TEXT ON SCREEN: IN THE NEAR FUTURE, A METHOD HAS BEEN DISCOVERED WHEREBY THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS THE EXACT DATE AND TIME OF EVERYONE'S DEATH FIVE DAYS BEFORE IT OCCURS. BECAUSE OF THIS, THE GOVERNMENT HAS CREATED THE DEPARTMENT OF LIFE OPTIONS, OR THE DLO, IN ORDER TO GUIDE THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION, OR GOVERNMENT LETTER, THROUGH THEIR FINAL DAYS. THIS BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT HAS COME TO BE NICKNAMED THE DEAD LETTER OFFICE. EXT. THE DEPARTMENT OF LIFE OPTIONS (DLO) - DAY It’s morning and overcast. God’s eye view of a large building that was once a cathedral with connecting buildings that were the cathedral’s school. It’s now been remodeled for government use. bureaucratic looking.
Workers and people arrive, along with school buses which let off teachers and children. INT. THE DLO - DAY The inside still has the large, high ceilinged feel of a cathedral, but again looks dull and bureaucratic. God’s eye view of various people heading to the elevators and their work areas. Groups of children line up with certain guides, others walk off following their guides. Two DLO EMPATHY WORKERS (or EW’s) line up at a metal detector. They are dressed in suits and ties. EW ONE (seeing the children) Christ, is it that time of the year already? EW Two puts his fingers into his mouth like a gun and “pulls the trigger”. EW ONE (CONT’D) You can say that again. EW Two puts his fingers in his mouth again and “pulls the trigger”.
EW ONE (CONT’D) Very funny. The two get through and head to a bank of elevators. A TEACHER leads a group of children up to a GUIDE holding a sign that says LINCOLN ELEMENTARY. TEACHER All right, settle down, eyes front. Does everyone have their buddy? The children indicate that they do indeed have their buddy. The Teacher sees one little boy, BUTCH, off to the side. TEACHER (CONT’D) Where’s your buddy, Butch? Butch points to a little boy, TIMMY, who looks at the floor. BUTCH I don’t want Timmy for my buddy. His mom works here. Some of the kids giggle. TEACHER Quiet. Butch, we don’t have time for this. BUTCH I don’t want him for my buddy and if you make him be my buddy, I’ll tell my dad. TEACHER (Beat) I see. We’ll talk about this when we get back to school In the meantime, you join Janice and Heather. Timmy, you can be my buddy. Is that all right? Tommy doesn’t say anything.
The Teacher smiles to a GUIDE.
GUIDE Oh, my. What a lovely group of children. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a lovelier group of children for some time. So who’s ready to see a really big machine? The kids all answer positively and they follow the Guide off.
GUIDE (CONT’D) All righty. So we’re walking, we’re walking. The Teacher comes up the rear holding Timmy’s hand. EW ONE (to EW Two) Little shits. The elevator comes and the Two Workers get on. MONTAGE Various guides take various groups of children to different parts of the DLO. The sections are seen through large windows or on catwalks. DATA ENTRY ROOM People, nicknamed DRONES, enter information into computers. They are dressed like computer nerds. GUIDE This is where it all starts, where information is inputted the moment you are born. There are approximately 600 births in California every day. The kids aren’t very interested here as they walk off. DRONE ONE (to DRONE TWO) Little shits. THE COMPUTER/MACHINE WHERE THE LETTERS ARE ISSUED An imposing machine run by computer, somewhat like one in a post office, a bit Rube Goldbergish, where letters come out. GUIDE Here is the grand computer that emits the letters. There are approximately 200 to 300 to be delivered every day in LA County alone. So as you can imagine, that can keep us pretty busy. The kids look in awe as letters come out on a steady basis.
THE DELIVERY DEPARTMENT A group of COURIERS and their motorcycles. The Couriers dress in heavy motorcycle drag reminiscent of the motorcyclists in the movie Orpheus. A letter is received by this department and is given to a Courier who drives off accompanied by a second Courier. The kids get excited as they see the Couriers zoom out. GUIDE The goal is to ensure a letter is delivered within one hour for those living in the county. For those living further away, we allow for an hour and a half as the letter has to be transmitted to another office first. A LITTLE GIRL raises her hand.
The Guide looks at her.
LITTLE GIRL My dad calls them Angels of Death. ANOTHER CHILD So does mine. The other children all start piping in. TEACHER Quiet, quiet. That’s not very polite, now is it? GUIDE (to Teacher) Oh, that’s perfectly all right. It’s not the first time. (to Kids) But here we call them couriers because that is what they are, all right? Now, we have one more stop. We’re walking, we’re walking. ANGEL OF DEATH (AOD) ONE turns to another one. AOD ONE Little shits. EMPATHY OFFICE A group of children enter with their Guide.
GUIDE And this is where it all ends. We call this the Empathy Office. Once you receive a letter, this is where you come to finalize everything and make sure it all runs smoothly. A bureaucratic looking office divided in two by a railing. The majority of the office is made up of dozens of desks manned by Empathy Workers preparing to start their day. Each desk has a computer, in/out box, etc., and can’t really be told apart. The EW’s all wear suits and ties and can’t really be told apart. However, every one of them takes a white dickey out of their desk and put it on giving them a priest like look. The smaller front of the office are chairs and benches where people sit, look at magazines, wait around. On the walls are instructions, including a sign that says “DID YOU REMEMBER TO VALIDATE?” Someone enters, takes a number from a machine and sits. EW THREE nudges EW FOUR and indicates the kids. EW THREE God. Is it five yet? EW Four laughs and they get back to readying their desk. EW FIVE carries a box filled with Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying. He takes out a bunch and puts them on his desk and sees if others need any. Another EW does the same with boxes of tissues. MORT, the Department Head, a roly-poly guy older than the other workers, watches them. GUIDE All right, children. like ice cream?
All the children get excited. GUIDE (CONT’D) All righty then. Follow me to the lunchroom and I’ll answer any questions you might have.
The children all follow the Guide out. GUIDE (O.S.) (CONT’D) And I have to say, you are probably the most well behaved group of children I’ve seen in some time. Give yourselves a hand. The children applaud and laugh as they leave. EW SIX looks up from his desk to see a LITTLE BOY just staring at him. EW Six is unsure what to do. Suddenly the Guide comes back in and goes to the little boy. GUIDE (CONT’D) Ah, I thought I’d lost one of you. This way. You’re holding up the ice cream. The Little Boy goes out. GUIDE (CONT’D) Little shits. The Guide leaves.
The nearby EW’s laugh.
The EW’s finish getting ready and look at the clock. reaches nine and suddenly they go to work.
EW One puts a copy of the Kubler-Ross book on the corner of his desk. He then hits a button on his desk that illuminates a number on a electronic board. EW ONE Number one. A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN gets up and goes to the EW One’s desk. The EW’s all follow the same routine: put the book at the corner of their table, hit a button and call out “Next” until they each have a person at their desk. Mort walks around passing some desks. seventy year old.
EW Three is helping a
EW THREE Yes, this letter is authentic. I have your name down on my computer. I am sorry, this can’t be pleasant for you. (MORE)
7. EW THREE (CONT'D) Perhaps we should start by ensuring that these last days will go as smoothly as possible. That’s often the quickest way to get over the initial shock.
EW One is with The Middle Aged Woman. EW ONE I’m so sorry for your loss and on behalf of everyone here, we want to thank your son for his service to our country. But we never send letters to soldiers on the battlefield itself. MIDDLE AGED WOMAN But why not? EW ONE Well, to be honest, what do you think would happen if half the soldiers in a battalion suddenly got letters a few days before a planned attack? Another desk, EW Four, is talking to a DAD and teenage SON. EW FOUR I understand. I’m terribly sorry. But the letter only proscribes the date and time. It doesn’t tell us how it will happen. DAD But he’s only sixteen. What could happen to someone so young? EW FOUR I can’t imagine how you must feel. But now that you know, perhaps it’s time to make sure these final days are filled with your love. Mort comes to an empty desk. ASSISTANT MANAGER on it.
It has a nameplate that says
MORT (to Dad) I’m sorry to interrupt. (to EW Four) Have you heard from Sam?
EW FOUR (shaking his head) Trouble on the subway? happened last time.
Mort gives him a questioning look, but EW Four just shrugs “what can I say”. EW FOUR (CONT’D) (To Dad) To start you off, let me give you this. We have found it to be incredibly helpful as you face these final days. EW Four slides the copy of On Death and Dying to the Dad. The Dad starts crying. The Son wraps his arm around him. SON It’s okay, dad. Everything’s going to be okay, you know? Mort heads back to his... OFFICE ...cluttered with months of paperwork. out on the rest of the DLO.
A large window looks
Mort makes a call. INT. APARTMENT - DAY A cell phone rings. SAM, late 30’s, haggard looking, suddenly sits up in a bed. He has nothing on and is obviously hung over. The phone keeps ringing. SAM Will you get the fucking phone, already? ANGRY WOMAN It’s not MY fucking phone. Sam makes out the WOMAN, young, attractive, sitting in a chair staring at him. She’s fully dressed and isn’t happy. Sam suddenly runs to the bathroom and throws up.
He comes back out and looks at his now quiet phone. SAM I’m late. The Woman just stares at him as he dresses.
A beat, then...
SAM (CONT’D) WHAT, Okay? WHAT? ANGRY WOMAN Where do you work? He lights a cigarette, then shakes some beer cans until he finds one with something in it and drinks from it. SAM I told you. I’m an investment advisor. The Woman furiously throws the wallet at him. SAM (CONT’D) Hey. ANGRY WOMAN Then why does it say you work for the Dead Letter Office? Sam picks up his wallet. SAM Did you go through my shit? WOMAN No, I didn’t go through your shit, you fucking asshole. It fell out of your pants and I found it this morning and inside was an ID for the Dead Letter Office. Sam keeps dressing. ANGRY WOMAN Why didn’t you tell me? SAM Would you have let me bang you if I had? ANGRY WOMAN You god damn son of a bitch. the hell out of here.
SAM I haven’t finished dressing yet. ANGRY WOMAN NOW. GET THE FUCK OUT NOW. The Woman picks up a liquor bottle. Sam grabs the rest of his clothes and runs for the door as the bottle slams above him. He gets outside into the... HALLWAY ...On the other side he can here the Woman crying. ANGRY WOMAN (O.S.) You god damn asshole. Why didn’t you tell me? Sam finishes dressing. EXT. APARTMENT BULDING - DAY Sam leaves the building. puts on his sunglasses.
He squints at the brightness and
He walks down the street. her window.
Suddenly, the Woman is yelling out
ANGRY WOMAN I better not get a letter, you hear me? If I do, I’m going to get you. I’m going to fucking get you. Sam doesn’t even look at her, but just keeps walking. He then crosses the street without looking. A car almost hits him, but manages to stop. walking as if he didn’t notice. The driver honks.
Sam just keeps
Sam gives him the finger without looking.
I/E. SUBWAY - DAY Sam goes down some stairs. SUBWAY CAR Sam stands alone, no one near him, in the center of the car holding onto a pole.
He looks around in a circle at the other riders, all of whom are sitting: A WOMAN NURSING A BABY. he turns away from him.
When the Woman notices him looking,
A SIX YEAR OLD BOY WITH A MAN. at anyone.
The Boy is shy and won’t look
TEENAGE BOYS joshing each other. A MAN AROUND SAM’S AGE dressed in a suit, talking to another MAN, also in suit. A MAN IN HIS SIXTIES reading a newspaper. sits next to him, touching his leg.
A WOMAN his age
A HOMELESS MAN sleeping on a subway row of seats. He doesn’t move, as if dead. Sitting next to him is PRIEST who has his rosary out. Sam then looks at the ads on the car. One if for The Church of Euthanis and is a sunny picture with an ideal family. The ad says “When your letter comes, we are here for you. Services daily”. TRAIN STATION The train stops and Sam gets off. He makes a call on his phone and heads up the stairs toward the outside light. EXT. CITY STREET - DAY Sam comes up from the subway across the street from the DLO. He is talking on a phone. SAM Yeah, I know, it’s, uh, the subway broke down again and I couldn’t call cause there’s... Sam sees a liquor store. SAM (CONT’D) I’m almost there, okay? I’m just outside a Starbucks and I really gotta get some coffee inside me. Sam goes inside the...
INT. LIQUOR STORE - DAY Sam enters a mom and pop place, small, dark, claustrophobic. SAM Yeah, okay, thanks.
Sam closes his phone. The OWNER comes to the plastic window that guards his area. The Owner’S face is never seen. SAM (CONT’D) The, uh, cheapest shit you... The Owner places a small bottle of vodka on the counter as if he was reading with it. Sam can also see the OWNER’S WIFE. She sits, seemingly asleep, her face not seen because it is covered. SAM (CONT’D) (beat) Yeah, that. And some... The Owner does the same with some aspirin. all.
Sam pays for it
SAM (CONT’D) We have to stop meeting like this. People will start talking. Sam goes to an area where he can put some of the vodka into a small flask. He notices a story on the TV. TV NEWSCASTER Chris, three months ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments on Johnson versus Elysian Insurance. This was the case that was brought by a family in which the patriarch received his letter from the Department of Life Options, but his body was ultimately never recovered. The TV acts wacky, so the Owner slaps it. to the noise.
Sam reacts in pain
TV NEWSCASTER (CONT’D) In return, Elysian refused to pay out on the father’s life insurance policy until a body could be produced.
Sam finishes filling his flask, throwing the bottle away and leaves the store. TV NEWSCASTER (CONT’D) Word has come down that the High Court will make its announcement any day now. Most experts in the field expect the Court to side with the Johnson family. Suddenly Sam comes back in. SAM I, uh, need... On the counter is a cup of coffee waiting for him. has his back to Sam, watching the TV.
Sam pauses, then tosses a couple of dollars on the counter. SAM (CONT’D) Yeah, well, fuck you. Sam grabs the coffee and leaves. EXT. STREET - DAY Sam leaves the store and goes to the corner adroitly pouring some vodka from the flask into his coffee. The light turns red, but Sam just walks across without paying any attention. Cars have to stop suddenly. They honk at him. gives them the finger with both hands.
This time he
He walks goes into the DLO. INT. DLO - DAY God’s eye view of Sam walking across the lobby. is seen.
No one else
ELEVATOR Sam gets on an Elevator. He hits the button for his floor (which doesn’t have a number but has the letters DLO on it). A WOMAN and MAN RUN for the elevator.
RUNNING MAN Hold the elevator, please. Sam almost reaches out for the “keep open” button, but then doesn’t. The door closes on the the Man and Woman. Sam goes up alone listening to elevator music. HALLWAY OUTSIDE THE OFFICE OF EMPATHY Sam gets off the elevator gulping coffee. Just before going inside, he pours more vodka from his flask into his coffee. He straightens himself up, tightens his tie, takes a handful of mints, etc. OFFICE Sam enters and goes to his desk, not looking at anyone, though everyone notices that he has come in. As he gets to his desk... EW FOUR Gotta get those damn subways fixed in this city. That’s what I say. Sam gives him a stern look. EW FOUR (CONT’D) You want in on the pool? There’s still time. Sam, thinks, nods and gives EW Four a five dollar bill. puts on his dickey.
SAM Everything going okay, so far? EW Four nods and hits his buzzer. EW FOUR Next. Sam readies his desk and puts his flask in his bottom drawer. He sees Mort looking at him, more concerned than angry. Sam shows him his cup of coffee, smiles. So does Mort, sort of. Mort returns to his office. Sam takes a breath and hits his number.
SAM Next. A MAN WITH AN OXYGEN TANK comes to his desk with his NURSE. He throws a letter down on Sam’s desk. MAN WITH OXYGEN TANK What took you guys so long? Before Sam can answer, a co-worker taps a bell on his desk. The other workers groan. EW FOUR Oh, man. MAN WITH OXYGEN TANK What the hell was that? SAM You don’t want to know. MAN WITH OXYGEN TANK I’m dying in five days. What the fuck difference does it make? SAM (beat) We, uh, have this pool. Usually once a day someone comes in claiming they’ve seen someone alive more than five days after they received a letter. Whoever gets the person first, wins the pool. MAN WITH OXYGEN TANK You don’t have a problem making fun of us like that? SAM Whenever someone comes in with one of these sightings... Sam uses air quotes for “sightings”. SAM (CONT’D) We have to fill out a ton of paperwork. The guys upstairs take it more seriously than when the Vatican investigates a miracle. It screws up our time for weeks. The Man just stairs at him.
SAM (CONT’D) Personally, I think it’s shitty and pretty much makes us assholes. But it helps get us through the day. Excuse me. Sam takes a ton of aspirin and a big drink from his coffee. Sam then looks at the letter and enters data in his computer. SAM (CONT’D) Now...I can confirm that this is indeed an authentic letter. MAN I know it’s fucking authentic. I’ve been dying for a year now. I should have gotten it months ago. SAM I can understand how you feel. But exactly when the final days are to come is still up to the universe. NURSE God. Sam looks up inquiringly at the Nurse. NURSE (CONT’D) It’s up to God, not the universe, not some damn computer, but God. A beat.
The Man gives Sam a sort of frustrated look. SAM Yes, it’s, uh, up to God. We only get word as to when it will happen. Most of those who seek help from us find this to be useful.
Sam slides a copy of On Death and Dying to him. MAN I have five copies of that piece of shit. I just want to take care of business now and get out of here so I can die. EW EIGHT has a client crying at his deak. tissue, but panics, not finding any.
He goes for some
Sam grabs a few boxes from his drawer and gives them to him.
EW Eight mouths thanks and passes the tissues to the client. SAM Of course. If I could, let me ask you some questions. Have you made a will? We can, in fact, take care of that now, if you have not. Sam continues questioning him. EXT. ROOF TOP - DAY A section of the building where workers go to smoke. Sam is there along with a couple of his fellow EW’s, including EW Four as well as a couple of Drones and AOD’s. Sam is away from the others looking down on the street. He sees a Man come outside a restaurant and lights a cigarette. The Man waits, as if uncertain where to go. Then a Woman comes rushing out and kisses him. They have a moment, kiss again, and then go their separate way. After a moment, they both look back at each other, and then continue on. AOD ONE (O.C.) What the fuck? Jesus.
EW FOUR (O.C.) Sam? Sam?
Sam looks their way. EW FOUR (CONT’D) It’s a jumper. Sam slowly walks over to the others and looks across the street where a young man, ANTHONY, is standing on the ledge. A crowd starts gathering below. EW FOUR (CONT’D) What do you think, Sam? He get a letter or not? Sam studies Anthony a moment. SAM No, he hasn’t gotten one.
AOD TWO How can you know that?
EW FOUR If Sam says it, it’s true. AOD TWO And I call bullshit. EW FOUR Got five on you? Pause, then... AOD TWO Yeah. I’m in. DRONE ONE Me, too. Others join in and EW Four collects the money. stares at Anthony.
Suddenly an OLDER WOMAN comes out on Anthony’s roof. OLDER WOMAN Anthony, what are you doing? ANTHONY I’m gonna fly. OLDER WOMAN But you’ll die, Anthony. If you try, you’ll fall and you’ll die. ANTHONY But I can’t die. That’s impossible. I can’t. The DLO Workers who bet against Sam groan and complain. quickly lose interest and talk among themselves. Sam keeps staring at Anthony. OLDER WOMAN Anthony, you’re not making any sense. Let’s talk about this. ANTHONY No, I’m invincible. I can do anything. Nothing can kill me. Suddenly, Anthony leaps off. The Older Woman screams.
The DLO Workers rush to the edge and look down. hit the sidewalk.
Emergency workers and the police are now arriving. DRONE ONE Well, if he doesn’t have a letter now, he’ll get one soon. EW FOUR Fuck that. We knew someone who did the same thing and was in a coma for a year. DRONE ONE Stupid son of a bitch. it. Why’d he do it?
I don’t get
SAM For a lot of people there’s this strange disconnect. After awhile they come to think that it’s the letter that causes their death, not anything they do. They think nothing counts except the letter. It’s not true. But it can still fuck with the wiring. DRONE ONE What kind of an idiot thinks like that? Sam holds out a pack of cigarettes to him. SAM Smoke? Drone One almost takes one, then realizes the others are snickering at him. Fuck you.
DRONE ONE I’m going back to work.
The others agree and head back in. EW FOUR You coming, Sam? SAM I’ll, uh, be right there. The others leave the roof. is the Older Woman crying.
Only Sam is left. Across the way He studies her for a moment.
Sam stands on the edge of the roof. down to the street.
He throws his cigarette
He pauses, then lifts one leg out over the street, stands a moment, then slowly pulls it back and heads to the door.
Published on Nov 8, 2013