UNDERTHING by John Bailey Owen
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EXT. WINDING ROAD - MORNING - BEGINNING OF SUMMER Blake and Andrew, 15 year old best friends, are walking on a small path in the small, rural town of Alkali. BLAKE Ahh...the dawn of another beautiful summer. EXT. WINDING ROAD - MORNING - THREE MONTHS LATER It is now the first day of school. Blake and Andrew are on the same path but walking in the with backpacks. The leaves have started changing and the light is autumnal. ANDREW God, I wish I had used summer more wisely. BLAKE I know, dude. Blake rolls up a t-shirt sleeve, revealing armpit hair which he’s spent the last few weeks fashioning into a pitdread. BLAKE (CONT’D) “Start your pit-dread early,” I told myself. “Come school, it’ll be a dutty dread.” Blake solemnly shakes his head, and then pulls out a fast food honey packet, tears it open, and starts applying it. BLAKE (CONT’D) Then again, we did find out what happens when you put batteries in the microwave. And what happens when you think it would be fun to steal a shopping cart, but it turns out not to be so you dump it in a river. Yes, some might say we accomplished too much. ANDREW (downcast) The only people we accomplished more than are like...those runaways who lived behind the library’s garbage can enclosure.
2. BLAKE They were productive! Remember how they strung together all those cans? And dragged them around to scare the librarians when they were leaving work? (inspired) And no matter how many times the librarians threw it away...they’d always fish it out of the trash. ANDREW (to himself) Maybe it’s good. Out of my system now. Easier to buckle down. BLAKE What are you talking about? ANDREW Sophomore year, man. This is like, the first year that matters. Blake cocks his head, puzzled. ANDREW (CONT’D) You know -- for college and stuff. Dude. What? Dude. What?
BLAKE ANDREW BLAKE ANDREW
BLAKE Dude! (finally) College isn’t real. ANDREW I was thinking about it: the college you go sort of determines everything. How smart your kids are, how much money you make -Blake points off in the distance toward a mansion in the final stages of construction.
3. It will be the home of RYAN TEMPLE, 33, a reclusive Internet rich-guy who made his fortune by figuring out ways for dogs to play with computers - and has recently moved to Alkali. BLAKE Ryan Temple didn’t go to college. And I heard the floor in his kitchen is made of 50 Cent’s old house. ANDREW What? How does that even work? BLAKE (shrugs) House shredder-compressor with a floor-making add-on. Probably. ANDREW Well, I don’t know how to program, and not everybody can come up with the Internet for dogs. (then) I think I just need to try a little harder than last year. BLAKE Are you going to turn into the kind of kid who highlights? ANDREW No way. BLAKE (gasps) You bought highlighters, didn’t you? You’re going to have a whole system for the colors! Yellow for “need-to-know”! Green for “make a flashcard”! Pink for “interesting perspective”! ANDREW What’s your problem? I’m not saying you need to change anything. (beat) I have Marksmen. Not highlighters. He holds out a camouflage-printed highlighter, with text on the barrel that reads: “MARKSMEN Information Emphasizing Implement.”
4. ANDREW (CONT’D) They’re different. And cool. See? He shows a cylindrical camo pouch hanging from his belt-loop. ANDREW (CONT’D) You keep them in a Carrying Quiver. Andrew fully considers the quiver for the first time. ANDREW (CONT’D) (unclipping it) Maybe the quiver I don’t need. EXT. ALKALI HIGH - CONTINUOUS Blake and Andrew have reached Alkali High School. BLAKE The reason I care is, number one, I know you. And I know that you won’t last an hour trying to be a diligent student. And if you somehow do, you’ll hate it. And, number two, my plan this year is to continue being awesome and going on adventures. I can’t do that alone. (pause) I’m also planning wrangle my share of freshmen this year, and I may need your help subduing them. ANDREW (gesturing back) You forgot about the Fantastic Five, didn’t you? EXT. ALKALI HIGH PARKING LOT Dozens of reporters mill around in front of an empty stage. There is a wave of massive, and five black escalades roll into the parking lot, weaving in and out of each other. They come to a stop, and the “Fantastic Five” emerge to cheers. They are all ripped and seven feet tall. By an insane stroke of luck, the five best high school basketball players in the country are incoming freshmen at Alkali High. A JOURNALIST rushes up.
5. JOURNALIST (rapid-fire) How does it feel to be the best high school basketball players ever and you’re all playing on the same team and you’re all just freshmen and your entire posse is also attending Alkali High? The Fantastic Five breeze past him and into the crowd. FROM ABOVE: DREW GRAVES, the point-guard, lifts his arms to the sky. DREW (roaring) We’re here! EXT. ALKALI HIGH BLAKE Oh, yeah. Crap. He kneels down and fumbles with his shoes, unbuckling the spurs he was wearing. BLAKE (CONT’D) (to the spurs) Looks like we won’t be breaking in any freshies after all, boys. (wistful) But maybe some day we’ll have tiny pizzas for lunch, and you and I can make tiny little slices together. (to Andrew) I’m still gonna have awesome adventures, so if you’re not in, I’ll need to get a new friend. ANDREW Oh, yeah? Who? BLAKE (considering) Terry’s a cool guy. ANDREW Doesn’t he still have Traumatic Puberty Disorder?
6. BLAKE I think he’s a pretty cool guy, even if he does look like a Resident Evil monste -Hey, guys.
TERRY has just emerged from inside the school. His body is a frightening patchwork of development: his torso is bulging and hulk-like, his legs are spindly pipe-cleaners, and he has several Adam’s apples CLOSE ON: Terry’s hideously chapped lips. His tongue labors across them: it has a downy coat of fur. BLAKE Terry! How’s it going, bud? You look like an adventurous dude. Terry shakes his head and shows them a huge pile of papers. TERRY (weakly) I’m just here to pick up my work for the year. Two EMTS sprint, grab the work, and assemble a gurny. Terry shakily climbs in and is strapped down. Bye, dude! B--
EMT Whoops, can’t have that. The EMT buckles a strap over Terry’s mouth. INT. SCHOOL HALLWAY Inside Alkali High, exhausted stagger through waves of students. One drinks from two coffee mugs simultaneously, another slugs down steaming black coffee from a child’s pail. Some sloshes out and splashes his face, making him grunt in dumb pain. ANDREW (reverently) Oh, man.
7. He has just caught sight of DAPHNE, 15, his crush since last year. ANDREW (CONT’D) I think this’ll be the year, man. For what?
Andrew points toward Daphne. BLAKE (CONT’D) For Daphne? Like, for talking to her? ANDREW (far-off) Perhaps...and perhaps more... EXT. A FIELD - LATE AFTERNOON - ANDREW’S FANTASY Andrew and Daphne lie on a plaid blanket in each others arms. An idyllic field stretches before them. Fall leaves drift down. EXT. A COUNTRY ROAD - NIGHT (ANDREW’S FANTASY Andrew and Daphne are on motorcycle, cruising down a desolate road. Every star is out. INT. POLICE STATION - THAT SAME EVENING - ANDREW’S FANTASY A grizzled DETECTIVE strides back and forth in front of Andrew and Daphne’s SOBBING PARENTS. DETECTIVE Both their heads, sliced clean off. (makes cutting motion) Your kids were dead instantly. Can’t say the little ones in the minivan they crashed into were so lucky...Or the fella they “borrowed” the bike from. Tied him up, beat his head in with a wrench... (repulsed) Nah, for him, it wasn’t quick at all.
8. INT. SCHOOL HALLWAY - REALITY Andrew snaps back. ANDREW (dismayed) Why would my brain do that to me? He looks around to catch another glimpse of Daphne, but she’s disappeared into the crowd of students milling towards the lecture hall for the beginning of year assembly. Andrew begins to head after her, but Blake pulls him back. BLAKE I know you want to begin your learny ways, Highlighty. But first... Blake nods over at a door with a sign that reads: “BASEMENT ELECTRICAL ROOM.” BLAKE (CONT’D) We’re going to go see Liquid Man. INT. SCHOOL BASEMENT - CONTINUOUS Blake leads Andrew to a dusty alcove of Alkali High’s basement. They come to a corner piled with cinder blocks, and Blake reaches back into it. ANDREW Dude, I bet they’ve noticed we aren’t there. We need to get back! Blake totally ignores him and whispers out into the darkness. BLAKE We’re here, little gent. He pulls out the LIQUID MAN: a purple nalgene covered in scary looking bumps, with an ominously-domed cap. A stringy, yellowish substance hangs out the sides, and murky liquid sloshes within. BLAKE (CONT’D) Oh, Liquid Man...your moldhair...It’s very beautiful. (correcting himself) Handsome. Very handsome. ANDREW Those bumps. There must be some serious pressure in there.
9. BLAKE Nah, he’s probably building himself a brain, or something. (thinking back) That’s always been his way... INT. JACE’S ROOM - SEVERAL MONTHS EARLIER Blake sits at a desk in his room. The purple Nalgene stands before him, partially-filled but still looking normal. He is running down a list on a legal pad. “Sun-invigorated garbage juice”? Check. “Rotten eggs mixed with rotten milk mixed with roadkill”? Check. “Free samples from pickledfishemporium.com”? Check. But something is still missing...Blake taps his chin with his pencil. Then: EUREKA! INT. SCHOOL BATHROOM - THE NEXT DAY Blake and Andrew are arguing in front of the stalls, the Nalgene on the sink. ANDREW No. Too small. BLAKE Not if you would just concentrate. No way.
BLAKE (getting another idea) Right back! Blake runs out. A moment later, he returns with holding an orange gym and scissors. He cuts the top of the cone off, and hands it over triumphantly. Andrew sighs, takes it, and heads into a stall with the Nalgene and cone. INT. SCHOOL BASEMENT - PRESENT BLAKE Yep, Liquid Man knew what he needed to become a true man, and he made sure you did it. Blake looks back at the corner and notices something.
10. BLAKE (CONT’D) Whoa. Is that a hole? He gets on his knees and crawls forward -- there is a fairly large hole int he floor. He pulls out a keychain and shines an L.E.D. toward it. BLAKE (CONT’D) I think it’s a tunnel! Come on! He crawls inside, and Andrew follows nervously. INT. UNDERGROUND TUNNEL - CONTINUOUS The boys are in a small DIRT TUNNEL. Blake shines his light around excitedly. Under the spell of the mysterious nature of the space, they now WHISPER. ANDREW (picking up a stone) This rock has weird stuff on it! Andrew TUGS at a TANGLE OF ROOTS. ANDREW (CONT’D) There’s like...a root mat here... It’s coming off! He lifts, revealing stone steps that stretch down into the darkness. The boys can’t believe it, and freak out silently and happily. They nod, and proceed down, coming to a large door with bizarre carvings Blake signals to Andrew: 1, 2, 3 - they push the door open. INT. AN OTHERWORLDLY DOMED CAVERN - CONTINUOUS Blake and Andrew stand on high stone stairs overlooking a giant cavern with domed walls made of roots and packed dirt. Football-sized chunks of smooth amber are embedded irregularly in the wall, somehow providing faint light. The stairs lead down to a hilly field covered in green, white, and blue grass. A granite tower is built into the wall across from them. Blake and Andrew rush down the steps. Oh my God!
ANDREW Oh! My! God!
11. BLAKE (reaching the bottom) Oh my God! ANDREW Oh my God! BLAKE (yelling) Oh my G-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-d! This place is fucking a-w-w-w-w-e-s-o-ome! ANDREW Look at this! He pulls up a chunk of blue and white grass. ANDREW (CONT’D) What is this place? Blake sees a guinea pig nibbling the pale grass. BLAKE Whoa! Isn’t that our fourth grade guinea pig? ANDREW Shit! It is! What was his name? INT. FOURTH GRADE CLASSROOM - TEN YEARS EARLIER The same guinea pig sits in a glass cage LOOKING SAD. It lets out a human-sounding sigh. INT. TUNNEL - PRESENT BLAKE/ANDREW (remembering) Sighy! BLAKE Hey, boy! Howdja get down here? Blake bends down to PAT him, and sees that Sighy is standing on something large and brown. BLAKE (CONT’D) What’s that you’re on, bud? Sighy steps down gingerly, and Blake leans further. The object undulates slightly.
12. BLAKE (CONT’D) Weird! It looks like some kind of -It is a GIANT EARTHWORM, as thick as a thigh and six feet long. It rears up. Andrew and Blake are rigid with shock. The worm runs one end over Jace’s face in an attempt to identify him. Blake stands rigid and motionless. After a moment, the worm stiffens. It inches back, then throws itself to the ground and zooms away.. ANDREW (frightened) What the hell was that? That cannot be good. In the distance, the grass rustles with many more worms. ANDREW (CONT’D) More are coming! Run! A loud crash and everything goes black. BLACK SCREEN - SOME TIME LATER Andrew comes to in utter darkness, his hands bound. ANDREW (V.O.) (whispering) Blake? A long beat. ANDREW (V.O.) (whispering) Blake? Are you there? BLAKE (V.O.) Yeah, man. What happened? ANDREW (V.O.) I don’t know! A MENACING VOICE thunders. MENACING VOICE (V.O.) Why have you come here? ANDREW (V.O.) Oh my God, we’re sorry. Whatever’s going on down here, we don’t care!
13. MENACING VOICE (V.O.) Why have you come here! BLAKE (V.O.) We were trying to have an adventure! We were bored, we didn’t mean -The blindfolds are lifted from their eyes: INT. SKRIGMAW’S ROYAL CHAMBER Andrew and Blake, wrists bound, kneel before SKRIGMAW, king of ALROOT UNDERTHING, the HIDDEN UNDERGROUND KINGDOM. Skrigmaw has long white hair and, like all Underthingers, pale skin with opalescant patches of faint colors. He wears a crown of roots and deep navy robes. The packed dirt walls of the chamber are latticed with roots from which, here and there, faint blue and white leaves spring. Large geode cross sections are embedded at even intervals in the walls, and chunks of polished amber act as lanterns, sitting atop weathered bronze stands. SKRIGMAW Then it is true. You are the ones of which the prophecies speak. ANDREW (utterly bewildered) Who are you? SKRIGMAW I am Skrigmaw, king of Alroot Underthing, the Last Secret Place. And you... (dramatic pause) Are our saviors. END OF ACT ONE
14. ACT TWO INT. SKRIGMAW’S ROYAL CHAMBERS - CONTINUOUS SKRIGMAW I apologize for having you bound and blindfolded. I had to be certain of your identities. My wormhandler will untie you. Skrigmaw gestures to HORSEFIGHT THE WORMHANDLER, a disheveled man in a brown felt trench coat and what seems to be an old leather football helmet. Behind him several massive worms wriggle. He steps forward and undoes the boys’ wrists. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) You must have questions. Awestruck, Andrew and Blake nod. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) Then I shall do my best to enlighten you. It must all seem strange at first. “Alroot Underthing, the Last Secret Place.” Strange indeed. Until one thinks a bit harder. Look about. (pauses) Do you see any...roots? (pauses) In fact, this chamber -- might not one say that it was “all” roots? ANDREW Oh. Well, yeah, we get that part. SKRIGMAW It becomes clearer, does it? Then take this chamber -- where do you think it happens to lie relative to, say -ANDREW (over the explanation) Yes. Under. It’s under, so that’s why it’s called Underthing. SKRIGMAW -- and “thing” meaning “thing,” or “place.” (considers) But really more “thing”, I guess. (MORE)
15. SKRIGMAW (CONT'D) Now, is there any other knowledge you seek? Blake and Andrew look at each other, eyes wide, then turn back to Skrigmaw. BLAKE (tentatively shaking head) I...think that about covers it -ANDREW Yes! We have many, many questions! What is this place? Who are you? What -SKRIGMAW (raising his finger) Patience, dear boy. Where there is patience, understanding follows -like the nightly eye-beetle lusting after slumber’s sweet secretions. (turns to Horsefight) By the way, have the worms rid us of those horrid eye-beetles yet? HORSEFIGHT No, sire. My worms are wondrous creatures, but, as I’ve said, their mouths are more of a...second butt. Not ideal for beetle extermination. SKRIGMAW Well, keep at it. I have faith that you can find a way... (nodding deeply) Maybe with those worms of yours... (beat) Now, everyone sit down and I shall answer your questions. Horsefight opens his coat, revealing countless colored jars filled with chemicals to influence the worms’ behavior. He flicks some onto three worms, who scoot front of the throne and coil up into circles. He sits down on one, and motions for Andrew and Blake to do the same. Uneasily, they lower themselves down. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) The tale of our under-origins begins centuries ago: when man’s knowledge of the world was but a rootlet...
16. He holds up a tiny, transparent root, and then grabs a thick, woody root and tosses it with a thud on the floor. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) ...and not the calcified vein of woodstone it became. (then) But it could have become something much different. The ancestors of Alroot -- known variously in their time as warlocks, magi, wizards and the like -- asked questions others did not dare: “Is not a man with mercury injected into his veins yet a man? Perhaps one with mind control powers?” And “Why should we not start trying to turn our arms into wings? Mercury injections may accomplish this.” (then) Yet those who held power -- they found such inquiry distasteful...immoral. They decided to do away with us. (grave) For things were very shitty and horrible back then. EXT. BARREN MEDIEVAL PLAIN - DAY - CENTURIES AGO A KNIGHT holds an OLD MAN in ratty wizardly garb at spearpoint, trying to force him into a jagged hole. KNIGHT Get inside that hole so I can seal you up with the rest of your kind. OLD WIZARD MAN Surely you cannot do this!
We pull out further to see that the field is packed with groups of people mistreating other people they’ve capture: - A PRIEST is holding out a knife to a MARTYR. MARTYR And must I do this?
17. PRIEST (”Um, really?”) You didst preach that Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit were as one. Rolling his eyes, the martyr takes the knife and begins flaying himself.
- A group of TOWNSFOLK by a mere is directing a line of gypsies into sacks. We can see some sinking below the mere’s surface. The gypsies show no more concern than people waiting in a checkout line. TOWNSMAN (absentminded) Make haste, make haste. We cut back to the old wizard man and knight. OLD WIZARD MAN (resignedly) Ah. Right. INT. SKRIGMAW’S ROYAL CHAMBERS - PRESENT SKRIGMAW Thrust together, common among us nothing save the belief that the knowledge hidden from man should not be forbidden. We were expected to perish. But we thrived -- and perfected our subtle arts. (beat) And our less subtle ones, where we would take a lot of chemicals and smash them together and so many of us would die of burning. Eventually, we found our way here. ANDREW (marveling) Good God...how has nobody has discovered this before? SKRIGMAW Generations spent in the dirt have shown us how to gird ourselves with it, and build ingenious structures that scorn detection. (MORE)
18. SKRIGMAW (CONT'D) (then) And of course, we make use of the wisdom held in our sacred texts. We pull out to a dim corner of the chamber, where three shamans bow their heads before a book on a marble stand. Close on the book, a spiral-bound directory: the “Directory of Addresses for Alkali Valley Geologists and Geological Science Industry Workers.” On its cover is a snapshot of some staid middle-aged men sitting at a sciencey conference. ANDREW Now, about the “savior” thing. What do you mean by -SKRIGMAW Soon enough, dear boy. We must be off now -- to the Council Upon the Hill of Laws. They are the authorities on such matters. But fear not, I am certain they shall rule in our favor. ANDREW “Rule in our favor”? SKRIGMAW (caught off-guard) Oh, uh -- proclaim you the saviors of the prophecy or not. Now. Horsefight, you fetch the carriage, and I shall fetch Queen Thora. They both. Blake and Andrew turn to each other, and Blake gives Andrew a “told you so” look. What?
BLAKE (shaking head) And you were ready to give all this up to get a good grade. ANDREW Listen, man, we need to think! We-BLAKE (looking out the window) Hey, Skriggy’s coming back. Ooh, and Queen Skrig is sorta cute.
19. He glances out the window, where he sees Skrigmaw’s daughter THORA (16), QUEEN OF ALROOT since her mother’s death. She wears a blueish-white lace dress. Her hair and skin have faint streaks of green. Andrew has an instant crush. Whoa.
INT. CARRIAGE - LATER Andrew and Blake sit on velvet cushions across from Thora in the carriage. For minutes, she has been look at them without speaking. Then, abruptly: THORA How old are you?
ANDREW (voice cracking)
(clearing throat) I’m fifteen. We’re both fifteen. THORA I’m sixteen. Are they all like you? ANDREW Oh...the people aboveground? Sort of. Children.
ANDREW Oh. Sort of too? I mean, what are the kids like down here? THORA Don’t know. I don’t know any. Blake, who has been sticking his head out of the window, pulls it back in. BLAKE Question. Why aren’t the people we pass all fainty and shocked when they see me? THORA We’re pretty familiar with you Overthingers. We get the same TV.
20. The carriage rolls by a row of beehive-shaped huts. Thora points to a peasant family watching TV outside. Tangled cables stretch to the cavern roof. ON TV: a TV HOST sits on a dark stage in front of a TENSE COUPLE. HOST (ON TV) We asked you...what you would do...if a bee stung you... Yes.
HUSBAND (ON TV)
HOST (ON TV) And you told us, quote, “Probably nothing. Swat at the bee, maybe.” HUSBAND (ON TV) (nods) Not really afraid of bees. HOST (ON TV) Mr. Peterson, our team of expert scientists has run a simulation using sophisticated prediction technology -- and they came to a different conclusion. A CG SIMULATION of the COUPLE runs on the screen. EXT. CG FIELD CG HUSBAND (ON TV) Argh! Mother shit! CG WIFE (ON TV) What? What happened? CG HUSBAND (ON TV) The fuck does it look like! I got stung by a big ass bee! Fuckin’ sword for a stinger! Argh! CG WIFE (ON TV) Don’t take it out on me! INT. STUDIO HUSBAND (ON TV) I don’t think I --
21. The ANGRY AUDIENCE cuts him off. AUDIENCE Boo!/Traitor!/You lied to us! INT. CARRIAGE BLAKE Ah. I wish you had told me that before I started giving everyone we passed such solemn, “may there be peace among our peoples”-type greetings. ANDREW (to Thora) Why don’t you hang out with kids? THORA My position does not allow it. Is it true that children get metal stapled onto their teeth? ANDREW Braces. Sure. BLAKE Hey! How long have you and the king been married? THORA (surprised) Oh, he’s not my husband! He’s my dad. I’m Queen because my mom died. Before they can respond, she rushes on. THORA (CONT’D) Is it true that male children sometimes get lumps in their chests and when they squeeze them milk comes out like a woman? Andrew shifts nervously: this hits way too close to home. ANDREW Ha, ha, maybe, but it’s not a big deal, at all, really not at all. BLAKE (looking out the window) Stop! Stop the carriage!
22. EXT. ENTRANCE TO THE LAVA MINES We see the exterior of the carriage, which has treads instead of wheels, and is pulled extremely slowly by worms. Skrigmaw sits on a throne welded to the top. Horsefight, who stands alongside the worms to direct them, stops flicking them with chemicals and the carriage comes to rest in front of a massive cave mouth, shuttered with iron doors where lavaminers sit, wearing what look golden spacesuits. BLAKE It’s Nahmouz! ANGLE ON: NAHMOUZ, 15, Alkali’s Iranian exchange stduent who went missing as soon as he arrived. He sitting in his mining suit with his helmet off. SKRIGMAW (”Get out!”) You know Nahmouz? BLAKE He was our transfer student who disappeared. SKRIGMAW (chuckling) That’s so Nahmouz. (beat) Great guy. ANDREW (calling out) Hey! Nahmouz! Nahmouz turns his head, sees them, and walks over, confused. ANDREW (CONT’D) Nahmouz, this isn’t school. NAHMOUZ (haltingly) Nice to...meet your acquaintance. He turns to the miners to see how he’s done. They give him a thumbs up. ANDREW Your country says America kidnapped you! They won’t let the kid who exchanged with you out of their prisons unless you go home. Shawn! His name is Shawn!
23. Nahmouz turns back again -- the miners shrug. ANDREW (CONT’D) It’s destroying his parents’ lives! A HUGE FOREMAN steps forward. FOREMAN Back to the lava-mines! Nahmouz picks up his LAVA-MINING HELMET and walks toward the mines. When he reaches the gate, he turns and shoots Andrew a dark look. NAHMOUZ (bitter) Shawn was...shitty penpal. The thick iron doors open, revealing a hellish inferno. Nahmouz and the other miners disappear inside. Andrew and Blake duck back into the carriage, which sets off. INT. CARRIAGE - CONTINUOUS ANDREW Is lava mining...a hard life? THORA (shrugging) I can’t be distracted with such matters. As Queen, I must maintain a relationship with the plants of Alroot. As you see, the entire realm is held together by plants. ANDREW So, watering? Fertilizing? THORA (reaching forward) Here. Thora grasps his and directs his vision toward the field they are passing. A pale burst of green. Andrew’S POV: A subtle green light suffuses the field, and eddies of green motes flow from one plant to another. Amazing...
He focuses on a tiny SAPLING.
24. SAPLING (V.O.) Bored. (A long beat) Bored! Andrew’S POV: Andrew jerks his gaze away, disturbed. Huh.
JACLS’S POV: Andrew’s vision locks onto a TINY WEED. WEED (V.O.) Why can’t I just turn into a dog? Then everyone would like me. (sighs) But I never will because I suck. INT. CARRIAGE - CONTINUOUS Thora removes her hands and the VISION ENDS. ANDREW (astounded) How is that possible? (then) And are plants always that depressing? Before she can answer, Skrigmaw pops in. SKRIGMAW We have arrived. EXT. THE HILL OF LAWS - MOMENTS LATER They have reached steep stairs cut into a sheer cliff. Amber lanterns light the way. They start the ascent. INT. INNER SANCTUM OF THE HILL OF LAWS - MINUTES LATER Reaching the top, they enter a stone chamber. Before them is a massive wooden altar with five marble pulpits behind it. Peculiar objects dangle and glint high above. SKRIGMAW Behold! The Inner Sanctum of the Hill of Laws. An ominous rumble as GUARDS, their skin striped with blue, seal the entrance with slabs of stone.
25. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) The Council comes! The COUNCIL MEMBERS appear one by one- all with nearly TRANSLUCENT SKIN, wearing hooded cloaks. The spiritual leaders of Alroot, they are known by their sacred BIOTIC RELICS -- elaborately crafted organs passed down from one council to the next. Skrigmaw gives their names as they mount the pulpits and remove their hoods. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) The Eyes of Night! --t he leader of the Council, whose huge pupils look like a brilliant starry sky. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) The Vulpine Nose! -- a council member with nostrils flaring on a wet, dog-like nose. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) The Skin Firmamental! -- a council member with layers upon layers of foldy skin. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) Lace-Tongue! -- a council member who darts out a tongue that is actually a lung-like network of filaments. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) And...The Ear Of Showing What You Would Look Like In A Certain Hat. -- a council member with one huge ear. He grabs it and molds it over his head into a floppy summer, pantomiming daintily. The council members sit. THE EYES OF NIGHT Why have you woken us, king? SKRIGMAW I present to you the saviors of -(stopping) You were sleeping? It’s almost two. Behind the pulpits, Skrigmaw sees a tiny storeroom, its floor littered with crumpled old newspapers and empty bags of chips. There are five grimy sleeping bags.
26. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) Is that where you l-THE EYES OF NIGHT The saviors mentioned by the prophecies? Bring them forward. Skrigmaw nudges Andrew and Blake up. The council members peer at them, and confer in whispers. A brief pause. THE EYES OF NIGHT (CONT’D) (severely) These are not our saviors. Andrew is relieved, but then sees that Skrigmaw is panicking. SKRIGMAW But they are a perfect match! Two boys! They came here because they sought adventure! They -THE EYES OF NIGHT Think you, king, that your senses perceive the fates so well as ours? That you know of all the prophecies of Alroot -- even those that remain unwritten? No? Then be silent. (to Andrew and Blake) And you -- prepare for death. What?!
Blake steps forward to make a passionate entreaty. BLAKE But we were drawn here by the same principles that inspired your ancestors! At least let us live among you, like Nahmouz! THE EYES OF NIGHT (”get outta here”) You know Nahmouz? (beat) Guy’s the man. (beat) Kill them! Seal them inside a hole to kill them like a stupid wizard! Far behind the pulpits, two guards leap up -- and hop onto worm chariots, which carry them forward at a glacial pace. Andrew suddenly has an idea.
27. ANDREW Wait! Blake! What if -BLAKE (removing his backpack) One step ahead of you, buddy. He ROLLS HIS SLEEVE BACK and shakes his PIT-DREAD. BLAKE (CONT’D) You are mesmerized, mesmerized! ANDREW No, dumbass! Andrew grabs the backpack and pulls out Liquid man. He grasps the lid, squinches his eyes shut, and is about to unleash it on their captors -But an awed silence falls over the chamber. Andrew opens his eyes to see the council members bowing. THE EYES OF NIGHT The Living Vessel! You are the saviors! Andrew is UTTERLY INCREDULOUS. ANDREW Liquid Man? The prophecies mention Liquid Man? THE EYES OF NIGHT Oh, yes. (meaningful look) Quite. Explicitly. An awkward silence. BLAKE (to Thora) What he’s talking about is how -ANDREW Great! We’re the saviors! What now! The Eyes of Night reaches into the table and pulls out a scroll, which he unravels and begins to read. THE EYES OF NIGHT You must return to the Overthing... (reading) (MORE)
28. THE EYES OF NIGHT (CONT'D) ...where you must secretly prevent a massive nuclear-biochemcial attack against the United States planned by none other than the President himself... (gravely) You will have 24 hours. (then, leaning forward) You must torture mercilessly. Andrew and Jace’s jaws drop. The Eyes of Night glances at the scroll again, and pulls out reading glasses. THE EYES OF NIGHT (CONT’D) Oh, that wasn’t what it said at all. What we actually want you to do is to break into the Overthinger Ryan Temple’s home. AARON Dog-Internet guy? Skrigmaw STEPS FORWARD. SKRIGMAW We believe that he knows of us -and that he wishes to harm us. ANDREW (bewildered) But why? SKRIGMAW (sorrowfully) Can’t you see? Many of those above still can broach no difference! They believe all difference must be effaced from the Earth! (then) He also has a secret genetic engineering business and wants to steal our ideas and use us in his experiments. BLAKE Got it. (to Andrew) Then there’s no time to lose! ANDREW (to the council) Wait, sorry, this sounds dangerous. Is this going to be dangerous?
29. THE EYES OF NIGHT Why would it be dangerous, scampering around a big mansion, having fun, seeing the nice things? Blake looks up from his watch, alarmed. BLAKE Shoot! Andrew, if we don’t accept this mission and get back up to school right now, we’re in danger of getting a detention! We -Withour warning, A SURGE OF DIRT EXPLODES FROM THE CEILING. Behind the cloudy veil of dirt kicked up, we see a rideable, single-person attack drill - an eight foot high obsidian column on a massive drill head. A hatch is kicked open, and a mercenary in black combat gear jumps out, assault rifle blazing. But before anyone can react, one of the bullets ricochets off the table and into the soldier’s throat. DEATH MERCENARY (dying) Ryan Temple shall slaughter you. The chamber is silent. ANDREW Well, that settles that. We -Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Thora, anxiously waiting to see what he will say. ANDREW (CONT’D) -- we’ll go home and think about maybe helping, but no promises. SKRIGMAW Good enough! The council cheers, and Blake slaps Andrew on the back. SKRIGMAW (CONT’D) Horsefight will escort you to the surface. Skrigmaw tugs on a rope to summon Horsefight, but instead it triggers another surge of dirt, this time revealing a geologist in a cage, suspended from the ceiling by a chain.
30. GEOLOGIST (singing) Lonely geologist, Locked up in a cage! Singing songs of sorrow To while away my days. He blows soulfully on a harmonica. GEOLOGIST (CONT’D) (singing) Well, now -Got me a harmonica, Made it outta bones, (points at Skrigmaw) Stegosaurus said That I ain’t never goin’ home. Skrigmaw gently pulls the cage back up into the ceiling. An awkward silence.. SKRIGMAW We give him shrooms sometimes. (long beat) You know, it’s all damp down here, they grow so easily... (long beat) Sorry, what I’m saying is... (long beat) Do you guys want any shrooms? (long beat) Shrooms for the road? Yes? No? Yes? (long beat) Last chance.