you’re more trouble than you’re worth. But listen, you have to forget about them now. The directors went to a lot of trouble and expense to get us all together for this scene in one final attempt to show you that it’s not too bad here. It must be costing a fortune to set this scene up. They try their best to orient the cryers but this is probably your last chance to get into character.”
John: (still grappling with this new reality and trying to figure things out.) “That’s it! I’m a cryer. I was in a cryogenic freeze.That’s why they called me a cryer.” (then after thinking for a moment) “I have to find my dad and brother. If they’re alive I have to find them.”
Joans’ mom: “Is it just me or does anyone else think he’s hopeless. Personally I can’t work under these conditions.”
Joan’s father: “Look asshole, if you keep this up you’re going to find out first hand what happened to those stubborn fools. They didn’t get with the program either.”
John: (in a desperate attempt to escape this nightmare he runs for the front door and finds it locked.)
“I gotta get out of here. Please let me out. I can’t do this. I won’t do this.”
(Everyone goes to him at the door with Joan the closest. She takes out her weapon of choice, a dagger, and plunges it into his back showing no emotion in her voice as she speaks.)
Joan: “Fine John. Have it your way.”
The scene opens in a very scary place. John Pastor is chained to a wall. He is wearing only a tattered pair of shorts and is still unconscious. A man is standing near him. It is a citizen wearing a black, SS Nazi uniform. There is a bench in view with an assortment of tools, scalpels, dental extraction devices etc.
Citizen: (patting John on the cheek.) “Hey, are you back yet?”
John: (awakes and looks around for a moment before speaking.) “Where the hell am I now?
Citizen: (while picking up and examining various devices on the bench as if trying to decide on which to start with.)
“You my friend are a guest of the Fuhrer and he has asked me to entertain you for a while or at least until you tell us what we want to know.”
John: “ Go to hell. I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to perform just so some sickos can get their jollies.”
Citizen: (having chosen his instrument of torture he turns to John and starts speaking as the character he is playing.)
“Ve ave vays to make you tock.”
John: “I told you to forget it. I’m not going to play your sick game. Besides, asshole, the idiots running this asylum didn’t give me any lines so I don’t know any information you want to know.”
Citizen: (wearing a big smile and leaning close to Johns’ ear.) “Yes, ve know.”
(as the sound of a dentists’ drill starts up the camera backs up slowly until it brings into view a control room with a man sitting in front of various controls. A woman enters the control room.)
Male tech (Tommy): “ Hey, welcome back, Tina. How was your holiday?”
Tina: “Thanks Tommy, ah ya it was good, nothing like a 6 month furlough to recharge the batteries. Have I missed much?”
Tommy: As screams of horror and agony begin to rise from the monitor in front of them, Tommy reaches for a control and turns down the volume so they can easily speak over them.) “Mostly same old, same old but you probably haven’t seen this new innovation.”
Tina: “ You’re kidding, right? This old Nazi interrogation scene has been around for centuries, but I do have to say the actor playing the victim is really getting into it. You’d almost think his pain centers weren’t blocked.”
Tommy: “That’s just it. The customers have demanded more realism in this scene and they’re willing to pay big for it. To give them the ultimate experience the councilors have authorized not turning the pain centers off and, get this, they’ve actually figured out a way to magnify the pain ten fold.”
Tina: “Wow, that’s awesome. This could actually be the pinnacle of sadism.”
Tommy: “ If it’s not it’s got to be close to it. There’s a 6 month waiting list”
Tina. (leans in front of Tommy to turn sound up slightly.) “Just think, this guy is in unthinkable agony and he can never die. What did they decide to call this masterpiece of theater?
Tommy: “Oh you’ll love the title. It is simple but beautiful. They called it “HELL”.”
The camera now zooms in slowly so only the torture scene on the screen is visible for a few moments (horror and graphics as desired) then slowly backs up again. Tina and Tommy are gone and the camera is backing up into an ordinary living room of today and the torture scene is now seen on a television set.The camera continues to back up until the backs of two heads can be seen. They belong to a guy and a girl watching the scene as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. They’re making small talk and almost seem bored with the show.
Girl: (a few seconds before they come into view.) “No way, I made the popcorn last time. It’s your turn.”
Guy: (now you can see them.) “Are you sure? I think I did.”
The scene ends with them exchanging chit chat and fading to black.
Narrator: “The best laid plans”, “the grass is always greener”, “be careful what you wish for”, Pick your adage. It’s surprising how some people, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, assume that a society somewhere in the distant future would be one of benevolence. Every trend today, especially in the film and entertainment industry, is toward increased graphic sex and violence and while society grows increasingly desensitized to this it is losing empathy, sympathy and compassion for their fellow man. If this trend were to continue for another century or two then the sociopathic society described in “The Cryer” (not a spelling mistake, by the way) is not too hard to imagine.