Citation
The Novel

Material Information

Title:
The Novel
Creator:
Mariman, Liukura
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Source Institution:
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
The Novel
By Liukura Mariman
An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Honors Program
May 2016
Dr. Rebecca Gorman ONeill
Dr. Jason Miller
Dr. Megan Hughes-Zarzo Honors Program Director
Primary Advisor
Second Reader


The Novel:
A Screenplay
By
Liukura Mariman


The Novel: A Screenplay
Mariman 1
FADE IN:
INT. MOVIE THEATER DAY
The theater is dark and quiet. Rows of empty seats wait under the faint glow of the screen. In the center of the theater, the only audience member sits, a silhouette. This is ROBERT, late-30s, a writer. Though barely illuminated in the darkness of the room, he is dressed in loosely fitted clothing, an attempt toward style quickly abandoned.
The screen ahead of him shimmers through the opening credits of a movie. His face is dimly visible in the low-light. He stares forward. He waits expectantly. The light of the screen changes color across his face and he flinches. His eyes flicker with recognition and confusion.
On the screen, Robert's face stares back at him. This shot cuts to one from behind him, a silhouette in a dark theater of empty seats. The shot is echoed on the screen in a feedback loop. The picture distends into fractal infinity. Robert sits, frozen in place. The infinite Roberts do the same.
He looks behind himself in the theater. The infinite Roberts do the same on-screen. He looks back to the screen. The infinite Roberts follow suit. He stands up. They stand up. He fumbles out of his row of seats and makes his way up the aisle, looking back and leaving the theater. On the screen, his infinite Roberts do the same until there is no more movement in the room.
From the furthest image, the shot cuts to black. Finally the screen in the theater itself goes black.
EXT. MOVIE THEATER ENTRANCE DAY
The cool light of day falls on the entrance to the theater. A LAZY EMPLOYEE sits in the ticket booth fiddling with something mundane in front of him. The theater is old and artsy. Movie posters advertise a collection of indie films with vague and abstract titles.
Robert pushes out of the theater's swinging doors. He stops at the ticket booth and taps for attention. When the employee looks up, Robert begins to inaudibly discuss something with him.
Robert points toward the theater and puts his ticket stub down in the window-hole.


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Mariman 2
The employee gives a shrug and shakes his head. Robert gives an exasperated look at the theater and then out at the street. He pushes away from the counter, and waves away the ticket booth and its attendant. He gives the theater a lengthy glare and then walks off, down the street.
EXT. CITY BLOCK CONTINUOUS
Robert makes his way down a lightly crowded city street. The faces of shops and apartments pass by behind him. PEDESTRIANS walk by him and he dodges and weaves his way past.
ROBERT (V.O.)
The first time I did it, it was messy. A bloody fight, a rapid release of tension and the cool catching of breath. It came naturally. It felt good. I was nine years old.
Robert makes his way to a newspaper stand and pulls out some crumpled dollar bills. He looks around at his options and inaudibly converses with the NEWSPAPER SELLER.
ROBERT (V.O.)
In weeks, I was taking lives left and right. Villages burned.
Battalions decimated. The mad scratchings of pencil on paper.
Robert buys a newspaper and walks a short distance from the stand to fold it out and read it.
ROBERT (V.O.)
It made sense. Everyone else was doing it. People paid attention.
Robert stares at the page with growing disinterest. He tosses the paper into a public waste bin and resumes his walking.
ROBERT (V.O.)
Like Shiva, smelting galaxies in his maw, I devoured the lives of thousands. Graveyards filled with my victims.


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Mariman 3
Robert passes by DOG WALKER and DOG. The dog stops to sniff at him. Robert turns mid-step and leans down to pat the dog, grinning. It wags its tail, but when Robert scratches behind its ears, it bites at his hand. Robert retreats and the dog walker holds the dog back as it starts BARKING.
Robert stumbles away, the dog walker apologizing behind him and struggles with the angry dog.
ROBERT (V.O.)
The readers, the critics and eventually even the publishers, they all ate it up. "Visionary" they called me. "Voice of the new generation." "Speaker to an age of apathetic neo-spiritualists and bullshitters."
Robert arrives at an apartment building and walks up the front steps. He enters the building.
INT. APARMENT BUILDING CONTINUOUS
The apartment is nice enough to look at. It is an older building, but well-maintained. Robert stops at a row of mail cubbies and checks inside one. It's empty. He goes up four floors.
ROBERT (V.O.)
"Caustic and self-indulgent," they call me. "Prosaic," "prophetic."
"He shouts to the void of the human spirit and the void shouts back. Welcome! Welcome Robert, and thank you for the kind words!"
Robert arrives at the door to his apartment, number 403, and unlocks it. He walks in.
INT ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
The studio apartment is a benign mess. Furnishings are limited to a small desk against a wall and a worn blue sofa across from it. On the desk is a typewriter and a stack of papers. A bedroom and bathroom connect off to the side. A single window shines pale daylight across the small kitchen-entry-dining-living room. Robert closes the door behind himself as he enters.


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Mariman 4
He stands at the front door and stares around at the empty room. The sounds of the city outside drain out.
ROBERT (V.O.)
Maybe they're right.
He gives the room a look of perplexed indifference and then makes his way to the bathroom.
INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS
He sits on the toilet, dispensing waste.
ROBERT (V.O.)
I speak in a lexicon of tragedies and broken bones. Characters, scattered and fractured. Stories as fodder for armchair philosophy.
But it reaches someone. And they're still reading. And I'm not complaining.
Robert wipes, flushes, washes hands and then watches himself in the bathroom mirror. Edging into the reflection, a CAMERAMAN sneaks into view. Robert holds a startled paralysis, before looking around behind him. The cameraman slips out of the mirror's reflection.
Robert doesn't see anything behind him. He looks frightened and confused. He turns back to the sink, winces at his reflection and splashes water on his face. He lets it drip off and takes a deep breath.
The phone in the main room RINGS. Robert straightens and digs a watch with a broken wrist-band out of his pocket. He looks at the tiny face of the watch. It reads 12:03. His shoulders sink.
ROBERT
Fuck.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
Robert staggers from the direction of the bathroom, showing a modest attempt to pick up the phone before it finishes ringing. Something CRUNCHES under his shoes as he makes his way across


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Mariman 5
the room. He looks down to confirm that there is indeed a chunk of broken porcelain on the floor. He keep walking
He grabs the anachronistic, cordless home-phone from its place on the kitchen counter. He stares at the phone and listens to the SOUNDS OF A TINY VOICE coming from it. He puts it to his ear.
TRISHA
Robert? Robert? Are you there?
ROBERT
Hi! Is this Trisha?
TRISHA
Yes, hello. We've been trying to get a hold of
ROBERT
Hey, so sorry about that! My answering machine must be busted.
Robert beeps and boops at the phone's dock. The display blinks that there are four unheard messages. Robert is looking out the window at a CAT eating a SQUIRREL on the adjacent balcony.
ROBERT (CONT)
Oh yup, see? Broken. I'll have to get that fixed. So, what can I do for you, Trisha?
TRISHA
Well, Robert, to be honest, we've been wanting to know when we might get a look at that manuscript.
ROBERT
Haha! Can't keep you guys away from it can I? Well, it's just about done. Dotting my t's and i's, you know?
Robert stares across the room at the typewriter desk and its stack of very blank paper.


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Mariman 6
TRISHA
Really? Oh, that's great. You can understand our concern after the delays.
ROBERT
Of course. I'm sorry about all that. Truly. But yeah, it's just about ready.
TRISHA
Wonderful. Please send them over as soon as you can.
ROBERT Yes! Right away.
Robert pulls a glass from a dishrack by the sink. He fills it with water from the faucet.
TRISHA
Perfect. And just to remind you, the new deadline's on the fifth.
ROBERT
Mhm.
TRISHA Of December.
ROBERT
Yep.
TRISHA
In two weeks.
ROBERT
Right.
Robert sips at his water.
TRISHA
Okay! Looking forward to seeing what you've got for us.
ROBERT
Trust me, you'll love it.


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Mariman 7
Robert stares at his reflection in the window. Behind the reflection, the cat is carried off by a LARGE FALCON. Robert returns the phone to its dock and takes a long drink of his water, finishing the glass. He places the glass at the edge of the counter. With his index finger he slowly pushes it off. It crashes to pieces on the floor.
Robert steps across the fresh spread of broken glass and meanders over to the typewriter. He allows gravity to pull him into the chair and stares at the blank paper loaded into the roll of the typewriter. His face pulls into a pouty frown. He jams his index finger into the period key three times. His ellipsis stares back at him.
The ellipsis grows across the page. Robert loses himself in the black ink.
INT. ELLIPSIS CONTINUOUS
Robert is in an immense darkness. Ahead, a fire comes up, housed in a massive stonework fireplace. Two figures shimmer in the glow of the flames.
These are STAGGART and BRESNA, both in their late 30s, two main characters from Robert's post-apocalyptic best-seller. They're both rugged, soldiers on two sides of a conflict. They sit against shoulder to shoulder, basking in the fire. They smile at each other.
Robert approaches from the darkness.
ROBERT
Staggart? Bresna?
Columns of hard-covered, glossy-sleeved novels come into view, surrounding them. Their covers read: "OLD XENON'S POISON". As Robert nears the couple, they turn to look at him.
Staggart's forehead begins to drip with blood. Bresna sees this.
BRESNA
Staggart?!
She paws at his face. Robert stops.
STAGGART


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Mariman 8
Bresna.
Staggart collapses in her arms. The stacks of books fall over onto Robert.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
The phone RINGS again. Robert jerks awake and swivels his head toward the kitchen counter. He fidgets in the chair and pulls out his watch again. The face of the watch reads 2:34.
Robert slumps in his chair and squints up at the ceiling.
ROBERT
Fuck.
He pulls himself out of the chair and makes his way over to the phone once more. Glass crunches beneath his feet.
Robert picks up the phone and puts it to his ear.
ROBERT
Hello?
MO
I knew it. I knew you'd be at home.
ROBERT
Shit, Mo, I'm sorry.
MO
I told the waiterdidn't I tell you? I said, "He probably hasn't even left yet." And wouldn't you know it...
ROBERT
I'm sorry.
MO
Don't be sorry. Get off your ass and get over here.
ROBERT Yeah. Okay.
MO


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Mariman 9
Jesus.
Robert hangs up the phone and rushes across the room, only to slip on the glass. He thuds to the floor, tries to catch himself with his right hand, but ends up with a palm-full of glass.
Robert winces in pain and clutches the hand to his chest He shoves himself against the counter and then uses it to pull himself back to his feet. He growls and picks out glass from his right palm. Throws it into the kitchen sink.
A large gash and a number of smaller cuts cover his palm. Blood wells up in the cuts and drips down his wrist. Robert makes his way, carefully this time, across the room. He keeps his wounded hand elevated as he goes. He moves toward the bathroom.
INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert pushes the door open with his shoulder and starts the faucet going with warm water. He keeps his hand under the stream, but crouches down to start searching through the cabinets under the sink.
Robert pulls out a box of tampons from a drawer and frowns at them. He reaches out and drops them into the trash bin by the toilet.
He goes back to digging through the drawer. He retrieves a box of bandages and shakes them around. The box rattles with the few bandages inside. He tries to fumble the box open with one hand.
Steam is coming from the sink, and Robert jerks his head up in surprise, smashing it against the edge of the counter. He jerks his hand from the water, lets out a frustrated scream and hits the cabinets repeatedly with an elbow.
Robert turns the cold water on and returns his wound to the stream. He empties the box onto the counter space. A number of small circular bandages fall out along with one long skinny one.
He measures the skinny one against the wound. It is quite small comparatively. Robert lets out a profound sigh and slowly shoves the meager pile of bandages off of the counter. He looks at the small trash bin with its fresh contents.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT
DAY


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Mariman 10
Robert is in the main room of his apartment. He eases his right hand into the sleeve of a beat-up corduroy jacket. As he finishes putting on the jacket, he stands in front of the typewriter and stares down at the mostly blank paper. He digs out his watch. It read 3:04 now.
He looks at his wounded palm. The wound is bound with a couple tampons and packing tape. Already some blood has seeped through. He rips off a free hanging string and winces.
Robert places his hand against the wall above the typewriter. He presses his hand against the wall and closes his eyes. A few droplets of blood edge out from the base of his palm, run along his wrist, and drip onto the paper below.
Robert removes his hand from the wall. He makes his way to the front door. There's a bloody splotch on the wall now. A rivulet of red makes its way downward. Robert slams the door behind him as he leaves.
EXT. OUTSIDE CAFE DAY
A number of empty tables and stacked chairs make up the outside seating of a cafe. Sitting alone at one of these tables, under a heat lamp, is a man bundled up in a puffy down jacket under a heat lamp. This is MO, in his early 30s, Robert's agent. He is only a little overweight, but the jacket makes him look rotund. He is warming his hands on a small white cup of coffee. The remaining crumbs of a meal rest on a plate in front of him.
Robert comes up to the seating area and slips over the waist-high railing that borders it. Mo looks up from his coffee.
MO
Oh. Look. You made it.
ROBERT
Sorry I'm late.
MO
Late? No, not really. Here, you want some crumbs?
Mo pushes the plate across to Robert.
ROBERT


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Mariman 11
Why are we outside?
MO
I said, "Hey, I want a table outside."
ROBERT
Okay.
MO
Then a full hour later I realized that it was a bad idea.
ROBERT
Sorry.
MO
What took you so long?
ROBERT
I... cut myself.
Robert places his wounded hand onto the table.
MO
Jesus, on purpose?
ROBERT
What? No.
MO
Are those tampons?
ROBERT
Yeah, I ran out of bandages.
MO
You are a mess.
ROBERT
Whatever. Can I get a coffee?
MO
If you can coax a waiter out.
Robert waves at the front windows of the cafe. No one inside seems to take note.


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Mariman 12
MO (CONT)
You know what? I've lost my appetite. Drink mine. Please.
Mo places the cup onto the plate of crumbs.
ROBERT
No. I don't want
MO
Oh my god. Just drink it! Why do I do this to myself?
Robert takes the coffee and sips at it. He grimaces.
MO (CONT)
Yeah, it's disgusting. Go figure. Where's my book Rob?
ROBERT
My book.
Mo laughs.
MO
Where's the book Rob?
ROBERT
It's almost done.
MO
Bullshit.
ROBERT
It would go faster if I didn't have the publishers calling me every other day.
Robert interrupts himself with a big swig of coffee.
ROBERT (CONT)
"Where's the manuscript, Robert. Remember the deadline, Robert." I


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Mariman 13
thought the house phone was emergencies only, Mo.
MO
You're months late, Rob. That's an emergency.
ROBERT
That's not fair. You know that's not fair.
Mo laughs. Robert finishes the coffee. He moves it around in his mouth. At the bottom of the cup is a gritty coffee-ground sludge.
MO
You need to get past this.
ROBERT
It's been a week! One week!
MO
It's been three months!
ROBERT
Give me time!
MO
You're all out!
Robert slams his fist down on the table, startling Mo. Robert immediately recoils, grits his teeth and hold his fist against his chest.
ROBERT
Damnit.
MO
You're losing it.
ROBERT
It's been one week.
MO
Whatever. Look, we need that manuscript, buddy. You know I've been here for you. Through thick


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Mariman 14
and thin, and, well, more thick.
But we gotta get that thing out.
You know?
MO (CONT)
I like what we have. And I want to keep it. But that means I need to get you up on your feet and writing, okay?
Robert. Is breathing warm air into his clenched fist. Blood trickles down into his sleeve.
MO (CONT)
So let's get you up and writing.
The two men stare at each other in silence for a moment. Robert stands up.
MO (CONT)
There you go.
Mo stands as well. He tosses a crumpled twenty onto the plate.
MO (CONT)
Oh, right. I got you this.
Mo retrieves something from the pocket of his coat and deposits it into Robert's not-bloody hand. It's a smart phone.
ROBERT
Mo-
MO
Don't. You lost your off-the-grid privileges. Take it. And keep it turned on. And charge it. And fucking answer it when someone calls! Jesus, it's like I'm your mother.
Robert scowls and turns to start walking away.
MO
Love you too, honey!
Robert turns and lifts a bloody middle finger. He continues to walk away.


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Mariman 15
MO (CONT)
Oh, and don't forget you have the book reading downtown on the twenty-eighth. I added a reminder.
Robert is clambering over the railing again.
MO (CONT)
And finish the book!
Robert is making his way down the street.
MO (CONT)
Asshole.
Mo heads the other way, passing the table. He stops himself, sighs and mutters something. He turns off the heat lamp, and collects the plate and mug. He pushes the chairs in against the table before entering the cafe.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
Robert pushes himself into the apartment, stumbling into the nearby wall. He fumbles for the light switch. His hair is a mess and his eyes wander about the room without direction.
The room is in more disorder than it was before. Crumpled balls of paper now join the field of broken glass and porcelain. Piles of books consume the small sofa. A rusty red splotch covers the wall behind the typewriter. It is much larger than earlier. It looks like someone has been executed against it. Robert doesn't seem to notice.
He stumbles to the kitchen. Navigates the minefield of glass and paper. He slams open a cabinet and grabs a glass. Robert fills the glass in the sink and downs it in one long gulp. He gasps for air. Robert splashes water on his face and lets it drip off as he throws coffee grounds into a beat-up machine. He starts the machine and heads off toward the bedroom.
As he passes the bloody wall, he stops to raise an eyebrow at it. He blinks a few times, shakes his head, and then stumbles off to the bedroom, rubbing his temples as he goes.


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A gentle cracking sound comes from the wall once he's gone and a rough fissure splits down it. The crack spreads apart to reveal something spongey and organic beneath it. As this occurs, the coffee machine starts to leak.
Robert returns from the bedroom now wearing sweatpants and a shirt with several holes. He sees the coffee pooling on the kitchen counter and hurries past the cracked wall.
ROBERT
Seriously?
Robert rushes to the machine and switches it off. He starts pulling paper towels from a roll by the sink. He piles the towels onto the spreading puddle of coffee and it soaks through.
Behind him, the crack is pulsing. The tissue beneath the drywall pushes out like a chick escaping its egg. The wall splits outward and the tissue seems to breathe.
Robert tosses the soiled towels into the trash and sops up the remaining coffee with a sponge. He throws the coffee grounds into the sink and pours the meager contents of the pot into a mug.
Robert walks back toward the bedroom with mug in hand. He blows on the contents as he passes the typewriter and the bulging disfigurement in the wall. He takes a quick glance at the breathing crack, continues for a step, and then freezes. He does a double take.
The wall bulges again and pushes the desk forward this time. Drywall crumbles off onto the desk and floor. The fleshy tissue bunches together and then pulls farther apart. More drywall crumbles off as the wall and flesh split open to reveal a dark, human-sized hole. Robert stands paralyzed. His mug slips from his hand and SHATTERS on the floor.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
Robert sits on the messy sofa between piles of books. A large kitchen knife rests on one of these stacks. On the floor, a half-empty bottle of bourbon waits.
Robert stares forward, chin resting on fists. The wall trembles before him. He reaches down for the bourbon and takes a swig without taking his eyes off the hole. Another chunk of drywall


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Mariman 17
falls, landing on the typewriter. It DINGS and the roll slides over.
Robert flinches. He reaches for the knife and flashlight. Gets to his feet. He begins to creep toward the hole with the knife hand outstretched. As he nears the hole a faint breeze comes from it. It ruffles the papers on the desk and Robert's hair.
His knife hand is shaking now. A distant sound, like WAILING, comes from the hole.
ROBERT
Holy...
Robert switches the flashlight on and shines it into the darkness of the hole. The tunnel goes back farther than the flashlight will illuminate. From what is illuminated, the tunnel is roughly human-size. Its walls are of the same spongey organic tissue, however farther back this material is reinforced by thin wooden support beams. Another distant sound comes, this time a call. Robert goes pale.
Robert circles around toward the bedroom. He breaks eye-contact with the hole to rush into the bathroom.
INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert examines the wall on the living room side of the bathroom. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. He begins tapping on the wall with the grip of the knife. It sounds like a wall.
Robert stares at himself in the mirror. He pries open the mirror cabinet and starts searching through a variety of prescriptions. As the cabinet swings open, the mirror catches the reflection of the cameraman.
Robert snatches up a bottle.
INSERT THE PRESCRIPTION BOTTLE IN ROBERT'S HAND
The label on it shows the name: FRANCES J. LOCKE. Its contents are "ARIPIPRAZOLE".
BACK TO SCENE
The contents of the bottle rattle as Robert pours them into his hand. Two reddish tablets come out into the center of his palm. He starts to put one back, but stops himself. He tosses both in


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Mariman 18
his mouth and takes a gulp of sink water before swallowing. He throws the now empty bottle in the trashcan and then closes the mirror. The cameraman is seen again. Robert inhales deeply and then leaves the bathroom.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
Robert walks into the room. Makes an effort not to look at the hole in his wall. He grabs his typewriter, sets it on chair with a stack of papers and his kitchen knife and then drags it all over to the sofa.
He places the typewriter onto the cushioned seat of the sofa and perches his stack of papers on some nearby books. He takes his seat in the chair and places the kitchen knife alongside the typewriter.
Robert feeds a sheet of paper into the typewriter. He starts to clack away at the keys. Another sound comes from the hole behind him, A MOAN this time.
Robert clenches his jaw and hovers a hand over the knife. After a moment he begins to type again.
INSERT HIS WRITING
It reads, "ROBERT OLIVER WAS A SHITTY WRITER WITH A PENCHANT FOR MELODRAMA. LUCKILY, HE LIVED IN A SHITTY MELODRAMATIC WORLD AND EVERYONE LOVED HIM. THEN ONE DAY, A HELL PORTAL OPENED UP INTO HIS DINGY APARTMENT AND DEMONS TORE HIM LIMB FROM LIMB. THE"
BACK TO SCENE
A low rumble comes from the hole. Robert stops typing. He grabs for the knife and swivels around in the chair, nearly toppling it. Another sound comes from the hole, this time a sweet whisper in a woman's voice.
JEAN
Robert.
The knife drops from Robert's hand. He pushes himself up from the chair.
ROBERT
Jean?


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Mariman 19
Robert staggers toward the hole. He stands in front of it, peering in again.
ROBERT
Jean?
His voice reverberates in the dark tunnel.
The tunnel walls pulse and a gentle CREAK comes from the wooden support beams. Robert stretches a hand out and touches the edge of the organic hole. It seems to shiver under his contact. He pulls his hand away and takes a step back, breathing heavily. A jolt goes through him.
Robert rushes for the sink and vomits. A partially digested aripiprazole tablet clinks onto the stainless steel. Robert crumples to the ground and curls up amongst the broken glass and paper scraps.
The hole calls his name again, unmistakable this time. Robert covers his ears with his hands.
The hole calls again. The floor begins to vibrate and the broken shards of glass dance. Robert closes his eyes. The hole's calls become louder and more frantic. Book stacks topple over. Robert yells over the chaos. The hole screams over him.
ROBERT
STOP! STOP IT! STOP!
The commotion comes to an end. Robert opens his eyes and looks around the room. Everything is still. The hole says his name again, quite clear this time. It's a woman's voice. He crawls to his feet and rushes to the opening.
ROBERT
Jean!
The hole is still dark and empty. Far away, the voice comes again.
JEAN
Robert, please.
Robert's eyes go wide. He snatches up the knife and switches his flashlight on again.
ROBERT


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Mariman 20
Jean, I'm coming. Hold on.
He moves the desk from the hole's entrance.
ROBERT
I don't know what's happening.
Robert shines his light into the darkness. He reaches his arm into the hole and waits for something to happen. When nothing does, he takes a hesitant step into the hole. The tunnel is too low for him to stand upright and too tight for him to face forward. He makes his way into the darkness, hunched and shuffling.
INT. TUNNEL NIGHT
Robert breathes heavily as he shuffles farther into the tunnel. The walls come in closer as he moves along, until Robert is pressed between the pulsing tissue. His flashlight beams a small circle of light ahead of him.
ROBERT What am I doing?
Robert looks back at the opening into his living room. It is farther away than it should be. The hole's opening begins to constrict. The little sightline into his apartment closes until it's no longer visible.
ROBERT
No. No, no, no, no, no!
Robert tries to shuffle back to the entrance as it closes. He makes little progress. His flashlight flickers and goes out.
ROBERT
Are you... fuck.
The tunnel is barely visible. Robert leans back against the organic wall. He closes his eyes and attempts to calm his breathing.
ROBERT
Jean, where are you?
Robert's eyes begin to acclimate to the darkness. He starts to shuffle forward again.


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ROBERT
Okay, Robert. You climbed into the living hole in your wall. Why did you do that?
A sliver of white light peeks out ahead. Robert shuffles faster. The light becomes the outline of a door. The walls start to widen and soon Robert is walking comfortably. He runs head first into solid wood.
In front of him, there is a small door built into a wall. With a forced perspective, the door looks much farther away than it actually is. Robert tries the small door's handle and it turns. The door opens into...
INT. WHITE WAITING ROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert is peeking into a large white waiting room. Fluorescent light from above shines off of white tile, white drywall, and white furniture. Robert has to shield his eyes.
Robert crawls through the small doorway into the room. He stands and wanders around. A set of normal sized doors wait at the front of the room. Robert tries the handles of these, but they are locked.
A display of white flowers and a stack of white magazines decorate a white coffee table. Robert thumbs through one of these magazines. Each page is blank.
A TV in an upper corner of the room pops on and starts blaring static. Robert jumps. He moves in to check it out. The static cuts to a video feed of the room from behind Robert. He turns to find the camera, but there are none in sight.
When he turns back to the screen his own face is staring back at him. On the screen he is a wild-eyed madman breathing heavily and fogging the camera lens. This image cuts again to show the room from just behind Robert's shoulder. A feedback loop of Roberts descends into the TV. Robert turns again to find the camera behind him, but sees nothing.
The TV POPS and SIZZLES. Robert looks at it to see the screen blank and a tendril of smoke making its way to the ceiling.


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A water cooler gurgles to Robert's side. Robert looks around and approaches the water cooler. He takes a paper cup from its dispenser. He leaves his knife on top of the cooler and pulls the little tab to fill his cup. He looks at the water and then sniffs it. He takes a sip, then downs the whole thing. He fills the cup again.
Robert takes out his watch. Its hands spin around in lazy circles.
A door opens behind Robert. He swivels around, bumps the cooler, and sends his knife CLATTERING to the tile floor. Robert reaches down for his knife, spilling water as he does this. He stops when he sees a woman standing in the doorway. This is JEAN LOCKE. She's in her mid-20s, dressed in an all-white doctor's outfit and carrying a clipboard. Her face is expressionless.
ROBERT
Jean. I- What are you wearing?
Where are we?
Jean takes a couple steps forward.
JEAN
(Reading off clipboard)
Robert J. Oliver.
ROBERT
Jean?
JEAN
Come right this way Mr. Oliver. We are ready for you.
ROBERT
I don't understand. Who's ready for me? Is something wrong?
JEAN
Please Mr. Oliver. Come with me.
ROBERT
What's happening? Jean?
Jean is standing with an arm indicating the door. Robert finishes his water and crumples the cup in his hand. He tosses


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it at a nearby trashcan, but it bounces off the rim. Robert reaches down for his knife again. He approaches Jean who stares past him.
ROBERT
Jean. Talk to me Jean.
JEAN
That is unnecessary.
ROBERT
What?
Jean reaches out a hand, palm up. She waits.
JEAN
The weapon, sir.
ROBERT
Sir? Jean, I don't-JEAN
Sir, I need you to relinquish your weapon.
ROBERT
Relinquish? You know what? Fine.
Robert puts the knife handle into Jean's hand. She closes her fingers around it. He holds on to her hand.
ROBERT (CONT)
Jean.
He moves in close to her, moves the knife hand down to her side.
ROBERT (CONT)
Jean.
Jean stares at him. He moves his other hand to her hip and pulls her in for a kiss. She does not reciprocate. He steps back. She continues to stare at him, no reaction.
ROBERT (CONT)
Who are you?
Jean walks to the door and opens it.


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JEAN
Right this way, Mr. Oliver.
She motions to the dark room beyond. Robert stares her down, shakes his head, and goes through the doorway.
INT. DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert takes a couple steps into the dark room. It is very dark. He turns to Jean and the light of the waiting room beyond. He's about to say something to her when she closes the door.
Darkness.
ROBERT
Are you serious? Jean, come on.
This is not okay.
The sound of some DISTANT SWITCH BEING PULLED echoes through the room and a dingy cone of light comes on over Robert. The light shines down from an unknown source. Robert looks up and squints against the new light.
The sound of RUNNING FOOTSTEPS patters by. Robert swivels around to find the source of the sound. The darkness outside of Robert's cone of light is impenetrable.
ROBERT
Hello? Jean?
Another set of LOUD FOOTSTEPS pads by. Robert's eyes dart back and forth, wide in their sockets.
ROBERT
Jean?
A large, mostly NUDE MAN with a spear brushes past Robert, briefly visible but then disappearing into the darkness again.
ROBERT Oh, fuck no.
Robert sprints away from whoever just passed by. The light follows from above. Robert stops when he hears A GRUNT from ahead. Another someone moves just outside of the light. Robert takes a step back.


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A loud, sustained WAR CRY approaches from behind, and Robert twists around. The FOOTSTEPS and YELLING grow louder and louder. Robert staggers to the side and trips over himself.
A muscular GREEK HOPLITE rushes by, bronze armor flashing for a moment under the light. He wields a large shield and a brutish sword. He disappears into the darkness.
There is an audible COLLISION in the darkness. Violent YELLING.
A loud CRACKING sound. The hoplite is thrown to the ground underneath the light, his shield CLANGS loudly against the floor.
Robert winces and scrambles back as a BEARDED CELT descends upon the hoplite, brandishing a stone hammer. Robert catches a glimpse of the Celt's hammer collapsing the hoplite's face into itself, before his light pulls away after him. The carnage is returned to darkness.
ROBERT
Oh god oh god oh god oh god.
A WAIL pierces the air as Robert drags himself to his feet. A second cone of light comes down some ten yards away. Under it, a small DARK-SKINNED WOMAN with an iron leg prosthesis stands above a man, her spear in his gut. She stabs the man repeatedly as he tries to drag himself away from her. The man's screams die along with him. The light above them goes out.
Robert doubles over and vomits out whatever is left in his stomach. Around him, more cones of light begin to pop up, each with its own sequence of momentary carnage. The lights and their subjects soon extend in all directions. The air is filled with THUDS, the SCRAPE and CLANG of metal on metal, and the SCREAMS of the dying.
Robert sinks to the ground. Clouds of smoke and falling ash obscure the world around him.
EXT. THE DARK ROOM BATTLEFIELD DAY
When the cloud passes, Robert is in a field. A sprawling, open space of short grass and sky. The battle still rages on around him. SOLDIERS from every corner of ancient history stab, and bludgeon, and kill. Their bodies pile atop each other.


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Sod and soil are turned up beneath heavy boots and grappling limbs. The bodies and earth start to liquefy into a muddy, bloody paste.
Robert screams, but he is drowned out by everything around him. He sits crumpled in a small circle of untouched grass. He folds in on himself and hugs his face to his knees.
The SOUNDS OF BATTLE begin to slow. The survivors of the carnage limp and crawl toward their remaining enemies. Few still have their weapons. They approach and collapse against each other.
The languid final strokes of their blood orgy play out and snow begins to fall from a now gray sky.
Big globs of snowflakes cascade down. Robert lifts his head from the ground. There is no more movement save for the falling snow. Already the ground is blanketed by it. It collects in piles of ruddy, blackish muck as it melts into the warm, human pulp beneath it.
Robert stares up into the gray sky and blinks away the snowflakes as they fall onto his face. His eyes stray downward to the piles of the dead. Pale faces stare back at him frozen, half covered in snow. Limbs poke out at odd angles from the mass. Hands contorted in rigor mortis reach upward. Tears start to stream down Robert's face.
A mechanical grating sound breaches the silence and the ground beneath Robert begins to move downward. Robert looks around anxiously. The platform of grass that Robert sits on is surrounded on all sides by glass, like an elevator shaft cut into the ground. On the other side of the glass, corpses lie pressed up against it. Robert quietly sobs.
As the platform descends, the corpses around it become less and less recognizable in their rot. Eventually the evidence of bodies is left to bones in dirt. The platform stops. Robert stares dead-eyed into the blank sockets of a small human skull in the soil. Snow continues to swirl down from the distant sky above him.
The natural light from above dims, and a last sprinkle of snow falls on Robert before he is returned to darkness.


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INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS Darkness.
ROBERT
Jean. Oh god, Jean. I don't know what's happening.
A dim bluish glow comes up and Robert is now looking directly into an immense mirror. He stares into his own reflection. He shifts his head a little, cocks it to the side. Behind his reflected self, a cameraman records. The camera's little red light shines at him.
Robert jolts and spins around. There is a door in front of him. It's a door from his apartment building. The number reads "304". He looks perplexed. He tries the knob.
INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT NIGHT
The door opens into Robert's apartment, or a room similar to Robert's apartment. The dimensions of the room are the same, but the room itself is in an unrecognizable state of order. No shattered glass. No typewriter desk. No crumpled paper.
The glow from a sophisticated lamp coats the room in warm light. On the kitchen counter, a half-empty Malbec sits, uncorked. The sofa is decorated with floral pillows. A low coffee table carries on it a few books and art magazines, as well as a photo album and Kleenex box. A stuffed overnight bag sits near the front door. Robert almost trips over it.
Low voices are coming from the bedroom. Robert looks around the room, and wanders toward the voices.
INT. THE DARK ROOM BEDROOM CONTINUOUS
The room is small, filled by a queen-sized bed. On the bed is an open suitcase, in the process of packing. To one side of the bed, Jean stands, pulling out an armful of clothing from a small closet. She's a mess of frazzled eyes, wild hair, and a worn corduroy jacket that's just a little too big for her.
On the other side of the bed, a second Robert paces back and forth. This Robert has no visible wounds, wears a button up shirt, and fights back angry tears.


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The first Robert approaches from the other room.
ROBERT
Jean?
He stands in the doorway of the bedroom. His eyes dart from Jean to the other Robert, to the suitcase, and then back to the other Robert. He stabilizes himself against the door frame.
ROBERT 2
You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything.
JEAN
Nobody can solve anything around you!
Jean is throwing clothes into the suitcase. They form a messy pile.
JEAN (CONT)
You're a pit, Robert. And everything just sorta falls into you and dies.
ROBERT 2
That's a ridiculous analogy.
You're making ridiculous analogies for effect.
JEAN
You are ridiculous!
ROBERT 2
Don't do that. Don't be a bitch.
JEAN
Are you fucking kidding me?
ROBERT
Hello?
Both parties go silent. They each stare at the doorway. At the first Robert. The silence holds for a moment, but then Jean starts throwing clothes again and the second Robert resumes his pacing.


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JEAN (CONT)
Call me a bitch again.
ROBERT 2
No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-look, Frances-
JEAN
Ew, really? Frances?
ROBERT 2
I can't even talk to you!
JEAN
Good. Shut up.
ROBERT 2
Stop!
Jean gives her stubborn, undivided attention to her packing. She sorts things around in the suitcase with big, fast movements.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Jean, stop.
She doesn't. The second Robert stops pacing.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Jean.
Tears form in Jean's eyes. She grabs for the flap of the suitcase. Second Robert reaches across to stop her from closing the flap.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Jean!
The two hold the suitcase flap in tense silence. She pulls. He pulls. She gives him a death-glare through teary eyes. He winces.
ROBERT Can you hear me?
Let go.
JEAN


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ROBERT 2 Please, Jean.
JEAN
Robert, let go.
The second Robert matches her glare. Jean's hand flashes across to grab his. She digs her nails into the back of his hand and peels him from her suitcase. He yelps and detaches. Little red lines appear across his skin.
The first Robert winces and holds his hand against his chest, rubbing it slowly.
ROBERT 2
Holy fuck! Are you serious?
Jean slams the flap closed and rips the zipper across. She drags her suitcase off the bed and tears out of the bedroom, pushing the first Robert against the wall haphazardly. The second Robert stumbles after her.
The first Robert presses against the wall as his counterpart passes. He wanders after the angry couple.
INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
Jean goes straight for the overnight bag. She tosses it over her shoulder. The second Robert follows close behind her. He reaches for her shoulder, but stops himself.
ROBERT 2
Please, Jean just talk to me.
JEAN
I'm so tired of talking to you.
You like words too much.
ROBERT 2 It's all I have.
JEAN
Then go look in the mirror and tell yourself why this is happening.


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The first Robert slinks to the kitchen counter behind the arguing couple.
ROBERT 2 You still love me.
JEAN
Robert.
ROBERT 2 I know you do.
JEAN
Nobody loves you. You don't even you love you.
The second Robert's shoulders sink. He stands very still. Jean's face makes a mad sprint through anger, disgust, nervousness, and then arrives at concern.
JEAN (CONT)
We all try. You just... don't...
The second Robert wanders to the kitchen sink. He stares at the red marks on the back of his hand. He blinks to stave off tears. Jean starts to follow him. She almost makes it half the distance.
JEAN (CONT)
You have an unhealthy relationship with tragedy. That's me telling you that, Robert. You need help.
ROBERT 2
Stop.
JEAN
You can't keep this up.
ROBERT 2
Stop.
JEAN
The novelty wears off. Eventually we all need a happy ending.


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ROBERT 2 Stop talking!
JEAN
You could do so much, if you would j ust
ROBERT 2
Stop it! Just shut up and leave!
Jean purses her lips and turns away from Robert again. She grabs the suit case and pulls out its handle. She opens the front door.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
That's my jacket.
She glares at him. The first Robert puts a hand to his face and hides behind it. The second Robert tries not to break eye contact with her.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
It's my j acket.
JEAN
Right. I know.
She dumps her bag off her shoulder. The jacket comes off in over-exaggerated movements. She stares Robert down and chucks it onto the floor in front of him.
ROBERT 2
Thanks.
JEAN
Goodbye, Robert.
She scoops her bag off the floor, drags her suitcase with her, and slams the door shut behind her. The Roberts are left alone in the apartment. The first Robert lowers his hand and stares at his doppelganger.
The second Robert moves to pick his jacket up off of the floor. He cries into it. He screams and tries to tear the jacket in half. It remains intact. He throws it across the room, grabs the wine from the counter and takes a swig.


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The first Robert steps out of the way, as the second Robert throws the bottle at the floor. Wine and glass spread across the fake tiling. The second Robert falls to his knees. He curls up in the mess and sobs. The first Robert, sits on the couch and watches. He shifts uncomfortably. The lamp flickers and goes out.
Darkness. The sobbing continues for a moment and then all is quiet again.
INT. THE DARK ROOM BEETLEROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert sits in the darkness on his sofa. A dim oil light comes up ahead, revealing hardwood flooring and old wallpaper. Under the hazy lamplight, a toddler-sized BEETLE, early 30s, scrabbles around on its back. Voices sound from another room. Robert stands and walks slowly into the light. He approaches the creature with caution. It makes some CHITTERING noises and continues the struggle to get to its feet.
ROBERT
Hello?
Robert stands over the beetle. It seems to reach up to him with its spindly legs. It CHITTERS again. Robert kneels down and reaches a hand out toward the insect. It wobbles away from him.
ROBERT
Hey. It's okay.
The beetle calms down. Robert reaches out again and touches the beetle's carapace. He gently pulls the beetle over onto its feet. The beetle scurries around out of the light and back again. Robert stands up. The beetle comes to his side and gives a series of vocal CHIRPS.
ROBERT
You're welcome.
The beetle stomps around in little circles tossing its head about. Robert notices a lump on the beetle's back. He leans in to get a better look. Something waxy and red is lodged in the beetle's exoskeleton. The wound leaks a pale ichor.
ROBERT
Ouch.


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Robert reaches out. The beetle bristles but doesn't move away. Robert grabs the lump and pries it from the beetles back. It screams, if that's a thing that beetles can do, and cowers on the floor. Robert looks at the object in his hand. It's a rotten apple. He looks back to the beetle. Ichor wells up in the wound and spills down onto the floor.
ROBERT
Oh.
He plugs the hole up with the apple again. The beetle gives off a meager CHIRP. A VIOLIN begins playing in another room.
ROBERT
Sorry.
The beetle crawls away from Robert to a door that wasn't there before. Robert follows behind it, a few steps back. The beetle comes up to the door, which is open just a crack, and stares into the next room. Robert takes a place behind it and peeks through the small opening.
In the next room, a YOUNG WOMAN plays a MELANCHOLY SONG on her violin. An OLDER COUPLE watches her, one on either side. THREE BEARDED MEN stand in front of her.
The beetle tries to push through the door. Robert opens it a little, and the beetle slips into the next room. Robert reaches out to stop the insect.
ROBERT
(Whispering)
Hey. I don't-
The three men look at the woman's sheets of music, and start to lose interest. They pull away from the scene and shuffle over to a window. Robert retracts his arm when they begin to move. The beetle continues to pull itself into the room.
One of the men glances over as the beetle makes it to the center of the room. He furrows his brow and pats one of his partners on the shoulder. One of them laughs. The older man at the violinist's side takes notice.
Shit.
ROBERT


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Robert hides from sight against the wall as a commotion breaks out in the other room. Men argue, a violin FALLS to the floor, someone cries.
Robert takes a peek. Only the older couple and the violin woman are still in the room. They stand over the beetle and argue amongst themselves in German. Then, the beetle drags itself around. They go quiet. Robert hides from view again, as the beetle struggles back into the room.
It collapses a little ways in. Someone approaches and shuts the door. Robert can hear them BOLT and LOCK it. Robert and the beetle sit in the darkness. The beetle makes small weak movements. Robert crawls over to it and sits at its side. He puts a hand on its exoskeleton.
ROBERT
I'm sorry. I wish I could help.
It gives a small CHIRP. He curls up at the beetle's side. He falls asleep.
INT. THE DARK ROOM BEETLEROOM DAWN
A BELL TOLLS outside. Robert wakes from his sleep to see pale daylight coming in through a curtained window. At his side, a large dead beetle lays sprawled out on the hardwood floor.
Around him, stacked boxes and furniture fill the room.
Robert pulls out his watch. The hands are frozen now.
Someone loudly UNBOLTS the door. Robert sits up. The door swings open and TWO MEN in dark suits loom in the doorway. They stare at Robert. He stares back.
Man 1
Josef K?
ROBERT No. Robert.
The two men look at each other.
MAN 2
So, not Joseph then?


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ROBERT
No, my name's Robert.
They look at each other again. Man 1 shrugs.
MAN 1
Sir, you're going to have to come with us.
The men enter the room. Robert tries to crawl away from them, but they clamp their hands on his wrists and drag him along. He resists.
ROBERT
Hey! Stop! I said my name was Robert! You have the wrong person!
The men drag him out of the room.
ROBERT (CONT)
I haven't done anything!
INT. THE DARK ROOM CASTLE CELL DAY
Robert is pushed into a cell. He's still in his pajamas. He looks around. It's a small stonework room with a cot, a bucket, and a small desk. On the desk are a stack of papers, a familiar typewriter, and a portable TV. A speaker in an upper corner of the room blares.
SPEAKER Sit. Write.
Robert looks around and takes his seat at the desk.
SPEAKER (CONT)
Write.
Robert loads paper into the typewriter. He stares at the blank page.
SPEAKER (CONT)
Write!
ROBERT Write what?


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The TV turns on. On the small screen, Staggart wanders through a forest of burnt trees. He wears a gold and green battle garb.
ROBERT
Staggart?
Bresna is on the screen now, resting with her back against a blackened tree. She clutches at a stomach wound. She wears red and black.
Staggart comes into view. He doesn't notice Bresna. He leans on another dead tree and catches his breath.
ROBERT
Bresna. This is... my...
Bresna reaches in the weeds at her side for a pistol that she dropped. She raises it and aims at Staggart.
ROBERT
I wrote this.
Bresna breathes deeply. She whispers something. Staggart pushes off the tree and turns toward her. She FIRES.
ROBERT
Oh god.
A rosy-red hole splits through Staggart's face.
STAGGART (On TV)
Bresna?
He collapses. Bresna runs to him, jostling his corpse into her lap and sobbing. The image pauses.
SPEAKER
What happens next?
Robert stares at the screen. He runs a finger across the face of the sobbing Bresna.
SPEAKER
What happens next?


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ROBERT
I don't know.
SPEAKER
Write.
ROBERT
I don't...
SPEAKER
Write.
Robert taps at the keys.
INSERT WRITING
Robert writes: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I CAN'T FINISH THIS STORY."
BACK TO SCENE
The TV is playing again. Robert himself is on the screen now. He clutches a stomach wound and rests against a tree. Jean stumbles into view. She doesn't notice Robert. She leans on another dead tree and catches her breath. Robert reaches on the ground next to him for a gun. He points it at her.
ROBERT
This... what is this?
The Robert on the TV whispers to himself. Jean turns around. The gun FIRES. A rosy-red hole tears through Jean's face.
JEAN (On TV)
Robert?
ROBERT
What the fuck is this?!
The Robert on screen rushes to Jean. He holds her corpse and sobs.
SPEAKER
What happens next?
Robert stares at the TV screen. At himself.


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SPEAKER (CONT)
Write!
The TV replays Robert shooting and Jean getting hit.
ROBERT
Stop it! I don't know what happens next! I don't know!
A close-up shows the contents of Jean's skull running down her face.
ROBERT (CONT)
I don't know! I don't know!
Please, I'll write, just stop.
Please.
Robert taps at the keys.
INSERT WRITING
Robert writes: "BRESNA HOLDS STAGGART'S CORPSE. SHE TRIES TO PUT PIECES OF HIM BACK INTO THE HOLE IN HIS HEAD. SHE CAN'T FIX HIM. SHE CAN'T FIX HERSELF."
BACK TO SCENE
Robert stares at the page with teary eyes.
SPEAKER
What happens next?
ROBERT
Nothing. I don't want it to end like this.
On the TV, Staggart and Bresna are back. They stand side by side staring at Robert through the screen. Staggart still has the bullet hole in his head.
Write
SPEAKER
Robert scowls at the TV screen. He taps at the keys


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INSERT WRITING
He writes: "THE FLOOR OF THE CELL CRUMBLED AND A HOLE APPEARED. ROBERT ESCAPED."
BACK TO SCENE
The stone flooring of the cell CREAKS and then falls out. Robert holds onto the desk, as his chair falls back into the new hole in the floor. He drags the desk with him as he drops into the darkness.
INT. THE DARK ROOM TUNNEL DAY
Robert lands in a dark tunnel. Nothing from the cell has come with him. He gets to his feet and starts to dust himself off. Voices come from farther in the tunnel. The faint glow of fire come from ahead.
ROBERT
Great. More darkness.
He walks forward, keeping his footfalls as quiet as possible. He reaches a bend in the tunnel and sees two people sitting at a campfire. These are PANGLOSS and OLD WOMAN, both in their early 60s. Each one looks devastated by hardship. Their scars and stress-lines write stories across their skin.
ROBERT
Hello?
Pangloss spins around and almost falls over.
PANGLOSS
Who is that? Candide? Candide is that you?
ROBERT
Candide? No I'm Robert.
Robert walks into the firelight and Pangloss seems to calm down.
ROBERT (CONT)
I just fell down into this tunnel.
I'm not entirely sure what's going
on.


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The old woman reaches out for Robert's hand. He looks down at her. The binding of his wound has come off and it's bleeding again.
PANGLOSS
I'm not entirely sure myself, but don't worry, young man, it is sure to work out for the best.
The woman motions for Robert to sit beside her. He does. She reaches for a jug and pours water over Robert's wound. He winces as she pats at the wound with a rag.
ROBERT
Who are you people?
PANGLOSS
I am Pangloss, and this is... uh, she does have a name.
ROBERT
Pangloss.
PANGLOSS
Yes, you have heard of me? My name does hold some esteem in certain circles.
ROBERT
I'm not sure. You mentioned Candide earlier?
PANGLOSS
Ah, yes. Candide. Wonderful mind.
It's been some time since I've seen him.
Robert looks at the man with wonder. The lady stabs needle into his hand.
Ow!
ROBERT
She starts to stitch the wound.


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PANGLOSS
Yes, too long. I'm sure he'll be back soon though.
ROBERT
I think this is Voltaire.
PANGLOSS What was that?
ROBERT
I'm sorry, just, the things you're saying. Dr. Pangloss and Candide. That's Voltaire.
PANGLOSS
Voltaire.
ROBERT
Yeah. French writer during the Enlightenment.
PANGLOSS
I don't know that I follow.
ROBERT
I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't. PANGLOSS
Nonsense, I've discussed philosophy with great mind across the whole of Europe. You will not offend me.
ROBERT
It's just that. It's a book, you know? Ow. You are characters in a book.
PANGLOSS
(not quite paying attention)
I believe that we are the best of all people, living in the best of all worlds.


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ROBERT
Yeah, that's kinda your whole thing. It's sad though, don't you think? I mean you haven't had the best of all possible lives, right?
PANGLOSS
All happens for a reason in the best of all worlds, son.
ROBERT
You're not wrong, but Voltaire's "reason" was to make fun of your beliefs, to prove that you are ridiculously wrong.
PANGLOSS
Who is this Voltaire, again?
ROBERT
Your author. He wrote you as an optimist in a world that was slowly eating you alive. I mean look at yourself. It's kind of cruel.
Pangloss looks down at his rags of clothing. His withered arms. Tears are forming in his eyes.
PANGLOSS
A writer.
ROBERT
Yes. Candide: or, Optimism. I'm sorry. It's not really fair.
Pangloss is quiet. Robert tries to give a reassuring smile. Pangloss goes into convulsions. The old woman stops dressing the wound.
ROBERT
Oh my god, are you ok?
Robert crawls to the man's side. Pangloss seizes violently, frothing at the mouth.


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ROBERT
What's happening? What do I do?
The seizure stops. Pangloss lets out a whine. His body seems to ripple and then...
Pangloss implodes. He disappears into the air and a thin red mist spreads out.
ROBERT
What the fuck?!
The tunnel SHUDDERS and dirt rains from the ceiling. The old woman crawls away from Robert. He looks over at her.
ROBERT
No. No, I didn't do that.
She scrabbles to her feet and waddles away into the darkness where Robert came from.
ROBERT
Wait! Stop! Don't go that way. More dirt rains down.
ROBERT
Damn it.
Robert pulls the sewing needle from the loose thread in his hand and runs off in the other direction, further into the tunnel.
As he goes, the tunnel becomes more clearly man-made. Eventually Robert is running in a cement-cut sewage tunnel. He arrives at a bulky metal door with no visible handle. He BANGS on the door.
The tunnel THUDS behind him. A wind sends the torch flame flickering. Robert BANGS on the door louder.
ROBERT
Please, damn it. Someone open this door!
The concussive force of the collapsing tunnel ECHOES around Robert. The door opens and blinding light seeps out. A figure drags Robert into the room on the other side and slams the door closed.


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INT. THE DARK ROOM LIGHT ROOM NIGHT
Robert staggers into the glare of a thousand glowing lights. He has to squint against the brightness. The small room is wired from top to bottom with old filament lightbulbs. No corner holds a shadow. In the room, there sits a single chair, a mattress, and a beat-up gramophone. The figure moves past Robert and takes a seat in the chair.
As Robert adjusts to the lighting, the figure takes shape as a man. This is RALPH, an African American in his mid-30s, weary eyed after too-much time spent unseen. The gramophone by his feet PLAYS AN OLD LOUIS ARMSTRONG TUNE. He mutters something to himself.
ROBERT
Thank you for letting me in. You would not believe... well anyway, thanks.
RALPH
You cannot stay.
ROBERT
Excuse me?
RALPH
You can't be here.
ROBERT
Where do I go?
RALPH
Out. Avoid the rioting though. ROBERT
Rioting? Where are we?
RALPH
Here.
ROBERT
Who are you?
Ralph laughs to himself.


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ROBERT (CONT)
Look, I'm sure you have your own stuff going on, but you don't know what I've just been through. If you could just help me...
RALPH
You're a writer. You can't write. You're lost.
ROBERT
What?
RALPH
I'm invisible, not blind.
ROBERT
I don't understand.
RALPH
No, but what, you came down here for some sage advice from a black man?
ROBERT
I didn't.
RALPH
You can't find your own voice, and it's all hinging on you. Crisis.
Climax. Denouement.
Robert starts to say something, but nothing comes out.
RALPH (CONT)
You won't even see me, but what do you want? Me to peel the scabs off your eyes? Me to turn the lights on? Me to tell you that you're right?
ROBERT
No. Just. I just need to get back home. I need to write my novel.
RALPH
Then why don't you?


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ROBERT
I don't know how. I don't know where I am.
RALPH
You don't know how to write anymore?
ROBERT
No, I don't know how to get home. RALPH
You don't know how to write anymore.
ROBERT
No. I'm scared.
RALPH
Of what?
ROBERT
Of hurting someone. Myself.
Ralph lets out a loud laugh.
RALPH
Let the cannon grow a conscience.
ROBERT
What?
RALPH
Look, I can't help you. I'd say that nobody can, but I'm nobody and I can't.
The gramophone reaches the end of its song. VOICES and a COMMOTION sound from somewhere outside of the room.


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RALPH (CONT)
My advice to you is to give up for all our sake. You're never going to figure this out, but you'll waste all of our breath trying.
Flooding the airwaves with your two-bit existential drama while we suffocate in your stench.
ROBERT
Thanks.
RALPH
Doesn't it get old, all that guilt? All the losing sleep, just to feel more of it? You're not scared of hurting anyone, definitely not yourself. It's all you do.
Robert clenches his jaw and stares forward into space.
RALPH (CONT)
No, see? You're scared that someone figured you out, you and you're little dime-store trick.
ROBERT
Leave me alone.
Ralph smiles and puts the gramophone's needle back to the start of the record.
RALPH
You are alone Robert. All alone.
Robert turns away from Ralph, his eyes angry and wet with held-back tears. He makes his way to the door. The light bulbs begin POPPING around him. Louie's TRUMPET WARBLES as the room goes black behind him, leaving Ralph as first a silhouette, and then a dark shadow. Robert pushes the door open and walks out.
EXT. THE DARK ROOM CITY STREET NIGHT
The door opens into a little outdoor stairwell that leads up to street-level. From the street above, YELLING, GLASS BREAKING, and SIRENS sound into the night. Robert sneaks up the stairs. He peeks out onto the street.


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It's an urban area with residential properties and storefronts.
A swarm of activity consumes the block. POLICE WITH RIOT GEAR flank one end of the street and a CROWD OF AFRICAN AMERICANS fill the rest. Taunts are being yelled back and forth. People break into the stores, too far away for the police to intervene.
ROBERT
Shit.
Robert's position is a fair distance from the police line. He edges up the last of the stairs and moves onto the sidewalk. He keeps his head down.
RIOTER 1
Hey, man. Who the hell are you?
From behind Robert, a rioter moves to catch up to him. As the man approaches, Robert spins around.
ROBERT
I don't want trouble. I'm just trying to get home.
Robert trips over something as he tries to walk backwards. He falls to the ground. A riot cop notices Robert at the edge of the crowd with the rioter standing over him. He yells something, and some other cops circle to a vantage point.
Robert twists around and scrambles to get to his feet, trying to wave the cop away all the while.
ROBERT
No, no! It's alright! I'm okay!
The rioter turns on his heels.
RIOTER 1
Oh, fu
Police OPEN FIRE. The crowd turns into a stampeding mass. Robert dashes toward the officers waving his hands.
ROBERT
Stop shooting! Stop!


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The crowd splinters around him. Some descend upon the firing police officers. Others dash for safety. SCREAMS and GUNSHOTS melt into one.
A flash of white descends from a nearby rooftop and lands in front of Robert, causing him to stumble into a wall. A tall, muscular white man stands before him. This is THE KING. He's in his late-40s, but in a rugged, infinitely-youthful way. He's clad in an impressive array of white and blue, with a cape, spandex, and large letter "K" at the center of his chest.
THE KING
Never fear, The King is here.
The King reaches out a muscular arm. Robert is frozen in place and staring.
THE KING (CONT)
Come, citizen.
Robert reaches for the arm. The King pulls Robert up to his feet.
THE KING
Do not worry, citizen. You're safe with me.
ROBERT
Who are you?
THE KING
The King.
As the man says this he turns back to the rioters. His eyes glow with a radiant white light. He begins to shoot great beams of it toward the rioters. Where the beams hit human targets, people seem to disintegrate, leaving sparks and cinders behind.
Robert watches for a second, mouth agape. He tries to shove The King hard. The man doesn't budge, but he turns his attention to Robert.
ROBERT
What the fuck are you doing?! THE KING
Maintaining the peace.


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ROBERT
You're killing people!
THE KING
I'm eliminating threats.
The King gives Robert a disarming grin and pats him on the head.
THE KING (CONT)
It's okay, you're hysteric.
Perfectly understandable. Let's get you somewhere safe.
The King fiddles with a large watch-like gadget on one of his wrists. It BUZZES static. A voice comes from it.
VOICE
What are your orders, sir?
THE KING
Assemble, my knights. Clean up the rabble while I escort this victim to safety.
VOICE
Yes, sir! You can count on us.
A commotion breaks out past the dwindling police line. A group of five colorfully clad, MULTI-ETHNIC NINJAS enter the fray.
They punch and kick and flip, shouting encouragement to each other as they do so. The rioters become fodder for their kung-fu antics.
Robert shakes his head. The King offers his hand again. When Robert doesn't respond to the gesture, The King wraps his arm around him and pulls Robert in tight.
ROBERT
Wait!
The King takes off into the air with Robert. They fly away.
EXT. THE DARK ROOM LOFT DAY
The King lands them on the balcony of an expensive loft. Robert falls to his knees as soon as The King releases him. The King


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doesn't help him up, but walks toward the large glass doors leading in.
THE KING
Come on. Let's get a drink into you.
Robert rises to his feet as The King enters the loft. Robert looks out at the city below. The loft is some fifty stories up. From this height, the city looks to be in chaos. Fires and smoke mar the cityscape. Robert stares for a moment and then follows The King inside.
INT. THE DARK ROOM LOFT CONTINUOUS
Robert looks around at the expensive loft. It has floor-to-ceiling windows, an enormous couch facing an enormous TV, and, at the center of the room, a marble statue of The King himself.
The King is at a self-service bar, preparing two scotches. He hands a glass to Robert who takes it reflexively.
ROBERT
Who do you think you are?
THE KING
I'm The King, defender of all.
The King walks into another room with his scotch.
ROBERT
All?
THE KING (OS)
Sure !
ROBERT
I just watched you kill eight people.
THE KING (OS)
Sure !
ROBERT
I'm connecting dots. I don't think that you are.


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The King comes back into the room dressed in a silk robe. He has a thick mustache on his lip now as well.
THE KING
Nothing to connect. I make the world a better place.
ROBERT
You killed innocent people.
The King laughs.
THE KING
I saved you. What have you ever done?
ROBERT
I'm a writer.
THE KING He's a writer!
ROBERT
I don't kill people.
THE KING
Don't you?
ROBERT Not real people.
THE KING
Oh. Right. I can see how that's different.
ROBERT
I'm pretty sure you're a racist.
THE KING I'm a hero.
ROBERT
You're conceited.
THE KING I'm a hero.


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ROBERT
You're a fascist.
THE KING I'm a fucking hero.
The King's scotch glass shatters in his clenched fist. Blood drips down. Robert backs up a step. The King laughs.
THE KING (CONT)
A writer! So tell me then, Mr.
Writer, what great, selfless, humanitarian act do you accomplish in your writing?
ROBERT
That's not the point.
THE KING
What is "the point"?
ROBERT
I tell stories.
THE KING
Oh, I see. You're in it for the craft.
ROBERT
No, I just like it.
THE KING
Just a flight of fancy then.
The King slaps his bloody palm onto a nearby wall. He presses it there until the drywall starts to buckle. Rivulets of red tumble down the white paint.
THE KING
See, the way I see it, Robert:
You're trying to backtrack. You scared yourself, you egotist. You know that I'm you. This is all you.
He takes his hand off the wall and holds it out to Robert.
Robert holds out his own torn palm, hanging string still halfway


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closing the wound. A little trickle of blood drips down the string.
THE KING (CONT)
Robert, trying to hold on to his pedigree! "I write to tell stories." You liar! You solipsistic ingrate, I love you!
Robert clenches the wounded hand into a fist and stares down The King. He takes a step forward.
THE KING (CONT)
Alright! I'm a racist. A fascist.
A self-righteous vigilante. I'll own all of it, Robert, if you will. But don't flutter those pretty eyelashes at me and pretend you're innocent.
The King moves toward Robert. Robert takes another step forward.
THE KING (CONT)
Or that you haven't lost yourself in pandering conceit. I've watched you! Alone. At a typewriter. One man against the world. Write away the pain, Robert. Write away.
The two men are within breathing-distance of each other. Robert grits his teeth. The King's eyes glow with white light again.
ROBERT
I want to change.
The world outside the loft disappears into darkness.
THE KING
You won't. You love this.
The lights in the apartment begin to flicker.
ROBERT
I am going to change.
THE KING
I'm not.


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The lights go out, except for one directly above the two men.
ROBERT You have to.
The King's eyes begin to flicker. They go out. He yelps. Robert puts a hand on The King's shoulder and easily pushes the man down to his knees. The King grunts, trying to withstand Robert's new strength. His muscles deflate. He sinks to the floor, a scrawny, emaciated thing. He laughs. The light goes out.
THE KING
Way to change, Robert.
INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS
Darkness. An orb of light rises from a dark horizon. Robert can see shadowy grass at his feet. Color sweeps across the sky.
EXT. THE DARK ROOM BURNT FOREST DAWN
Robert is in a forest of blackened trees. They stick out of the ground like matches burnt on one end. The sun above moves in a steady line toward the opposite horizon. In front of him, Bresna holds the corpse of Staggart. She paws at his bloodied face, in shock.
ROBERT
Bresna.
She swivels around, pistol still in hand. She FIRES a round at Robert. It doesn't hit.
ROBERT (CONT)
Woah! Hold on!
Bresna sizes him up through glossy eyes.
BRESNA Who are you?
ROBERT
I'm... It doesn't matter.
BRESNA
What do you want?


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ROBERT
To help.
BRESNA
You can't.
ROBERT
I can.
He comes over to Bresna and the dead Staggart. He kneels beside them.
ROBERT (CONT)
I'm so sorry that this happened.
BRESNA
I did it. It was me.
ROBERT
I know. But, it wasn't.
BRESNA
I hated him. I really thought I could hate him.
ROBERT
It wasn't your fault.
BRESNA
I killed him.
Robert puts his wounded hand over the hole in Staggart's head. Bresna watches. Robert closes his eyes. The KEYS OF A TYPEWRITER sound. A DING. Staggart opens his eyes. The hole is gone.
STAGGART
Nnnngh.
BRESNA
He's...
ROBERT
I'm sorry. It's okay now.
BRESNA
How?


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ROBERT
Don't worry about it. It's a whole thing.
Staggart is staring up at Bresna. He smiles. She hugs him tight against her. She pulls Robert into the hug as well.
ROBERT (CONT)
Woah.
She laughs and lets Robert fall back. Robert smiles for the first time. Bresna and Staggart share a small kiss.
BRESNA
Thank you.
Robert's eyes widen. He smiles back tears.
BRESNA (CONT)
You're a miracle. I don't know how we can ever repay you.
ROBERT
No. I'm. It's better like this.
Bresna smiles at him. She stands and helps Staggart to his feet.
BRESNA
We need to get distance from your men.
Staggart bites into his lip and nods. They start to walk, but Bresna winces. Robert stands up.
ROBERT
Right, I'm sorry. Hold on.
He holds his hand to Bresna's stomach wound. She shares a look of awe with Staggart. TYPEWRITER SOUND again. A DING. Robert's hand lowers to reveal healthy skin.
STAGGART Who are you?
Robert looks from one to the other. He smiles at the ground.


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ROBERT I'm... Robert.
He hears the couple laugh from farther off. He looks up to see that they are disappearing into the matchstick forest. The sun above reaches the other horizon, and the forest around him becomes dark and formless again.
INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert is alone in the darkness. A glowing light grows in front of him. It reveals another door from his apartment building, number "404" this time. Robert pushes the door open.
INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
Robert walks into another clean version of his apartment. He hears arguing from the other room. He walks toward the sound.
INT. THE DARK ROOM BEDROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert comes up to the doorway to find the bedroom arranged as it was before. A half-packed suitcase is on the bed. A second Robert paces alongside. Across from him is a cardboard cutout of Jean frowning.
ROBERT 2
You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything.
The room is silent for a moment. The first Robert sighs and backs up against the wall.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
That's a ridiculous analogy.
You're making ridiculous analogies for effect.
ROBERT
What are you doing?
ROBERT 2
Don't do that. Don't be a bitch.
No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-look, Frances.


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ROBERT
Robert.
ROBERT 2
I can't even talk to you!
ROBERT
Robert!
ROBERT 2
Stop!
The first Robert enters the room. He approaches the second Robert.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Jean, stop. Jean. Jean!
The second Robert reaches for the suitcase flap and holds it half-closed.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Please, Jean.
The first Robert puts his hand over the other Robert's hand. The second Robert pushes the flap shut and recoils from the suitcase.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
Holy fuck! Are you serious?
The second Robert staggers around the bed, pushes the first out of his way, and zips up the suitcase. He grabs Jean's cut-out in one arm and the suitcase in the other and storms out of the room.
The first Robert sighs and runs a hand across his face. He sits on the edge of the bed and listens to the second Robert arguing alone in the living room.
ROBERT 2 (OS)
Please, Jean, just talk to me. I love you so much. I'm so sad. Remember when I took you to that writer's retreat? You saw me there. It's just the process, you know?


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ROBERT 2 (CONT)
It drives me a bit crazy. I can't lose you. I don't want to lose you!
The first Robert drags himself off the bed and into the living room.
INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
The second Robert has set up the cut-out of Jean between the suitcase and the over-night bag. The first Robert edges toward him.
ROBERT 2
Look, I'll stop writing. That's fine! I'll take a break or whatever. I'm sure the publishers will be fine with that. We can spend more time together. It can be like when we first met. I love you. Please, Jean, I love you.
The first Robert puts an arm over the second Robert's shoulder. The second Robert looks at him, dazed. The first Robert leads him over to the couch.
ROBERT 2 (CONT)
You' re...
ROBERT
Yeah. Look, you gotta stop doing this to yourself.
The second Robert pushes away, as the first tries to sit him down. The second Robert heads to the kitchen where the Malbec sits. He paces.
ROBERT (CONT)
We can't keep this up.
ROBERT 2
Nobody loves me. The novelty wears off. I'm a hack. Stop it! Just shut up and leave!


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ROBERT
Robert, stop.
ROBERT 2
That's my jacket.
The second Robert looks puzzled. There is no jacket in the scene. He shakes his head and staggers to the cut-out of Jean.
He trips over himself a little as he carries the cut-out and the bags to the door. He opens the door and tosses it all into the hallway outside. He slams it shut.
ROBERT
Come on.
The second Robert returns to the kitchen. The first Robert follows. The second Robert stands at the counter staring at the Malbec. The first Robert puts a hand on his shoulder.
ROBERT (CONT)
This doesn't need to be a tragedy.
The second Robert fastens a hand around the neck of the wine bottle.
ROBERT (CONT)
You get to write the ending to this story, remember?
The second Robert grips the bottle with a white knuckled fist.
ROBERT (CONT)
People change. We can change.
The second Robert SMASHES the bottle repeatedly into the countertop. Wine and glass spread across it. The second Robert crumples against the counter, crying.
The first Robert watches his other curl up against the cabinets under the countertop. The first Robert lowers himself to the floor and sits with his back against the counter. He sighs and runs his finger through the hair of the other Robert.
ROBERT (CONT)
It's okay. It's going to be okay.


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The second Robert calms down. The first Robert settles his hand in the other Robert's hair. He rests his head back against the cabinets.
ROBERT (CONT)
I'm sorry.
The sophisticated lamp dims and goes out. Darkness. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY
Robert wakes up in the kitchen of his messy apartment. Glass covers the floor. A mostly broken bottle of bourbon lies next to him. He groans.
Robert makes his way to his feet somehow. He has to squint against the bright daylight spilling into the room from the window.
ROBERT
Fuck.
Robert scratches his ass and stumbles off toward the bathroom. He passes a wall with a small rusty blood splotch on it.
INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert looks at himself in the mirror. He inhales and exhales, inhales and exhales. He makes a quick shuffle to the toilet, where he throws up.
Robert spits into the toilet and flushes. He goes to the mirror and watches himself again. Turns the faucet on and takes a sip. He swizzles it around in his mouth. Spits into the sink. Takes a drink. Splashes some on his face. He stares at himself in the mirror once more.
There is a noticeable lack of camera men. Robert looks to the corner of the mirror. He leans in close to see from an angle. Nothing. Robert freezes. He dashes into the living room.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS
Robert swings around to face the very plain wall of his apartment with its small blood splotch. He's breathing heavily. He walks up to it and places his hand against it. He knocks with a fist. Pushes against it.


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He goes to stand in the center of the room. Stares at the giant hole that isn't in his wall. He inspects his wounded palm. The wound doesn't look very healthy, but it's half-sealed by a stitched thread that hangs loose. Robert nods. He follows ideas with his eyes.
Robert swivels around in place. His typewriter sits on the couch. He scoops it up and does a quick reorder of his desk. He sits down. He starts writing.
MONTAGE:
-Robert tapping at the keys of the typewriter.
-Words filling up white paper.
-Roll pushed over. Working its way back. DING.
-Robert whips the page out of the roll and feeds a new one in. -Robert sets his first full page down.
-The world from the window speeds by. The sun goes up and down. A nest forms on the opposite balcony.
-Robert drinks a glass of water.
-The stack of pages is at about 10.
-Robert fills a glass of water.
-The stack is at 25.
-Robert drinks another glass of water.
-The type hits the page.
-A phone call from Mo is ignored.
-The stack is at 40.
-Daylight is back.
-The typewriter gives another DING.
-Robert is peeing in the toilet.


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-Robert places the final page on the stack. A little over 50 pages now.
-Robert feeds the pages into an orange envelope and smiles.
-Robert deposits his envelope into a post office box outside.
The envelope is addressed to "GOLD TREE PUBLISHING".
-Robert stands in the center of his apartment and gives a triumphant sigh.
END OF MONTAGE
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY
Robert flops down on the messy floor at the center of the living room. He's all smiles. He breathes in the stale air and closes his eyes. The sunlight sweeps by outside and turns to night.
EXT. GRASSY FIELD DAY DREAM
Robert opens his eyes. He's on his back in an endless green field. The wind gently blows the grass and it seems to breathe because of this. Robert sits up and looks around. He smiles as wind tussles his hair. Staggart and Bresna approach from the swaying grass. He waves and they wave back.
BRESNA
Robert!
ROBERT
Hey, you two! What do you think?!
STAGGART
It's brilliant Robert!
BRESNA
The perfect story.
They skip through the grass around him.
ROBERT
My publishers are going to kill me !


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BRESNA
They'll understand!
STAGGART
What's not to understand?
ROBERT Bad writing!
Robert laughs. He doesn't hear the couple laughing, so he turns around. He's alone in the field. The grass around him is brittle and dead. The dead spot spreads, green grass turns yellow and then grey. Robert's smile wavers. He stands.
In the dead grass ahead of him is a thick mattress. It's covered in colorful sheets and thick pillows. Jean is lying on it, pale as death and with a trickle of vomit running from her mouth to a small puddle beneath her head. Her eyes are open and stare at Robert, unblinking.
JEAN
Where's my happy ending, Robert?
Robert is still trying to smile.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
Daylight sweeps into night again from the window and Robert sits up. His apartment is all dark shadows. A sound comes from his front door. A KEY SCRATCHING at the lock.
ROBERT
Jean?
The door unlocks and opens. Mo is standing in the light of the hallway. He takes in Robert's apartment.
MO
Holy shit.
ROBERT
Mo?
Mo catches sight of Robert on the floor. He stomps over.
ROBERT (CONT)
You have a key?


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MO
Damn it, I should have known you wouldare you okay Robert? How much did you take? I'll call an ambulance.
ROBERT
What? No, I'm fine.
Mo already has his phone out.
ROBERT (CONT)
Mo! I'm fine. Really.
Mo gives him an incredulous look-over.
ROBERT (CONT)
I'm better than fine actually.
MO
You do look sort of... happy.
ROBERT
I think I am.
MO
Maybe I should call that ambulance.
Robert laughs and gets to his feet with a hand up from Mo. He dusts himself off.
ROBERT
Sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out.
MO
Yeah, well maybe try answering a phone call once in a while. Wouldn't hurt. It's been a week.
ROBERT
Has it?


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MO
Do you own a calendar? Never mind, don't answer that.
ROBERT
I got distracted.
MO
Distracted?
ROBERT
Yeah.
MO
Great. It's not done is it?
ROBERT
It is .
MO
God, what am I going to tell them this time Robert?
ROBERT
Mo. It's done.
MO
They'11 string us upwhat?
ROBERT
I turned in the manuscript yesterday.
Mo stares at Robert with a dumb look plastered over his face.
MO
When?
ROBERT
Morning.
MO
Shit. Seriously? Is it good?


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ROBERT (laughs)
Yeah, actually. Really good. My best yet. I think.
MO
Really?
ROBERT
Mo. I actually feel good about this. For the first time in months. It's perfect.
MO
That's... amazing.
Mo takes a deep breath and laughs. He has to steady himself on a nearby pile of books.
MO (CONT)
I really thought it was over for us.
ROBERT
Me too.
Mo almost says something, but instead he grabs Robert and pulls him into a tight hug.
MO
You're a mess, Robert, but I love you.
Robert pats Mo's shoulder.
ROBERT
I love you too buddy.
Mo pulls back and blinks away misty eyes. He punches Robert in the arm.
MO
We should celebrate!
Robert smiles. He looks around his mess of an apartment and laughs.


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ROBERT
Please, anything to get me out of this shit hole.
Mo spins around on his heels.
MO
To alcohol!
Robert collects his jacket from the sofa
ROBERT
Actually, Mo. I'm thinking I'm going to try the whole sober thing for a little while.
Mo is startled. He looks at Robert like a crazy person.
MO
What happened to you?
ROBERT
I think I had an epiphany.
MO
Well. Whatever. I need to get drunk.
ROBERT (laughs)
Alright. Let's go get you drunk.
Mo walks out into the hallway. Robert follows. He stares back into his apartment as he goes. Jean's body stares at him from the floor, framed in the little rectangle of light from the doorway. She mouths the same words at him. His smile tightens. He closes the door. Shadows consume the room again.
On the counter, the phone RINGS. It's Gold Tree publishing. The call goes to the machine.


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TRISHA (message)
Robert. Call as soon as you get this. Your manuscript arrived today. We... we need tojust call as soon as you receive this message.
We'll try your cell too. And Mo's.
Goodbye.
The phone light leaves the room in darkness.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
It's early in the morning, still dark outside. Robert opens the front door and steps into the apartment. He doesn't turn on the light. He wanders across the CRUNCHING glass and crumpled paper to the blinking phone.
He plays Trisha's message and stares out the window. He grabs a glass from the drying rack. He holds it out over the floor. Loosens his grip. Before it falls though, Robert grabs the glass once more. He returns it to the rack. He chuckles to himself.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT LATER
The phone rings in its dock. Robert is still standing next to it, staring out the window. On the opposite balcony the impressive hawk sits in a large nest. The smooth tops of a number of eggs shimmer in the morning light. Robert sighs and answers the phone.
ROBERT
Good morning Trisha. I heard that you got the manuscript.
TRISHA
Robert, I would rather not have this conversation over the phone. We have you and your agent penciled in for a four o'clock today. Does that work?
ROBERT
I don't see why not. Sure. We'll be there.


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TRISHA
Good. Robert... Well, talk to you later then.
ROBERT Can't wait.
Robert waits for her to hang up. He dials Mo's number into the phone and listens to it RING. Mo answers with a groan.
MO
Robert, I feel like crap. What do you want?
ROBERT
Mo, we have a meeting at the publishing house at four.
MO
Today? Shit.
ROBERT
Yeah, their moving fast on this thing. Eager to get it out probably.
MO
Huh. Yeah. I think I got a message from them last night. I might have deleted it on accident.
ROBERT
No worries. I'll see you there.
MO
Gross. Yeah. I need aspirin.
Mo hangs up. Robert returns the phone to the dock. He closes his eyes. Tries to smile.
INT. "GOLD TREE" FRONT DESK DAY
Robert walks into an ornate lobby for Gold Tree's offices. A large front desk holds floral arrangements and a number of the publisher's prized texts. Mo is already at the front desk, pacing. A BEMUSED ASSISTANT watches Mo go back and forth. Mo looks at Robert as he approaches.


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MO
Thank god! What the fuck is this Robert? Everybody's acting like there's a funeral.
ROBERT
I'm sure it's fine. Are they ready for us?
ASSISTANT
I'll let them know that you're here, Mr. Oliver.
The assistant walks off.
MO
Why does it feel like there's going to be a blood sacrifice?
ROBERT You're hungover.
MO
You haven't told me something.
The assistant waves over the two men from a doorway into a nearby conference room. Robert shrugs at Mo and goes to the conference room. Mo follows after.
INT. MEETING ROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert and Mo shuffle into the conference room and the door is closed behind them. They face three imposing figures sitting at the far end of a long conference table. From left to right they are TRISHA, ABEL, and ASIA. Each gives off the aura of eternal youth. They watch Robert and Mo as the two men find seats at the table.
TRISHA
I suppose you know why we wanted to meet with you today?
MO
Actually


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ROBERT
Sure.
ABEL
Your manuscript, Robert...
ROBERT
Go on.
ASIA
We're not sure how to take it.
Trisha pushes the small stack pages onto the tablespace between the three publishers.
MO
Robert, what is that?
TRISHA
You can understand how we might not be very happy with this.
ROBERT
Sure. It's hard to be happy. I understand. Just take it as is.
MO
Robert, what it that?
ASIA
It's a little insulting in fact. MO
Robert!
ROBERT
That's my manuscript.
MO
What?
ABEL
Mr. Naifeh, it seems your client has not communicated his intentions here to anyone.


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Mo just stares at the thin stack of papers and sinks into his puffy office chair.
ROBERT
My intentions were to write the ending to my story.
MO
What did you do, Robert?
ABEL
We cannot accept these pages as they are. In them, you have essentially written an epilogue to your entire series in which you rewrite the ending of your last book and then categorically tie off every plot thread like a bad fairy tale. This level of craft does not fit with the quality expected of our brand.
ROBERT
Oh, whatever. You sound like a bad rejection letter. I got you your damned pages.
MO
Robert, shut up. Just shut the fuck up!
ROBERT
Mo...
MO
No, shut up. It's pretty clear what's happened here. I can't believe you let me... congratulate you. You're sick, Robert.
ROBERT
None of you understand. You're all so god damned pathetic. You don't know what I've done here, what I've been through.


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ASIA
Robert, you've written eight bestsellers, you don't get to decide what you've done.
ROBERT
This is my story!
Everyone watches Robert as he stands angrily from the conversation.
ROBERT (CONT)
It's my story.
TRISHA
Robert, we understand if this is a lot for you to handle right now.
Let's wrap this up, before things get too heated.
ABEL
Our response at this point, to this manuscript, is obviously no.
We will be in touch, Robert, when you're feeling more reasonable.
Mo has his face in his hands. Robert flings his chair over and storms out of the room.
TRISHA
We're sorry Mohammad. You understand...
Mo takes his hands away from his face. He kind of nods, and then stands up and rushes out.
INT. "GOLD TREE" FRONT DESK CONTINUOUS
Robert tears across the room, straight for the exit. Mo comes out after him.
MO
Robert! Don't you dare just leave on me !
Robert swivels and glares at Mo. Mo more than returns it in kind.


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MO (CONT)
I can't believe you let me walk in their like that.
ROBERT
Mo, fuck them. They don't get it. MO
Get what, Robert? That you've lost your mind. We're all right there on that page with you!
ROBERT
You can't be on their side!
MO
There is no other side.
ROBERT
You have to stick up for my writing.
MO
What writing? We've all been waiting for a book, and you turn in a paperweight.
ROBERT
It's well-written. It's important. MO
I don't even care, but it sure as hell doesn't sound like it.
ROBERT
Fuck you, Mo. You're just like them.
MO
Be careful, Robert.
Robert searches Mo for any sign of a friend.
MO (CONT)
I knew it was too good to be true. When did you stop being a miracle worker?


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ROBERT
I was never a miracle worker, Mo.
You're all blind, I can't fix that.
Mo laughs. He bites a white knuckled fist and shakes his head. A little BEEPING ALARM goes off on both Robert's phone and Mo's.
Mo laughs harder this time, tearing up either because of it or despite it.
MO
The book reading is in two hours.
ROBERT
Great.
MO
I guess it doesn't matter.
ROBERT
I'll be there.
MO
Why?
ROBERT
Because this isn't over, Mo.
MO
Whatever you say, Robert.
ROBERT
I still have my audience.
MO
It's at six Robert. Just, be there on time. At the very least. Don't make me look bad. Worse.
Robert nods. Mo shakes his head. He sulks over to a nearby chair and collapses into it. Robert watches him for a moment, but then leaves the building.


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EXT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT
Robert walks up to the warmly-lit storefront of the bookstore. Premature Christmas lights glitter in an array of colors above him and window displays advertise best-sellers and intriguing reads. Past these window displays, the lobby appears cluttered with PATRONS sitting in foldout chairs. They all stare forward at an empty podium.
Robert takes a deep breath and pushes the large front doors open.
INT. BOOKSTORE CONTINUOUS
The lobby of the bookstore is set up with some thirty or so chairs for the reading. Scattered around this seating arrangement are display stands with Robert's novels prominently featured. Behind the podium several more chairs are set up for bookstore staff, although Mo sits here as well.
As soon as Robert pushes into the bookstore, the seated patrons turn to stare at him. The room is silent. Their eager eyes follow him as he makes his way down a center aisle in the seating. They begin to rise and CLAP as Robert approaches the front of the seating. Mo shoots him a glare. He offers a meager smile in return and takes his place at the podium.
ROBERT
Um. Hello.
The crowd is still standing and CLAPPING. He motions for them to sit. Immediately the crowd stops clapping and sits.
ROBERT (CONT)
Hi. Everyone.
Murmurs of hello sound from the crowd.
ROBERT (CONT)
Sorry I'm late. Um. Well, I would like to thank you all for coming out here tonight. I have a few selections here that I would love to read for you, so since I've already wasted enough of your time let's get started, shall we?


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The audience CLAPS again. Robert searches through papers in his shoulder bag. The applause dies. He pulls out a thick hardcover book and THUMPS it onto the podium. Robert thumbs through pages of the novel. Some MURMURS sound in the silence.
ROBERT (CONT)
I know most of you are probably here because of my Dance of Old Elements series.
The crowd's murmurs become excited APPLAUSE. Mo watches the crowd's energy with guilt and envy.
ROBERT (CONT)
I want to apologize because many of you have been patiently awaiting the next book in the series, after some minor delays.
It's my pleasure to inform you, that I met with my publishers just a couple hours before this to finalize the manuscript.
Members of the audience stand and CLAPPING resumes. Some sporadic CHEERING makes its way into the applause. Mo sinks in his chair.
ROBERT (CONT)
So to celebrate this, and kind of remind us where we are in the series, I thought I'd read from the latest installment, Old Xenon's Poison. Um, let's try page fifty-one.
Rustling pages.
ROBERT
Well, you know. Not a lot happens at this point.
Robert chuckles nervously


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ROBERT
Maybe let's move ahead to page one-seventy-six. Here we have one of the sweeter moments in the book, between our star-crossed lovers, Staggart and Bresna.
INT. DINING HALL NIGHT
The interior of a dining hall in a stonework fortress glows with light from a dying fire. Bresna is lying on a large oaken bench, staring into the glowing embers. Staggart comes from another room and approaches the fire. Robert narrates the action
ROBERT (VO)
She pressed her back into the wooden bench, smiling to herself when Staggart failed to notice her. He sat just ahead of her, on the floor, and worked the fire.
Bresna watches Staggart pass by. She smiles as he sits in front of her, unaware. She slips off the bench quietly and approaches Staggart from behind.
ROBERT (VO)
Embers danced upward into the stonework chimney and across the floor. Bresna slid off the bench, trying to mask her movements with the crackling of the fire.
She reaches out a hand and Staggart bristles. He jumps and almost draws a knife.
ROBERT (VO)
She was right behind him, could see his muscles tense as she reached out a hand. Staggart grabbed for the knife at his belt.
BRESNA
Staggart.
Staggart relaxes and grins as he recognizes her.


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ROBERT (VO)
His hand fell away from the blade and he turned, a wry grin forming across his face.
STAGGART
I think I could have gotten my knife out
BRESNA
Liar. You're so dead.
STAGGART
You wouldn't have stabbed deep enough. I was already turning and you would've been disarmed by my rugged charm.
Bresna laughs and shoves him a bit as she sits alongside him.
ROBERT (VO)
Bresna laughed and sat beside him.
They stared quietly into the fire.
She leaned her head against his shoulder.
She leans her head against his shoulder. She takes the fire poker and moves around some of the logs.
ROBERT (VO)
Taking the stick from him, she prodded at the blackened logs. He watched her movements, slow, tired, relaxed.
STAGGART I missed you.
Bresna smiles.
ROBERT (VO)
She smiled and embers popped across their skin.
BRESNA
I missed fireplaces.


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Staggart smiles down at the ground. They sit for a moment.
ROBERT (VO)
Staggart flinched and grinned at the ground.
STAGGART
I guess this is peace.
ROBERT (VO)
She looked up at him, he down at her. Shadows danced sad waltzes across their features.
The two characters gaze into each other's eyes.
ROBERT (VO)
They might have kissed if the gunshots and screams from the sleeping quarters hadn't stopped them.
A couple GUNSHOTS go off in a distant room. They tear away from each other and jerk their heads in the direction of the sound. A long SCREAM. Staggart's grin fade
INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT
Robert reaches the end of the selection and stops. He has teary eyes, and tries to blink them away. He looks at his audience, eager faces. They seem to show genuine concern. Love even.
ROBERT
Sorry, teared up there. It's not really my night I guess. I'm just going to skip ahead a bit. The next piece is on page three-sixty-three. Um. "The moon's pale light shone down on the Veriat forces.
Their faces..."
Robert looks at his audience ready for bloodshed.
ROBERT (CONT)
"Their faces glowed as they crept through the long-grass. The first echoes of battle-horns warbled


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across the plains, much more the calls of a wounded animal than the beginnings of war."
Robert frowns at the page.
INSERT PAGE
Robert's eyes flit across the page finding words: "FIRE,
SMEARED, SCREAMING, DEAD, STABBED, CRUSHING, BROKEN, BLOODIED, LIMB, SLIT, SCARED, RED."
The SOUNDS OF BATTLE sneak in from somewhere. Screams and clashes of metal. Gunshots.
BACK TO SCENE
Robert looks up from the page with big, scared eyes. His audience is in battle garb. Armor and Kevlar, guns and blades. Robert blinks and flips away from the page.
ROBERT
Let's just move on. How about page thirty-five. Sorry, four-thirty five.
The audience is normal again, but they look flustered. They flip to the new page. Mo is hiding his face behind his hand.
ROBERT
You know what? Fuck it. Let's just skip ahead to five-eighty-two shall we? Get this over with.
Mo is red in the face, his jaw is tightly clenched. Members of the audience exchange glances and shrugs.
ROBERT
We all know what's happening here, right? Everything's awful, irrecoverably broken. Half of Staggart's family have been executed, and the other half remain unaccounted for.
People shift in their seats. Robert smiles at them sadly.


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ROBERT (CONT)
Meanwhile, Bresna has been wounded and left for dead under the carcasses of her own soldiers. The two manage to escape the battlefield, and the forces of the universe pull them together for one final meeting. Oh right, spoilers.
The crowd is tense, watching Robert as he watches them. He nods. EXT. BURNT FOREST DAWN
Bresna is breathing in deep, painful gasps. She clutches a wound at her side. She falls back against a blackened tree stump and slides down it. Robert narrates.
ROBERT (V.O.)
She fell against the blackened stump of the matchstick tree and lowered herself down against it.
Every breath tore at her; every swell of her lungs pulled in ice air and stinging agony.
She pulls at tabs in her vest and closes her eyes.
ROBERT (VO)
She loosened her vest and closed her eyes. Concentrating on each breath, she tried to think away the pain. Instead, she heard footsteps approaching.
FOOTSTEPS sound in the leaves nearby. Bresna tenses and presses against the tree. She breathes carefully.
ROBERT (VO)
A rustle of dead, burnt leaves.
She flattened herself, as much as possible, against the stump behind her and the ground beneath her.
Bresna reaches for her pistol, in the grass and weed to her side. She waits.


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ROBERT (VO)
She reached for the pistol that she had discarded amongst the weeds at her side. Then, gripping it tightly to her body, Bresna waited.
A figure comes into view. It's Staggart, weary from running. Bresna grimaces.
ROBERT (VO)
When he came into view, she immediately recognized him.
Staggart, with the burns on his scalp, and the sharp nose, and that loping gait like a clumsy lion. He was breathless after endless running; a whole life spent running.
Staggart rests against a tree. Bresna eyes him. It's almost love, her gaze, not quite.
ROBERT (VO)
He put a hand against another matchstick tree and tried to catch his breath, but it was slippery and too far away. Bresna wanted to believe that she could hate him, and she raised her pistol.
She raises her pistol. It shakes in her hand as she aims it at him.
ROBERT (VO)
Walten, Heidrech, Stoldt, Bremwicz. She tried to remember the faces of the men she had watched face torture and death at the hands of Staggart's troops. She had to believe that if he saw her, he would shoot first. But still, she found herself whispering into the morning...


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BRESNA
Staggart.
Staggart tenses and turns to look at her.
ROBERT (VO)
He whipped around, startled and still clutching his own pistol.
She waited longer than she should have before she pulled the trigger; just long enough for him to see her crumpled against her tree.
His eyes widen in recognition. Her finger pulls the trigger.
INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT
There is an audible sigh from the audience. Robert's signal that his writing has stirred something in them. He looks at them with hatred. He continues.
EXT. BURNT FOREST DAWN
Bresna's gun FIRES its shot. A bullet hole tears through Staggart's forehead.
ROBERT (V.O.)
Her shot rang through the dead trees, but her bullet splintered into the wood at Staggart's side.
It had gone wide. Perhaps she hadn't aimed it. She couldn't remember.
INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT
Audience members share looks of confusion as Robert goes off script. Mo stares at Robert, wide eyed.
EXT. BURNT FOREST DAWN
Staggart blinks through blood and drops his gun.
ROBERT (V.O.)
Staggart blinked and dropped his gun. "Bresna?"


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He collapses to the ground and Bresna crawls across the forest floor to him. She screams inaudibly over Robert's narration, repeating Staggart's name over and over again.
ROBERT (V.O.)
She dropped her pistol. "You shot at me." She nods, tearing up, "I'm sorry." He rushes to her, and falls to his knees in the weeds.
She pulls his body close to hers, bits of him oozing out of the hole in his head. She paws at the wound uselessly.
ROBERT (V.O.)
They embrace, and Bresna winces with her wound. They're both crying into each other's shoulders. "I love you. I love you so much."
Bresna mouths I'm sorry's and I love you's onto Staggart's dead face.
INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT
The audience stares in silence at Robert, the heretic. He stops reading and stares back. No claps. No questions. Just betrayal on both sides. Mo sighs.
MO
Robert.
Robert closes his book with a CLAP. He thrusts it back into his bag.
MO
Robert.
Robert takes off down the aisle. Mo stands up and follows a few steps.
MO
Robert! You still have to sign


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Robert blasts open the front door and disappears into the night. The audience blinks and people whisper to each other. Mo sinks back into his chair.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
Robert slams the door open and shut as he enters the apartment. He doesn't turn on the lights. He stumbles into the kitchen and BANGS around in cabinets looking for alcohol. He finds some hidden in a high back corner.
He rips open the bottle and takes a swig. The home phone dock beeps out that there is a message. Robert hits the button.
MO
God damn you. Alright Robert, I get it. You're having a very tough time right now. I'm sure. It must be pretty hard to be faced with all this recognition, and money, and adoration. I'm sure that really eats at you late at nights.
While this message goes on Robert laughs, takes another drink, and kicks at some glass on the floor.
MO (CONT)
All that responsibility to your millions of fans and shareholders and me. That must be real fucking tough Robert. But listen, you're not the only lucky bastard here, okay? You think I don't lie awake at night completely fucking aware that we're both here because of blind luck?
Robert walks to the living room area and pushes at the keys of his typewriter. He takes another deep swig.
MO (CONT)
That my entire livelihood is riding on the suped-up, egotistic, ramblings of a too-young curmudgeon and his fleeting bouts of inspiration?!


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MO (CONT)
Do your fucking job, Robert. If not for yourself, then for me, okay? At least until I find another bright new voice to bring out into the limelight. Please?
As the message reaches its end Robert chuckles again.
INSERT WRITING
Robert has typed out: "MO MONEY..."
BACK TO SCENE
Robert takes one last swig of his liquor, coughs it down, and tosses the bottle onto the kitchen floor. It CLINKS across, but fails to break. Robert frowns. The home phone rings. Robert gives it a glare.
He crosses the kitchen and grabs the phone from its dock. The caller ID lists "Mohammad N." Robert smiles, ends the call, and then hits the call button. The DIAL TONE drones. He tosses the phone into the next room. He gives a look of triumph.
ROBERT
Nope !
The smart phone JINGLES in his pocket. Robert digs it out. He answers it.
ROBERT
Mo! So good of you to call!
MO
Robert, you piece of shit, what do you think you're doing?
ROBERT
I'm saving you all some time! Some miserable time! You saw their faces, they loved it. If they could just let it sink into their stupid cow brains they'd know that they loved it.


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MO
You finally lost it.
ROBERT
Fuck off, Mo! I've never felt better. You don't even know! I tuned in to the radio waves of the muses and picked up smooth jazz, Mo, the entire universe screaming at me: "There's another way, Robert. There's a better way." And I listened. And I changed. And I've done the good work, and can save the world. Let me save the world now!
MO
I think we're done here.
ROBERT
Would you just let me save someone? Please.
MO
Robert.
ROBERT
We don't have to be cannibals. MO
Take care of yourself.
Mo hangs up.
ROBERT
I don't want to be a cannibal.
Robert listens to the silence from the phone. He laughs. He throws the phone on the ground at his feet and starts stomping it to pieces.
Robert kicks the desk's chair out of his way. He stands in front of the wall.
ROBERT
I give up. It didn't work.


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He puts his hand up to the wall.
ROBERT (CONT)
Nobody liked it.
He waits for some response.
ROBERT (CONT)
What do I do?
It's a wall.
ROBERT (CONT)
Please. Come back. Nothing's changed.
Robert pounds on the wall with his fist.
ROBERT (CONT)
Take me back! You have to come back! I don't know what I'm doing.
Robert retreats to the kitchen, rubbing his temples.
ROBERT (CONT)
What are you doing, Robert? There was never a hole.
He opens a cabinet full of dishware and glasses. He starts to reach for a glass, but stops halfway through the motion.
ROBERT (CONT)
There was never a hole.
Robert crumples against the countertop. His legs don't want to hold him up. He presses his face into the counter and laughs.
ROBERT
You're crazy. You lost it.
He breathes deep. Pushes himself back up. And starts throwing things from the cabinet across the room. GLASSES EXPLODE against walls. Plates fly like Frisbees. Bowls SHATTER on the floor. Robert is still laughing.


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When the cabinet has been emptied, he crashes around the apartment looking for more to break. He pulls out drawers and sends them CLATTERING to the floor. The piles of books are thrown over. The sofa cushions pulled out and tossed. Robert even breaks the light on the ceiling.
After the carnage he stands, glaring at the wall. He looks around the wreckage. He grabs a large shard of glass. He drags it indelicately across his left palm. The wound is deep. Blood quickly rises and drips off. Robert smiles. He walks to the wall and presses his new wound to it. Blood drips down. Robert closes his eyes.
He opens them again and backs away. The wall is still just a wall. Now it has a bloody palm print too. Robert waits. Nothing.
He screams and rushes back to the wall. He pounds on it again.
He topples the desk. The typewriter crashes to the floor with a loud DING. Robert stomps on it. He storms off to his bedroom and returns with a hammer.
He SMASHES THE HAMMER INTO THE WALL. It punctures the drywall.
He does this again and again. Holes dot the wall. He tears at the holes with the back of the hammer. Then with his hands.
Blood and dust and dry wall chunks.
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT
Robert sits on the floor staring at the destroyed wall, in a trance. His hands, shirt and face are bloodied. His eyes begin to tear up.
Voices sound from the bedroom. Robert snaps out of his trance.
He stands and moves over to the bedroom.
INT. ROBERT'S BEDROOM CONTINUOUS
Robert approaches the doorway. This is not the bedroom from earlier. Instead, clothes lie in heaps around an unmade bed. Dirty mugs and dishes mount a shabby bedside table.
Still, Jean is at the bedside and a second Robert paces across from her. She piles imaginary clothing into an imaginary suitcase.


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ROBERT 2
You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything.
JEAN
Nobody can solve anything around you!
The original Robert takes a tired seat at the edge of the bed, between the couple.
JEAN (CONT)
You're a pit, Robert. And everything just sorta falls into you and dies.
ROBERT
I'm not a pit, Jean.
ROBERT 2
That's a ridiculous analogy.
You're making ridiculous analogies for effect.
JEAN
You are fucking ridiculous!
ROBERT 2 Don't do that.
ROBERT
Don't call her a bitch.
ROBERT 2
Don't be a bitch.
JEAN
Are you fucking kidding me?
ROBERT
Damn it, Robert. Come on.
JEAN
Call me a bitch again.
ROBERT Please, you two.


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ROBERT 2
No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-look, Frances.
JEAN
Ew, really? Frances?
ROBERT
Just stop.
ROBERT 2
I can't even talk to you!
ROBERT
Stop.
JEAN
Good. Shut the fuck up.
ROBERT 2
Stop!
ROBERT
Just stop fighting!
Both Jean and the second Robert stop and look at Robert. He takes a glance at each of them.
ROBERT (CONT)
What? You're both ridiculous. I'm ridiculous. Let's all just stop.
Jean and the second Robert look at each other, confused. Jean purses her lips. She grabs her imaginary suitcase, closes it, and drags it off the bed.
ROBERT 2
Jean, stop. Jean. Jean!
Jean drags her suitcase out of the bedroom. The second Robert rushes after her.
Really?
ROBERT


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Robert shakes his head. He lets out a small laugh. Then, he stands and follows after the arguing couple
INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY
The room is the same anger-torn, glass-shard disaster that Robert left. The second Robert and Jean face off in the center of the wreckage. Robert meanders in to find them glaring at each other.
ROBERT
Would you just slap each other to death and get it over with?
They both glare at him and turn back to each other.
ROBERT 2
Would you just talk to me, Jean?
ROBERT
Just tell her that you're sorry.
JEAN
I'm so tired of talking to you.
You like words too much.
ROBERT
That's a little unfair.
ROBERT 2 It's all I have.
JEAN
Then go look in the mirror and tell yourself why this is happening.
The second Robert winces at this. The first Robert walks around the couple.
ROBERT
I don't think any of us know why this is
ROBERT 2
I love you, Jean.


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Robert looks over at himself.
ROBERT
Hmm. That's interesting.
JEAN
Great.
ROBERT
Ouch.
ROBERT 2
Really? Fuck you!
ROBERT
Jesus, don't say that.
JEAN
No, fuck you Robert. All you do is write shitty, sad little stories.
You expect me to believe that you know anything about love?
ROBERT
She's got a point.
ROBERT 2
I know this. You and me.
JEAN
This isn't love Robert. This is self-mutilation.
ROBERT Fuck, Jean.
Jean glances at Robert. The second Robert stares at his feet.
ROBERT
What? Don't tear my heart out.
She looks back to the second Robert, sulking in his small square of existence. She approaches and hesitantly puts a hand on his shoulder.


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JEAN
I'm sorry. I just mean that we're hurting ourselves so much on each other. And for no reason. It doesn't make sense, Robert.
The second Robert looks up and stares into her eyes. She stares back. For a moment, it's almost beautiful. Glassy eyes connected. Jean pulls the plug. She takes off Robert's jacket.
JEAN
Here's your jacket.
ROBERT 2 (sniffling)
Thanks.
She hands it to him and he accepts. Robert watches himself with pity.
JEAN
Goodbye, Robert.
She waits for a reply, but nothing comes.
JEAN
Okay.
She turns, opens the door, and walks away.
ROBERT
That's it? You didn't even say goodbye?
The second Robert shuffles over to his couch and sinks into it.
ROBERT Are you serious?!
The second Robert stares at empty space with dead eyes.
ROBERT
God damn it! Do something! You just sit there. And moan, and whine, and write. What is wrong with you?! Do something!


Full Text

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The Novel By Liukura Mariman An undergraduate thesis submitted in partial completion of the M etropolitan State University of D enver Honors Program May 2016 Dr. Jason Miller Dr. Megan Hughes Zarzo Primary Advisor Second Reader Honors Program Director

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The Novel: A Screenplay By Liukura Mariman

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 1 FADE IN: INT. MOVIE THEATER DAY The theater is dark and quiet. Rows of empty seats wait under the faint glow of the screen. In the center of the theater, the only audience member sits, a silhouette. This is ROBERT, late 30 s, a writer. Though barely illuminated in the darkness of the room, he is dressed in loosely fitted clothing, an attempt toward style quickly abandoned. The screen ahead of him shimmers through the opening credits of a movie. His face is dimly visible in the low light. He stares forward. He waits expectantly. The light of the screen changes color across his face and he flinch es His eyes flicker with recognition and confusion. On the screen, Robert's face stares back a t him. This shot cuts to one from behind him, a silhouette in a dark theater of empty seats. The shot is echoed on the screen in a feedback loop. T he picture distends into fractal infinity. Robert sits frozen in place. The infinite Roberts do the same. H e looks behind himself in the theater. The infinite Roberts do the same on screen. He looks back to the screen. The infinite Roberts follow suit. He stands up. They stand up. He fumbles out of his row of seats and makes his way up the aisle, looking back a nd leaving the theater. On the screen, his infinite Roberts do the same until there is no more movement in the room. From the furthest image, the shot cuts to black. Finally the screen in the theater itself goes black. EXT. MOVIE THEATER ENTRANCE DAY The cool light of day falls on the entrance to the theater. A LAZY EMPLOYEE sits in the ticket booth fiddling with something mundane in front of him. The theater is old and artsy. Movie posters advertise a collection of indie films with vague and abstract titles. Robert pushes out of the theater's swinging doors He stops at the ticket booth and taps for attention. When the e mployee looks up, Robert begins to inaudibly discuss something with him. Robert points toward the theater and puts his ticket stub do wn in the window hole.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 2 The employee gives a shrug and shake s his head. Robert gives an exasperated look at the theater and then out at the street. He pushes away from the counter, and wav es away the ticket booth and its attendant. He gives the theater a le ngthy glare and then walks off, down the street. EXT. CITY BLOCK CONTINUOUS Robert makes his way down a lightly crowded city street. The faces of shops and apartments pass by behind him. PEDESTRIANS walk by him and he dodges and weaves his way past. ROBERT (V.O.) The first time I did it, it was messy. A bloody fight, a rapid release of tension and the cool catching of breath. It came naturally. It felt good. I was nine years old Robert makes his way to a newspaper stand and pulls out some crumpled dollar bills. He looks around at his options and inaudibly converses with the NEWSPAPER SELLER. ROBERT (V.O.) In weeks, I was taking lives left and right. Villages burned. Battalions decimated. The mad scratchings of pencil on paper. Robert buys a ne wspaper and walks a short distance from the stand to fold it out and read it. ROBERT (V.O.) It made sense. Everyone else was doing it. People paid attention. Robert stares at the page with growing disinterest. He tosses the paper into a public waste b in and resumes his walking. ROBERT (V.O.) Like Shiva, smelting galaxies in his maw, I devoured the lives of thousands. Graveyards filled with my victims.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 3 Robert passes by DOG WALKER and DOG. The dog stops to sniff at him. Robert turns mid step and lea ns down to pat the dog, grinning. It wags its tail, but when Robert scratches behind its ears it bites at his hand. Robert retreats and the dog w alker holds the dog back as it starts BARKING Robert stumbles away, the dog walker apologizing behind him an d struggles with the angry dog. ROBERT (V.O.) The readers, the critics and eventually even the publishers, they all ate it up. "Visionary" they called me. "Voice of the new generation." "Speaker to an age of apathetic neo spiritualists and bullshitters. Robert arrives at an apartment building and walks up the front steps. He enters the building. INT. APARMENT BUILDING CONTINUOUS The apartment is nice enough to look at. It is an older building, but well maintained. Robert stops at a row of mail cubbies and checks inside one. It's empty He goes up four floors. ROBERT (V.O.) "Caustic and self indulgent," they call me. "Prosaic," "prophetic." "He shouts to the void of the human spirit and the void shouts back. Welcome! Welcome Robert, and thank you for the kind words!" Robert arrives at the door to his apartment, number 40 3, and unlocks it. He walks in. INT ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS The studio apartment is a benign mess. Furnishings are limited to a small desk against a wall and a worn blue sofa across from it On the desk is a typewriter and a stack of papers. A bedroom and bathroom connect off to the side. A single windo w shines pale daylight across the small kitchen entry dining living room. Robert closes the door behind himself as he enters.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 4 He stands at the front door and stares around at the empty room. The sounds of the city outside drain out. ROBERT (V.O.) May be they're right. He gives the room a look of perplexed indifference and then makes his way to the bathroom. INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS He sits on the toilet, dispensing waste. ROBERT (V.O.) I speak in a lexicon of tragedies and broken bones. Characters, scattered and fractured. Stories as fodder for armchair philosoph y But it reaches someone. And they're still reading. And I'm not complaining. Robe rt wipes, flushes, washes hands and then watches himself in the bathroom mirror. Edging into the reflection, a CAMERAMAN sneaks into view. Robert holds a startled paralysis, before looking around behind him. The cameraman slips out of the mirror's reflection. Robert doesn't see anythin g behind him. He looks frightened and confused. He turns back to the sink winces at his reflection and splashes water on his face. He lets i t drip off and takes a deep breath The phone in the main room RINGS Robert straightens and digs a watch with a b roken wrist band out of his pocket. He looks at the tiny face of the watch. It reads 12 : 03 His shoulders sink. ROBERT Fuck. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Robert staggers from the direction of the bathroom, showing a modest attempt to pick up the phone before it finishes ringing. Something CRUNCHES under his shoes as he makes his way across

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 5 the room. He looks down to confirm that there is indeed a chunk of broken porcelain on the floor. He keep walking He grabs the anachronistic, cordless home phone from its place on the kitchen counter. He stares at the phone and listen s to the SOUNDS OF A TINY VOI CE coming from it. He puts it to his ear. TRISHA Robert? Robert? Are you there? ROBERT Hi! Is this Trisha? TRISHA Yes, hello. We've been trying to get a hold of ROBERT Hey, so sorry about that! My answering machine must be busted. Robert beeps and boops at the phone's dock. The display blinks that there are four unheard messages. Robert is looking out the window at a CAT eating a SQU IRREL on the adjacent balcony. ROBERT (CONT) Oh yup, see? Broken. I'll have to get that fixed. So, what can I do for you Trisha? TRISHA Well, Robert, to be honest, we've been wanting to know when we might get a look at that manuscript. ROBERT Haha! Can't keep you guys away from it can I? Well, it's just about done. Dotting my t's and i's, you know? Robert stares across the room at the typewriter desk and its stack of very blank paper.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 6 TRISHA Really? Oh, that's great. You can understand our concern after the delays. ROBERT Of course. I'm so rry about all that. Truly. But yeah, it's just about ready. TRISHA Wonderful. Please send them over as soon as you can. ROBERT Yes! Right away. Robert pulls a glass from a dishrack by the sink. He fills it with water from the faucet. TRISHA Perfect. And just to remind you, the new deadline's on the fifth. ROBERT Mhm. TRISHA Of December. ROBERT Yep. TRISHA In two weeks. ROBERT Right. Robert sips at his water. TRISHA Okay! Looking forward to seeing what you've got for us. ROBERT Trust me, you'll love it.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 7 Robert stares at his reflection in the window. Behind the reflection the cat is carried off by a LARGE FALCON Robert returns the phone t o its dock and t akes a long drink of his water, finishing the glass. He places the glass at the edge of the counter. With his index finger he slowly pushes it off. It crashes to pieces on the floor. Robert steps across the fresh spread of broken glass and meanders over t o the typewriter. He allows gravity to pull him into the chair and stares at the blank paper loaded into the roll of the typewriter. His face pulls into a pouty frown. He jams his index finger into the period key three times. His ellipsis stares back at hi m. The ellipsis grows across the page. Robert loses himself in the black ink. INT. ELLIPSIS CONTINUOUS Robert is in an immense darkness. Ahead, a fire comes up, housed in a massive stonework fireplace. Two figures shimmer in the glow of t he flames. These are STAGGART and BRESNA, both in their late 30s, two main characters from Robert's post apocalyptic best seller. They're both rugged, soldiers on two sides of a conflict. They sit against shoulder to shoulder basking in the fire. They smile at each other Robert approaches from the darkness. ROBERT Staggart? Bresna? Columns of hard covered, glossy sleeved novels come into view, surrounding them. Their covers read: "OLD XENON'S POISON". As Robert nears the couple, they turn to look at him. Stag gart's forehead begins to dri p with blood. Bresna sees this. BRESNA Staggart?! She paws at his face. Robert stops. STAGGART

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 8 Bresna. Staggart collapses in her arms. The stacks of books fall over onto Robert. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS The phone RINGS again. Robert jerks awake and swivels his head toward the kitchen counter. He fidgets in the chair and pulls out his watch again. The face of the watch reads 2:3 4 Robert slumps in his chair and squints up at the ceiling. ROBERT Fuck. He pulls himself out of the chair and makes his way over to the phone once more. Glass crunches beneath his feet. Robert picks up the phone and puts it to his ear. ROBERT Hello? MO I knew it. I knew you'd be at home. ROBERT Shit, Mo, I'm sorr y. MO I told the waiter didn't I tell you? I said, "He probably hasn't even left yet." And wouldn't you know it ROBERT I'm sorry. MO Don't be sorry. Get off your ass and get over here. ROBERT Yeah. Okay. MO

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 9 Jesus. Robert hangs up the phone and rushes across the room, only to slip on the glass. He thuds to the floor, tr ies to catch himself with his right hand, but end s up with a palm full of glass. Robert winces in pain and clutches the hand to his chest He shoves himself against t he counter and then uses it to pull himself back to his feet. He growls and pick s out glass from his right palm. T hrow s it into the kitchen sink. A large gash and a number of smaller cuts cover his palm. Blood well s up in the cuts and drip s down his wrist. Robert makes his way, carefully this time, across the room. He keeps his wounded hand elevated as he goes. He moves toward the bathroom. INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS Robert pushes the door open with his shoulder and starts the fau cet going with warm water. He keeps his hand under the stream, but crouches down to start searching through the cabinets under the sink. Robert pulls out a box of tampons from a drawer and frowns at them. He reaches out and drops them into the trash bin b y the toilet. He goes back to digging through the drawer. He retrieves a box of bandages and shakes them around. The box rattles with the few bandages inside. He tries to fumble the box open with one hand. Steam is coming from the sink and Robert jerks his head up in surprise, smashing it against the edge of the counter. He jerks his hand from the water, l ets out a frustrated scream and hits the cabinets repeatedly with an elbow Robert turns the cold water on and returns his wound to the stream. He empties the box onto the counter space. A number of small circular bandages fall out along with one long skinny one. He measures the skinny one against the wound. It is quite small comparatively. Robert lets out a profound sigh and slowly shoves the m eager pile of bandages off of the counter. He looks at the small trash bin with its fresh contents. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 10 Robert is in the main room of his apartment. He eases his right hand into the sleeve of a beat up corduroy jacket. As he fin ishes putting on the jacket, he stands in front of the typewriter and stares down at the mostly blank paper. He digs out his watch. It read 3:04 now. He looks at his wounded palm. The wound is bound with a couple tampons and packing tape. Already some blo od has seeped through. He rips off a free hanging string and winces. Robert places his hand against the wall above the typewriter. He presses his hand against the wall and closes his eyes. A few droplets of blood edge out from the base of his palm, run al ong his wrist, and drip onto the paper below. Robert removes his hand from the wall. He makes his way to the front door. There's a bloody splotch on the wall now. A rivulet of red makes its way downward. Robert slams the door behind him as he leaves. EXT OUTSIDE CAFƒ DAY A number of empty tables and stacked chairs make up the outside seating of a cafŽ. Sitting alone at one of these tables under a heat lamp, is a man bundled up in a puffy down jacket under a heat lamp. This is MO, in his early 30 s, Ro bert's agent. He is only a little overweight, but the jacket makes him look rotund. He is warming his hands on a small white cup of coffee. The remaining crumbs of a meal rest on a plate in front of him. Robert comes up to the seating area and slips over the waist high railing that borders it. Mo looks up from his coffee. MO Oh. Look. You made it. ROBERT Sorry I'm late. MO Late? No, not really. Here, you want some crumbs? Mo pushes the plate across to Robert. ROBERT

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 11 Why are we outside? MO I said, "Hey, I want a table outside." ROBERT Okay. MO Then a full hour later I realized that it was a bad idea. ROBERT Sorry. MO What took you so long? ROBERT I cut myself. Robert places his wounded hand onto the table. MO Jesus, o n purpose? ROBERT What? No. MO Are those tampons? ROBERT Yeah, I ran out of bandages. MO You a re a mess. ROBERT Whatever. Can I get a coffee? MO I f you can coax a waiter out. Robert waves at the front windows of the cafÂŽ. No one inside seems to take note.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 12 MO (CONT) You know what? I've lost my appetite. Drink mine. Please. Mo places the cup onto the plate of crumbs. ROBERT No. I don't want MO Oh my god. Just drink it! Why do I do this to myself? Robert takes the coffee and sips at it. He grimaces. MO (CONT) Yeah, it's disgusting. Go figure. Where's my book Rob? ROBERT My book. Mo laughs. MO Where's the book Rob? ROBERT It's almost done. MO Bullshit. ROBERT It would go faster if I didn't have the publishers calling me every other day. Robert interrupts himself with a big swig of coffee. ROBERT (CONT) "Where's the manuscript, Robert. Remember the deadline, Robert." I

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 13 thought the house phone was emergencies only, Mo. MO You'r e months late, Rob. That's an emergency. ROBERT That's not fair. You know that's not fair. Mo laughs. Robert finishes the coffee. He moves it around in his mouth. At the bottom of the cup is a gritty coffee ground sludge. MO You need to get past this ROBERT It's been a week One week! MO It's been three months! ROBERT Give me time! MO You're all out! Robert slams his fist down on the table, startling Mo. Robert immediately recoils, grits his teeth and hold his fist against his ch est. ROBERT Damnit. MO You're losing it. ROBERT It's been one week MO Whatever. Look, we need that manuscript, buddy. You know I've been here for you. Through thick

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 14 and thin, and, well, more thick. But we gotta get that thing out. You know? MO (CONT) I like what we have. And I want to keep it. But that means I need to get you up on your feet and writing, okay? Robert. Is breathing warm air into his clenched fist. Blood trickles down into his sleeve. MO (CONT) So let's get you up and writing. The two men stare at each other in silence for a moment. Robert stands up. MO (CONT) There you go. Mo stands as well. He tosses a crumpled twenty onto the plate. MO (CONT) Oh, right. I got you this. Mo retrieves something from the pocket of his coat and deposits it into Robert's not bloody hand. It's a smart phone. ROBERT Mo MO Don't You lost your off the grid privileges. Take it. And keep it turned on. And charge it. And fucking answer it when someone calls! Jesus, it's like I'm your mother. Robert scowls and turns to start walking away. MO Love you too, honey! Robert turns and lifts a bloody middle finger. He continues to walk away.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 15 MO (CONT) Oh, and don't forget you have the book reading downtow n on the twenty eighth I added a reminder. Robert is clambering over the railing again. MO (CONT) And finish the book! Robert is making his way down the street. MO (CONT) Asshole. Mo heads the other way, passing the table. He stops himself, sighs and mutters something. He turns off the heat lamp, and collects the plate and mug. He pushes the chairs in against the table before entering the cafÂŽ. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT Robert pushes himself into the apartment, stumbling into the near by wall. He fumbles for the light switch. His h air is a mess and his eyes wander about the room without direction. The room is in more disorder than it was before. Crumpled balls of paper now join the field of broken glass and porcelain. Piles of books consume the small sofa. A rusty red splotch covers the wall behind the typewriter. It is much larger than earlier. It looks like someone has been executed against it. Robert doesn't seem to notice. He stumbles to the kitchen. N avigates the minefield of gl ass and paper. He slams open a cabinet and grabs a glass. Robert fills the glass in the sink and downs it in one long gulp. He gasps for air. Robert splashes water on his face and lets it drip off as he throws coffee grounds into a beat up machine. He star ts the machine and heads off toward the bedroom. As he passes the bloody wall, he stops to raise an eyebrow at it. He blinks a few times, shakes his head, and then stumbles off to the bedroom, rubbing his temples as he goes.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 16 A gentle cracking sound come s from the wall once he's gone and a rough fissure splits down it. The crack spreads apart to reveal something spongey and organic beneath it. As this occurs, the coffee machine starts to leak. Robert returns from the bedroom now wearing sweatpants and a shirt with several holes. He sees the coffee pooling on the kitchen counter and hurries past the cracked wall. ROBERT Seriously? Robert rushes to the machine and switches it off. He starts pulling paper towels from a roll by the sink. He piles the tow els onto the spreading pud dle of coffee and it soaks through. Behind him, the crack is pulsing. The tissue beneath the drywall pushes out like a chick escaping its egg. The wall splits outward and the tissue seems to breathe. Robert tosses the soiled tow els into the trash and sops up the remaining coffee with a sponge. He throws the coffee grounds into the sink and pours the meager contents of the pot into a mug. Robert walks back toward the bedroom with mug in hand. He blows on the contents as he passes the typewriter and the bulging disfigurement in the wall. He takes a quick glance at the breathing crack, continue s for a step, and then freezes. He does a double take. The wall bulges again and pushes the desk forward this time. Drywall crumbles off ont o the desk and floor. The fleshy tissue bu nches together and then pulls fa rther apart. More drywall crumbles off as the wall and flesh split open to reveal a dark human sized hole. Robert stands paralyzed. His mug slips from his hand and SHATTERS on the f loor. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT Robert sits on the messy sofa between piles of books. A large kitchen knife rests on one of these stacks. On the floor, a half empty bottle of bourbon waits. Robert stares forward, chin resting on fists. The wall tr embles before him. He reaches down for the bourbon and takes a swig without taking his eyes off the hole. Another chunk of drywall

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 17 falls, landing on the typewriter. It DINGS and the roll slides over. Robert flinches. He reaches for the knife and flashlig ht. G ets to his feet. He begins to creep toward the hole with the knife hand outstretched. As he nears the hole a faint breeze comes from it. It ruffles the papers on the desk and Robert's hair. His knife hand is shaking now. A distant sound, like WAILING comes from the hole. ROBERT Holy Robert switches the flashlight on and shines it into the darkness of the hole. The tunnel goes back farther than the flashlight will illuminate. From what is illuminat ed, the tunnel is roughly human size. Its walls are of the same spongey organic tissue, however farther back this material is reinforced by thin wooden support beams. Another distant sound comes, this time a call. Robert goes pale. Robert circles around toward the bedroom. He breaks eye contact with the h ole to rush into the bathroom. INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS Robert examines the wall on the living room side of the bathroom. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. He begins tapping on the wall with the grip of the knife. It sounds like a wall. Rob ert stares at himself in the mirror. He pries open the mirror cabinet and starts searching through a variety of prescriptions. As the cabinet swings open, the mirror catches the reflection of the cameraman. Robert snatches up a bottle. INSERT THE PRESCRIPTION BOTTLE IN ROBERT'S HAND The label on it shows the name: FRANCES J. LOCKE Its contents are ARIPIPRAZOLE BACK TO SCENE The contents of the bottle rattle as Robert pours them into his hand. Two reddish tablets come out into the center of h is palm. He starts to put one back, but stops himself. He tosses both in

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 18 his mouth and takes a gulp of sink water before swallowing. He throws the now empty bottle in the trashcan and then closes the mirror. The cameraman is seen again. Robert inhales deep ly and then leaves the bathroom. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Robert walks into the room. M ak es an effort not to look at the hole in his wall. He grabs his typewriter, sets it on chair with a stack of papers and his kitchen knife and then drags i t all over to the sofa. He places the typewriter onto the cushioned seat of the sofa and perches his stack of papers on some nearby books. He takes his seat in the chair and places the kitchen knife alongside the typewriter. Robert feeds a sheet of paper into the typewriter. He starts to clack away at the keys. Another sound comes from the hole behind him, A MOAN this time. Robert clenches his jaw and hovers a hand over the knife. After a moment he begins to type again. INSE RT HIS WRITING It reads, ROBERT OLIVER WAS A SHITTY WRITER WITH A PEN CHANT FOR MELODRAMA. LUCKILY, HE LIVED IN A SHITTY MELODRAMATIC WORLD AND EVERYONE LOVED HIM THEN ONE DAY, A HE LL PORTAL OPENED UP INTO HIS DINGY APARTMENT AND DEMONS TORE HIM LIMB F ROM LIMB. THE BACK TO SCENE A low rumb le comes from the hole. Robert stops typing He grabs for the knife and swivels around in the chair, nearly toppling it. Another sound comes from the hole, this time a sweet whisper in a woman's voice JEAN Rob ert. The knife drops from Robert's hand. He pushes himself up from the chair. ROBERT Jean?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 19 Robert staggers toward the hole. He stands in front of it, peering in again. ROBERT Jean? His voice reverberates in the dark tunnel. The tunnel walls pulse and a gentle CREAK comes from the wooden support beams. Robert stretches a hand out and touches the edge of the organic hole. It seems to shiver under his contact. He pulls his hand away and takes a step back, breathing heavily. A jo lt goes through him. Robert rushes for the sink and vomits. A partially digested aripiprazole tablet clinks o nto the stainless steel. Robert crumples to the ground and curls up amongst the broken glass and paper scraps. The hole calls his name again, unm istakable this time. Robert covers his ears with his hands. The hole calls again. The floor begins to vibrate and the broken shards of glass dance. Robert closes his eyes. The hole's calls become louder and more frantic. Book stacks topple over. Robert ye lls over the chaos. The hole screams over him. ROBERT STOP! STOP IT! STOP! The commotion comes to an end. Robert opens his eyes and looks around the room. Everything is still. The hole says his name again, quite clear this time. It's a woman's voice. He crawls to his feet and rushes to the opening. ROBERT Jean! The hole is still dark and empty. Far away, the voice comes again. JEAN Robert, please. Robert's eyes go wide. He snatche s up the knife and switches his flashlight on again. ROBERT

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 20 Jean, I'm coming. Hold on. He moves the desk from the hole's entrance. ROBERT I don't know what's happening. Robert shines his light into the darkness. He reaches his arm into the hole and waits for something to happen. When nothing does, he takes a hesitant step into the hole. The tunnel is too low for him to stand upright and too tight for him to face forward. He makes his way into the darkness, hunched and shuffling. INT. TUNNEL NIGHT Robert breathes heavily as he shuffles farther into the tun nel. The walls come in closer as he moves along, until Robert is pressed between the pulsing tissue. His flashlight beams a small circle of light ahead of him. ROBERT What am I doing? Robert looks back at the opening into his living room. It is f a rthe r away than it should be. The hole's opening begins to constrict. The little sightline into his apartment closes until it's no longer visible. ROBERT No. No, no, no, no, no! Robert tries to shuffle back to the entrance as it closes. He makes little progress. His flash light flickers and goes out. ROBERT Are you fuck. The tunnel is barely visible. Robert leans back against the organic wall. He closes his eyes and attempts to calm his breathing. ROBERT Jean, w here are you? Robert's eyes begin to acclimate to the darkness. He starts to shuffle forward again.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 21 ROBERT Okay, Robert. You climbed into the living hole in your wall. Why did you do that? A sliver of white l ight peeks out ahead. Robert shuffles faster. The light becomes the outline of a door. The walls start to widen and soon Robert is walking comfortably. He runs head first into solid wood. In front of him, there is a small door built into a wall. With a fo rced perspective, the door looks much farther away than it actually is. Robert tries the small door's handle and it turns. The door opens into INT. WHITE WAITING ROOM CONTINUOUS Robert is peeking into a large white waiting room. Fluorescent light from above shines off of white tile, white drywall, and white furniture. Robert has to shield his eyes. Robert crawls through the small doorway into the room. He stands and wanders around. A set of normal sized doors wait at the front of the room. Robert trie s the handles of these, but they are locked. A display of white flowers and a stack of white magazines decorate a white coffee table. Robert thumbs through one of these magazines. Each page is blank. A TV in an upper corner of the room pops on and starts blaring static. Robert jumps. He moves in to check it out. The static cuts to a video feed of the room from behind Robert. He turns to find the camera, but there are none in sight. When he turns back to the screen his own face is staring back at him. On the screen he is a wild eyed madman breathing heavily and fogging the camera lens. This image cuts again to show the room from just behind Robert's shoulder. A feedback loop of Roberts descends into th e TV. Robert turns again to find the camera behind him, but sees noth ing. The TV POPS and SIZZLES Robert looks at it to see the screen blank and a tendril of smoke making its way to the ceiling.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 22 A water cooler gurgles to Robert's side. Robert looks aro und and approaches the water cooler. He takes a paper cup from its dispenser. He leaves his knife on top of the cooler and pulls the little tab to fill his cup. He looks at the water and then sniffs it. He takes a sip, then downs the whol e thing. He fills the cup again. Robert takes out his watch. Its hands spin around in lazy circles. A door opens behind Robert. He swivels around, bumps the cooler, and sends his knife CLATTERING to the tile floor. Robert reaches down for his knife, spilling water as he d oes this. He stops when he sees a woman standing in the doorway. This is JEAN LOCKE. She's in her mid 20 s, dressed in an all white doctor's outfit and carrying a clipboard. Her face is expressionless. ROBERT Jean. I What are you wearing? Where are we? Jean takes a couple steps forward. JEAN ( Reading off clipboard) Robert J. Oliver. ROBERT Jean? JEAN Come right this way Mr. Oliver. We are ready for you. ROBERT I don't understand. Who's ready for me? Is something wrong? JEAN Please Mr. Oliver. Come with me. ROBERT What's happening? Jean? Jean is standing with an arm indicating the door. Robert finishes his water and crumples the cup in his hand. He tosses

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 23 it at a nearby trashcan, but it bounces off the rim. Robert reaches down for his knife again. He approaches Jean who stares past him. ROBERT Jean. Talk to me Jean. JEAN That is unnecessary. ROBERT What? Jean reaches out a hand, palm up. She waits. JEAN The weapon, sir. ROBERT Sir? Jean, I don't JEAN Sir, I need you to relinquish your weapon. ROBERT Relinquish? You know what? Fine. Robert puts the knife handle into Jean's hand. She closes her fingers around it. He holds on to her hand. ROBERT (CONT) Jean. He moves in close to her, moves the k nife hand down to her side. ROBERT (CONT) Jean. Jean stares at him. He moves his other hand to her hip and pulls her in for a kiss. She does not reciprocate. He steps back. She continues to stare at him, no reaction. ROBERT (CONT) Who are you? Jean walks to the door and opens it.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 24 JEAN Right this way, Mr. Oliver. She motions to the dark room beyond. Robert stares her down, shakes his head, and goes through the doorway. INT. DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS Robert takes a couple steps into the dark r oom. It is very dark. He turns to Jean and the light of the waiting room beyond. He's about to say something to her when she closes the door. Darkness. ROBERT Are you serious? Jean, come on. This is not okay. The sound of some DISTANT SWITCH BEING PU LLED echoes through the room and a dingy cone of light comes on over Robert. The light shines down from an unknown source. Robert looks up and squints against the new light. The sound of RUNNING FOOTSTEPS patters by. Robert swivels around to find the source of the sound. The darkness outside of Robert's cone of light is impenetrable. ROBERT Hello? Jean? Another set of LOUD FOOTSTEPS pads by. Robert's eyes dart back and forth, wide in their sockets. ROBERT Jean? A large, mostly NUDE MAN with a spear brushes past Robert, briefly visible but then disappearing into the darkness again. ROBERT Oh, fuck no. Robert sprints away from whoever just passed by. The light follows from above. Robert stops w hen he hears A GRUNT from ahead. Another someone moves just outside of the light. Robert takes a step back.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 25 A loud, sustained WAR CRY approaches from behind, and Robert twists around. The FOOTSTEPS and YELLING grow louder and louder. Robert staggers to t h e side and trips over himself. A muscular GREEK HOPLITE rushes by, bronze armor flashing for a moment under the light. He wields a large shield and a brutish sword. He disappears into the darkness. There is an audible COLLISION in the darkness. Violent Y ELLING A loud CRACKING sound. The hoplite is thrown to the ground underneath the light, his shield CLANGS loudly against the floor. Robert winces and scrambles back as a BEARDED CELT descends upon the hoplite, brandishing a stone hammer. Robert catches a glimpse of the Celt's hammer collapsing the hoplite's face into itself, before his light pulls away after him. The carnage is returned to darkness. ROBERT Oh god oh god oh god oh god. A WAIL pierces the air as Robert drags himself to his feet. A second cone of light comes down some ten yards away. Under it, a small DARK SKINNED WOMAN with an iron leg prosthesis stands above a man, her spear in his gut. She stabs the man repeatedly as he tries to drag himself away from her. The man's screams die along with him. The light above them goes out. Robert doubles over and vomits out whatever is left in his stomach. Around him, more cones of light begin to pop up, each with its own sequence of momenta ry carnage. The lights and their subjects soon extend in all directions. The air is filled with THUDS the SCRAPE and CLANG of metal on metal, and the SCREAMS of the dying. Robert sinks to the ground. Clouds of smoke and falling ash obscure the world arou nd him. EXT. THE DARK ROOM BATTLEFIELD DAY When the cloud passes, Robert is in a field. A sprawling op en space of short grass and sky. The battle still rages on around him. SOLDIERS from every corner of ancient history stab, and bludgeon, and kill. Th eir bodies pile atop each other.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 26 Sod and soil are turned up beneath heavy boots and grappling limbs. The bodies and earth start to liquefy into a muddy, bloody paste. Robert screams, but he is drowned out by everything around him. He sits crumpled in a s mall circle of untouched grass. He folds in on himself and hugs his face to his knees. The SOUNDS OF BATTLE begin to slow. The survivors of the carnage limp and crawl toward their remaining enemies. Few still have their weapons. They approach and collapse against each other. The languid final strokes of their blood orgy play out and snow begins to fall from a now gray sky. Big globs of snowflakes cascade down. Robert lifts his head from the ground. There is no more movement save for the falling snow. Alre ady the ground is blanketed by it. It collects in piles of ruddy, blackish muck as it melts into the warm, human pulp beneath it. Robert stares up into the gray sky and blinks away the snowflakes as they fall onto his face. His eyes stray downward to the piles of the dead. Pale faces stare back at him frozen, half covered in snow. Limbs poke out at odd angles from the mass. Hands contorted in rigor mortis reach upward. Tears start to stream down Robert's face. A mechanical grating sound breaches the silen ce and the ground beneath Robert begins to move downward. Robert looks around anxiously. The platform of grass that Robert sits on is surrounded on all sides by glass, like an elevator shaft cut into the ground. On the other side of the glass, corpses lie pressed up against it. Robert quietly sobs. As the platform descends, the corpses around it become less and less recognizable in their rot. Eventually the evidence of bodies is left to bones in dirt. The platform stops. Robert stares dead eyed into the bl ank sockets of a small human skull in the soil. Snow continues to swirl down from the distant sky above him. The natural light from above dims, and a last sprinkle of snow falls on Robert before he is returned to darkness.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 27 INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS Darkness. ROBERT Jean. Oh god, Jean. I don't know what's happening. A dim bluish glow comes up and Robert is now looking directly into an immense mirror. He stares into his own reflection. He shifts his head a little, cocks it to the side. Behind his reflected self, a cameraman records. The camera's little red light shines at him. Robert jolts and spins around. There is a door in front of him. It's a door from his apartment building. The number reads 304 He looks perplexed. He tries th e knob. INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT NIGHT The door opens into Robert's apartment, or a room similar to Robert's apartment. The dimensions of the room are the same, but the room itself is in an unrecognizable state of order. No shattered glass. No type writer desk. No crumpled paper. The glow from a sophisticated lamp coats the room in warm light. On the kitchen counter, a half empty Malbec sits, uncorked. The sofa is decorated with floral pillows. A low coffee table carries on it a few books and art ma gazines, as well as a photo album and Kleenex box. A stuffed overnight bag sits near the front door. Robert almost trips over it. Low voices are coming from the bedroom. Robert looks around the room, and wanders toward the voices. INT. THE DARK ROOM BEDR OOM CONTINUOUS The room is small, filled by a queen sized bed. On the bed is an open suitcase, in the process of packing. To one side of the bed, Jean stands, pulling out an armful of clothing from a small closet. She's a mess of frazzled eyes, wild hair, and a worn corduroy jacket that's just a little too big for her. On the other side of the bed, a second Robert paces back and forth. This Robert has no visible wounds, wears a button up shirt, and fights back angry tears.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 28 The first Robert approache s from the other room. ROBERT Jean? He stands in the doorway of the bedroom. His eyes dart from Jean to the other Robert, to the suitcase, and then back to the other Robert. He stabilizes himself against the door frame. ROBERT 2 You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything. JEAN Nobody can solve anything around you! Jean is throwing clothes into the suitcase. They form a messy pile. JEAN (CONT) You're a pit, Robert. And everything just sorta falls into you and dies. ROBERT 2 Th at's a ridiculous analogy. You're making ridiculous analogies for effect. JEAN You are ridiculous! ROBERT 2 Don't do that. Don't be a bitch. JEAN Are you fucking kidding me? ROBERT Hello? Both parties go silent. They each stare at the doorway. At the first Robert. The silence holds for a moment, but then Jean starts throwing clothes again and the second Robert resumes his pacing.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 29 JEAN (CONT) Call me a bitch again. ROBERT 2 No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have look, Fran ces JEAN Ew, really? Frances? ROBERT 2 I can't even talk to you! JEAN Good. Shut up. ROBERT 2 Stop! Jean gives her stubborn, undivided attention to her packing. She sorts things around in the suitcase with big, fast movements. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Jean, stop. She doesn't. The second Robert stops pacing. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Jean. Tears form in Jean's eyes. She grabs for the flap of the suitcase. Second Robert reaches across to stop her from closing the flap. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Jean! The two hold the suitcase flap in tense silence. She pulls. He pulls. She gives him a death glare through teary eyes. He winces. ROBERT Can you hear me? JEAN Let go.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 30 ROBERT 2 Please, Jean. JEAN Robert, let go. The second Robert matches her glare. Jean's ha nd flashes across to grab his. She digs her nails into the back of his hand and peels him from her suitcase. He yelps and detaches. Little red lines appear across his skin. The first Robert winces and holds his hand against his chest, rubbing it slowly. ROBERT 2 Holy fuck! Are you serious? Jean slams the flap closed and rips the zipper across. She drags her suitcase off the bed and tears out of the bedroom, pushing the first Robert against the wall haphazardly. The second Robert stumbles after her. T he first Robert presses against the wall as his counterpart passes. He wanders after the angry couple. INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Jean goes straight for the overnight bag. She tosses it over her shoulder. The second Robert follows close be hind her. He reaches for her shoulder, but stops himself. ROBERT 2 Please, Jean just talk to me. JEAN I'm so tired of talking to you. You like words too much. ROBERT 2 It's all I have. JEAN Then go look in the mirror and tell yourself why this is happening.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 31 The first Robert slinks to the kitchen counter behind the arguing couple. ROBERT 2 You still love me. JEAN Robert ROBERT 2 I know you do. JEAN Nobody loves you You don't even you love you. The second Robert's shoulders sink. He stands very still. Jean's face makes a mad sprint through anger, disgust, nervousness, and then arrives at concern. JEAN (CONT) We all tr y You just don't The second Robert wanders to the kitchen sink. He stares at the red marks on the back of his hand. He blinks to stave off tears. Jean starts to follow him. She almost makes it half the distance. JEAN (CONT) You have an unhealthy relationship with tragedy. That's me telling you that, Robert. You need help. ROBERT 2 Stop. JEAN You can't keep this up. ROBERT 2 Stop. JEAN The novelty wears off. Eventually we all need a happy ending.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 32 ROBERT 2 Stop talking! JEAN You could do so much, if you would just ROBERT 2 Stop it! Just shut up and leave! Jean purses her lips and turns away from Robert again. She grabs the suit case and pulls out its handle. She opens the front door. ROBERT 2 (CONT) That's my jacket. She glares at him. The first Robert puts a hand to his face and hides behind it. The second Robert tries n ot to break eye contact with her. ROBERT 2 (CONT) It's my jacket. JEAN Right. I know. She dumps her bag off her shoulder. The jacket comes off in over exaggerated movements. She stares Robert down and chucks it onto the floor in front of him. ROBERT 2 Thanks. JEAN Goodbye Robert. She scoops her bag off the floor, drags her suitcase with her, and slams the door shut behind her. The Roberts are left alone in the apartment. The first Robert lowers his hand and stares at his doppelganger. T he second Robert moves to pick his jacket up off of the floor. He cries into it. He screams and tries to tear the jacket in half. It remains intact. He throws it across the room, grabs the wine from the counter and takes a swig.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 33 The first Robert steps out of the way, as the second Robert throws the bottle at the floor. Wine and glass spread across the fake tiling. The second Robert falls to his knees. He curls up in the mess and sobs. The first Robert, sits on the couch and watches. He shifts uncomfortably The lamp flickers and goes out. Darkness. The sobbing continues for a moment and then all is quiet again. INT. THE DARK ROOM BEETLEROOM CONTINUOUS Robert sits in the darkness on his sofa. A dim oil light comes up ahead, revealing hardwood flooring a nd old wallpaper. Under the hazy lamplight, a toddler sized BEETLE, early 30s, scrabbles around on its back. Voices sound from another room. Robert stands and walks slowly into the light. He approaches the creature with caution. It makes some CHITTERING no ises and continues the struggle to get to its feet. ROBERT Hello? Robert stands over the beetle. It seems to reach up to him with its spindly legs. It CHITTERS again. Robert kneels down and reaches a hand out toward the insect. It wobbles away from hi m. ROBERT Hey. It's okay. The beetle calms down. Robert reaches out again and touches the beetle s carapace. He gently pulls the beetle o ver onto its feet. T he beetle scurries around out of the light and back again. Robert stands up. The beetle comes to his side and gives a series of vocal CHIRPS ROBERT You're welcome. The beetle stomps around in little circ les tossing its head about. Robert noti ces a lump on the beetle's back. He leans in to get a better look. Something waxy and red is lodged in the beetle's exoskeleton. The wound leaks a pale ichor. ROBERT Ouch.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 34 Robert reaches out. The beetle bristles but doesn't move away. Robert grabs the lump and pries it from the beetles back. It screams, if that's a thing that beetles can do, and cowers on the floor. Robert looks at the object in his hand. It's a rotten apple. He looks back to the beetle. Ichor wells up in the wound and spills down onto the floor. ROBERT Oh. He plugs the hole up with the apple again. The beetle gives off a meager CHIRP A VIOLIN begins playing in another room. ROBERT Sorry. The beetle crawls away from Robert to a door that wasn't there before. Robert follows behind it, a few steps back. The beetle comes up to the door, which is open just a crack, and stares into the next room. Robert takes a place behind it and peeks through the small opening. In the next room, a YOUNG WOMAN plays a MELANCHOLY SONG on her violin. An OLDER COUPLE watches her, one on either side. THREE BEARDED MEN stand in front of her. The beetle tries to push through the door. Robert opens it a little, and the beetle slips into the next room. Robert reaches out to stop the insect. ROBERT (Whispering) Hey. I don't The three men look at the woman's sheets of music, and start to lose interest. They pull away fro m the scene and shuffle over to a window Robert retracts his arm when they begin to move. The beetle continues to pull itself into the room. One of the men glances over as the beetle makes it to the center of the room. He furrows his brow and pats one of his partners on the shoulder. One of them laughs. The older man at the violinist's side t akes notice. ROBERT Shit.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 35 Robert hides from sight against the wall as a commotion breaks out in the other room. Men argue, a violin FALLS to the floor, someone cries. Robert takes a peek. O nly the older couple and the violin woman are still in the room. They stand over the beetle and argue amongst themselves in German Then, the beetle drags itself around. They go quiet. Robert hides from view again, as the beetle struggles back into the room. It collapses a little ways in Someone approaches and shuts the door. Robert can hear them BOLT and LOCK it. Robert and the beetle sit in the darkness. The beetle makes small weak movements. Robert crawls over to it and sits at its side. He puts a hand on its exoskeleton. ROBERT I'm sorry. I wish I could help. It gives a small CHI RP He curls up at the beetle's side. He falls asleep. INT. THE DARK ROOM BEETLEROOM DAWN A BELL TOLLS outside. Robert wakes from his sleep to see pale daylight coming in through a curtained window. At his side, a large dead beetle lays sprawled out on the hardwood floor. Around him, stacked boxes and furniture fill the room. Robert pulls out his watch. The hands are frozen now. Someone loudly UNBOLTS the door. Robert sits up. The door swings open and TWO MEN in dark suits loom in the doorway. They st are at Robert. He stares back. Man 1 Josef K? ROBERT No. Robert. The two men look at each other. MAN 2 So, not Joseph then?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 36 ROBERT No, my name's Robert. They look at each other again. Man 1 shrugs. MAN 1 Sir, you're going to have to come with us. The men enter the room. Robert tries to crawl away from them, but t hey clamp their hands on his wrists and drag him along. He resists. ROBERT Hey! Stop! I said my name was Robert! You have the wrong person! The men drag him out of the r oom. ROBERT (CONT) I haven't done anything! INT. THE DARK ROOM CASTLE CELL DAY Robert is pushed into a cell. He's still in his pajamas. He looks around. It's a small stonework room with a cot, a bucket, and a small desk. On the desk are a stack of papers, a familiar typewriter, and a portable TV. A speaker in an upper corner of the room blares. SPEAKER Sit. Write. Robert looks around and takes his seat at the desk. SPEAKER (CONT) Write. Robert loads paper into the typewriter. He stares at the blank page. SPEAKER (CONT) Write! ROBERT Write what?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 37 The TV turns on. On the small screen, Staggart wanders through a forest of burnt trees He wears a gold and green battle garb. ROBERT Staggart? Bresna is on the screen now, resting with her back against a blackened tree. She clutches at a stomach wound. She wears red and black. Staggart comes into view. He doesn't notice Bresna He leans on another dead tree and catches his breath. ROBERT Bresna This is my Bresna reaches in the weeds at her side for a pistol that she dropped. She raises it and aims at Staggart. ROBERT I wrote this. Bresna breathes deeply. She whispers something. Staggart pushes off the tree and turns toward her She FIRES ROBERT Oh god. A rosy red hole splits through Staggart's face. STAGGART (On TV) Bresna ? He collapses. Bresna runs to him, jostling his corpse into her lap and sobbing. The image pauses. SPEAKER What happens next? Robert stares at the screen He runs a finger across the face of the sobbing Bresna. SPEAKER What happens next?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 38 ROBERT I don't know. SPEAKER Write. ROBERT I don't SPEAKER Write Robert taps at the keys. INSERT WRITING Robert writes: I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPE NS NEXT. I CAN'T FIN ISH THIS STORY ." BACK TO SCENE The TV is playing again. Robert himself is on the screen now. He clutches a stomach wound and rests against a tree. Jean stumbles into view. She doesn't notice Robert. She leans on another dead tree and catches her breath. Robert reaches on the ground next to him for a gun. He points it at her. ROBERT This what is this? The Robert on the TV whispers to himself. Jean turns around. The gun FIRES A rosy red hole tears through Jean's face. JEAN (On TV) Robert? ROBERT What the fuck is this?! The Robert on screen rushes to Jean. He holds her corpse and sobs. SPEAKER What happens next? Robert stares at the TV screen. At himself.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 39 SPEAKER (CONT) Write! The TV replays Robert shootin g and Jean getting hit. ROBERT Stop it! I don't know what happens next! I don't know! A close up shows the contents of Jean's skull running down her face. ROBERT (CONT) I don't know! I don't know! Please, I'll write, just stop. Please. Robert taps at the keys. INSERT WRITING Robert writes: BRESNA HOLDS STAGGART'S COR PSE. SHE TRIES TO PU T PIECES OF HIM BACK I NTO THE HOLE IN HIS HEAD. SHE CAN'T FIX HIM. SHE CAN'T FIX HERSEL F. BACK TO SCENE Robert stares at the page with teary eyes. SPEAKER What happens next? ROBERT Nothing. I don't want it to end like this. On the TV, Staggart and Bresna are back. They stand side by side staring at Robert through the screen. Staggart still has the bullet hole in his head. SPEAKER Write. Robert scowls at the TV screen. He taps at the keys

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 40 INSERT WRITING He writes: "THE FLOOR OF THE CELL CRUMBLED AND A HOLE APPEARED. ROBERT ESCAPED." BACK TO SCENE The stone flooring of the cell CREAKS and then falls out. Robert holds onto the desk as his chair falls back into the new hole in the floor. He drags the desk with him as he drops into the darkness. INT. THE DARK ROOM TUNNEL DAY Robert lands in a dark tunnel. Nothing from the cell has come with him. He gets to his feet and starts to du st himself off. Voices come from farther in the tunnel. The faint glow of fire come from ahead. ROBERT Great. More dark ness He walks forward keeping his footfalls as quiet as possible. He reaches a bend in the tunnel and sees two people sitting at a campfire. These are PANGLOSS and OLD WOMAN, both in their early 60s. Each one looks devastated by hardship. Their scars and stress lines write stories across their skin. ROBERT Hello? Pangloss spins around and almost falls over. PANGLOSS Who is t hat? Candide? Candide is that you? ROBERT Candide? No I'm Robert. Robert walks into the firelight and Pangloss seems to calm down. ROBERT (CONT) I just fell down into this tunnel. I'm not entirely sure what's going on.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 41 The old woman reaches out f or Robert's hand. He looks down at her. The binding of his wound has come off and it's bleeding again. PANGLOSS I'm not entirely sure myself, but don't worry, young man, it is sure to work out for the best. The woman motions for Robert to sit beside her. He does. She reaches for a jug and pours water over Robert's wound. He winces as she pats at the wound with a rag. ROBERT Who are you people? PANGLOSS I am Pangloss, and this is uh, she does have a name. ROBERT Pangloss. PANGLOSS Yes, you have heard of me? My name does hold some esteem in certain circles. ROBERT I'm not sure You mentioned Candide earlier? PANGLOSS Ah, yes. Candide. Wonderful mind. It's been some time since I've seen him. Robert looks at the man with wonder. Th e lady stabs needle into his hand. ROBERT Ow! She starts to stitch the wound.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 42 PANGLOSS Yes, too long. I'm sure he'll be back soon though. ROBERT I think this is Voltaire. PANGLOSS What was that? ROBERT I'm sorry, just, the things you're saying. Dr. Pangloss and Candide. That's Voltaire. PANGLOSS Voltaire. ROBERT Yeah. French writer during the Enlightenment. PANGLOSS I don't know that I follow. ROBERT I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't. PANGLOSS Nonsense, I've discussed philosophy with great mind across the whole of Europe. You will not offend me. ROBERT It's just that. It's a book, you know? Ow. You a re characters in a book. PANGLOSS ( not quite paying attention) I believe t hat we are the best of all people living in the best of all worlds.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 43 ROBERT Yeah, that's kinda your whole thing. It's sad though, don't you think? I mean you haven't had the best of all possible live s, right? PANGLOSS All happens for a reason in the best of all worlds son ROBERT You're not wrong, but Voltaire's reason was to make fun of your beliefs, to prove that you are ridiculously wrong. PANGLOSS Who is this Voltaire, again? ROBERT Your author. He wrote you as an optimist in a world that was slowly eating you alive. I mean look at yourself. It's kind of cruel. Pangloss looks down at his rags of clothing. His withered arms. Tears are forming in his eyes. PANGLOSS A writer. ROBERT Yes. Candide: or, Optimism I'm sorry. It' s not really fair. Pangloss is quiet. Robert tries to give a reassuring smile. Pangloss goes into convulsions. The old woman stops dressing the wound. ROBERT Oh my god, are you ok? Robert crawls to the man's side. Pangloss seizes violently, frothing at the mouth.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 44 ROBERT What's happening? What do I do? The seizure stops. Pangloss lets out a whine. His body seems to ripple and then Pangloss implodes. He disappears into the air and a thin red mist spreads out. ROBERT What the fuck?! The tunn el SHUDDERS and dirt rains from the ceiling. The old woman crawls away from Robert. He looks over at her. ROBERT No. No, I didn't do that. She scrabbles to her feet and waddles away into the darkness where Robert came from. ROBERT Wait! Stop! Don' t go that way. More dirt rains down. ROBERT Damn it. Robert pulls the sewing needle from the loose thread in his hand and runs off in the other direction, further into the tunnel. As he goes, the tunnel becomes more clearly man made. Eventually Robert is running in a cement cut sewage tunnel. He arrives at a bulky metal door with no visible handle. He BANGS on the door. The tunnel THUDS behind him. A wind sends the torch flame fli ckering. Robert BANGS on the door louder ROBERT Please damn it. Someone open this door! The concussive force of the collapsing tunnel ECHOES around Robert. The door opens and blinding light seeps out. A figure drags Robert into the room on the other side and slams the door closed.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 45 INT. THE DARK ROOM LIGHT ROOM NIGHT Robert staggers into the glare of a thousand glowing lights. He has to squint against the brightness. The small room is wired from top to bottom with old filament lightbulbs. No corne r holds a shadow. In the room, there sits a single chair, a mattress, and a beat up gramophone. The figure moves past Robert and takes a seat in the chair. As Robert adjusts to the lighting, the figure takes shape as a man. This is RALPH, an African Ameri can in his mid 30s, weary eyed after too much time spent unseen. The gramophone by his feet PLAYS AN OLD LOUIS A RMSTRONG TUNE He mutters something to himself. ROBERT Thank you for letting me in. You would not believe well anyway, thanks. RALPH You cannot stay. ROBERT Excuse me? RALPH You can't be here. ROBERT Where do I go? RALPH Out. Avoid the rioting though. ROBERT Rioting? Where are we? RALPH Here. ROBERT Who are you? Ralph laughs to himself.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 46 ROBERT (CONT) Look, I'm sure you have your own stuff going on, but you don't know what I've just been through. If you could just help me RALPH You're a writer. You can't write. You're lost. ROBERT What? RALPH I'm invisible, not blind. ROBERT I don't und erstand. RALPH No, but what, you came down here for some sage advice from a black man? ROBERT I didn't. RALPH You can't find your own voice, and it's all hinging on you. Crisis. Climax. Denouement. Robert starts to say something, but nothing c omes out. RALPH (CONT) You won't even see me, but what do you want? Me to peel the scabs off your eyes? Me to turn the lights on? Me to tell you that you're right? ROBERT No. Just. I just need to get back home. I need to write my novel. RALPH Then why don't you?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 47 ROBERT I don't know how. I don't know where I am. RALPH You don't know how to write anymore? ROBERT No, I don't know how to get home. RALPH You don't know how to write anymore. ROBERT No. I'm scared. RALPH Of wha t? ROBERT Of hurting someone. Myself. Ralph lets out a loud laugh. RALPH Let the cannon grow a conscience. ROBERT What? RALPH Look, I can't help you. I'd say that nobody can, but I'm nobody and I can't. The gramophone reaches the end of its song. V OICES and a COMMOTION sound from somewhere outside of the room.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 48 RALPH (CONT) My advice to you is to give up for all our sake. You're never going to figure this out, but you'll waste all of our breath trying. Flooding the airwaves with your two bit existential drama while we suffocate in your stench. ROBERT Thanks. RALPH Doesn't it get old, all that guilt? All the losing sleep, just to feel more of it? You're not scared of hurting anyone, definitely not yourself. It's all you do. Robert clenches his jaw and stares forward into space. RALPH (CONT) No, see? You're scared that someone figured you out, you and you're little dime store trick. ROBERT Leave me alone. Ralph smiles and puts the gramophone's needle back to the sta rt of the record. RALPH You are alone Robert. All alone. Robert turns away from Ralph, his eyes angry and wet with held back tears. He makes his way to the door. The light bulbs begin POPPING around him. Louie's TRUMPET WARBLES as the room goes black b ehind him, leaving Ralph as first a silhouette, and then a dark shadow. Robert pushes the door open and walks out. EXT. THE DARK ROOM CITY STREET NIGHT The door opens into a little outdoor stairwell that leads up to street level. From the street above, YELLING GLASS BREAKING and SIRENS sound into the night. Robert sneaks up the stairs. He peeks out onto the street.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 49 It's an urban area with residential properties and storefronts. A swar m of activity consumes the block. POLICE WITH RIOT GEA R flank one end of the street and a CROWD OF AFRICAN AME RICANS fill the rest. Taunts are being yelled back and forth. People break into the stores, too far away for the police to intervene. ROBERT Shit. Robert's position is a fair distance from the pol ice line. He edges up the last of the stairs and moves onto the sidewalk. He keeps his head down. RIOTER 1 Hey, man. Who the hell are you? From behind Robert, a rioter moves to catch up to him. As the man approaches, Robert spins around. ROBERT I don't want trouble. I'm just trying to get home. Robert trips over something as he tries to walk backwards. He falls to the ground. A riot cop notices Robert at the edge of the crowd with the rioter standing over him. He yells something, and some other co ps circle to a vantage point. Robert twists around and scrambles to get to his feet, trying to wave the cop away all the while. ROBERT No, no! It's alright! I'm okay! The rioter turns on his heels. RIOTER 1 Oh, fu Police OPEN FIRE The crowd turns into a stampeding mass. Robert dashes toward the officers waving his hands. ROBERT Stop shooting! Stop!

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 50 The crowd splinters around him. Some descend upon the firing police officers. Others dash for safety. SCREAMS and GUNSHOTS melt into one. A flash of white descends from a nearby rooftop and lands in front of Robert, causing him to stumble into a wall. A tall, muscular white man stands before him. This is THE KING. He's in his late 40s, but in a rugged, infinitely youthful way. He's clad in an impressive array of white and blue, with a cape, spandex, and large letter "K" at the center of his chest. THE KING Never fear, The King is here. The King reaches out a muscular arm. Robert is frozen in place and staring. THE KING (CONT) Come, cit izen. Robert reaches for the arm. The King pulls Robert up to his feet. THE KING Do not worry, citizen. You're safe with me. ROBERT Who are you? THE KING The King. As the man says this he turns back to the rioters. His eyes glow with a radiant white light. He begins to shoot great beams of it toward the rioters. Where the beams hit human targets, people seem to disintegrate, leaving sparks and cinders behind. Robert watches for a second, mouth agape. He tries to shove The King hard. The man doesn't budge, but he turns his attention to Robert. ROBERT What the fuck are you doing?! THE KING Maintaining the peace.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 51 ROBERT You're killing people! THE KING I'm eliminating threats. The King gives Robert a disarming grin and pats him on the head. THE KING (CONT) It's okay, you're hysteric. Perfectly understandable. Let's get you somewhere safe. The King fiddles with a large watch like gadget on one of his wrists. It BUZZES static. A voice comes from it. VOICE What are your orders, sir? THE KING Assemble, my knights. Clean up the rabble while I escort this victim to safety. VOICE Yes, sir! You can count on us. A commotion breaks out past the dwindling police line. A group of five colorfully clad MULTI ETHNIC NINJAS enter the fray. They punch and kick and flip, shouting encouragement to each other as they do so. The rioters become fodder for their kung fu antics. Robert shakes his head. The King offers his hand again. When Robert doesn't respond to the gesture, The King wraps his arm around him and pulls Robert in tight. ROBERT Wait! The King takes off into the air with Robert. They fly away. EXT. THE DARK ROOM LOFT DAY The King lands them on the balcony of an expensive loft. Robert falls to his knees as soo n as The King releases him. The King

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 52 doesn't help him up, but walks toward the large glass doors leading in. THE KING Come on. Let's get a drink into you. Robert rises to his feet as The King enters the loft. Robert looks out at the city below. The loft is some fifty stories up. From this height, the city looks to be in chaos. Fires and smoke mar the cityscape. Robert stares for a moment and then follows The King inside. INT. THE DARK ROOM LOFT CONTINUOUS Robert looks around at the expensive loft It has floor to ceiling windows, an enormous couch facing an enormous TV, and, at the center of the room, a marble statue of The King himself. The King is at a self service bar, preparing two scotches. He hands a glass to Robert who takes it reflexivel y. ROBERT Who do you think you are? THE KING I'm The King, defender of all. The King walks into another room with his scotch. ROBERT All? THE KING (OS) Sure! ROBERT I just watched you kill eight people. THE KING (OS) Sure! ROBERT I'm connecting dots. I don't think that you are.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 53 The King comes back into the room dressed in a silk robe. He has a thick mustache on his lip now as well. THE KING Nothing to connect. I make the world a better place. ROBERT You killed inno cent people The King laughs. THE KING I saved you. What have you ever done? ROBERT I'm a writer. THE KING He's a writer! ROBERT I don't kill people. THE KING Don't you? ROBERT Not real people. THE KING Oh. Right. I can see how that's different. ROBERT I'm pretty sure you're a racist. THE KING I'm a hero. ROBERT You're conceited. THE KING I'm a hero.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 54 ROBERT You're a fascist. THE KING I'm a fucking hero. The King's scotch glass shatters in his clenched fist. Blood drips down. Robert backs up a step. The King laughs. THE KING (CONT) A writer! So tell me then, Mr. Writer, what great, selfless, humanitarian act do you accomplish in your writing? ROBERT That's not the point. THE KING What is "the point"? ROBERT I tell stories. THE KING Oh, I see. You're in it for the craft. ROBERT No, I just like it. THE KING Just a flight of fancy then. The King slaps his bloody palm onto a nearby wall. He presses it there until the drywall starts to buckle. Rivulets of red tumble down the white paint. THE KING See, the way I see it, Robert: You're trying to backtrack. You scared yourself, you egotist. You know that I'm you. This is all you. He takes his hand off the wall and holds it ou t to Robert. Robert holds out his own torn palm, hanging string still halfway

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 55 closing the wound. A little trickle of blood drips down the string. THE KING (CONT) Robert, trying to hold on to his pedigree! "I write to tell stories." You liar! You solips istic ingrate, I love you! Robert clenches the wounded hand into a fist and stares down The King. He takes a step forward. THE KING (CONT) Alright! I'm a racist. A fascist. A self righteous vigilante. I'll own all of it, Robert, if you will. But don't flutter those pretty eyelashes at me and pretend you're innocent. The King moves toward Robert. Robert takes another step forward. THE KING (CONT) Or that you haven't lost yourself in pandering conceit. I've watched you! Alone. At a typewriter. One m an against the world. Write away the pain, Robert. Write away. The two men are within breathing distance of each other. Robert grits his teeth. The King's eyes glow with white light again. ROBERT I want to change. The world outside the loft disappears into darkness. THE KING You won't. You love this. The lights in the apartment begin to flicker. ROBERT I am going to change. THE KING I'm not.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 56 The lights go out, except for one directly above the two men. ROBERT You have to. The King's eyes begin to flicker. They go out. He yelps. Robert puts a hand on The King's shoulder and easily pushes the man down to his knees. The King grunts, trying to withstand Robert's new strength. His muscles deflate. He sinks to the floor, a scrawny, emaciate d thing. He laughs. The light goes out. THE KING Way to change, Robert. INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS Darkness. An orb of light rises from a dark horizon. Robert can see shadowy grass at his feet. Color sweeps across the sky. EXT. THE DARK ROOM BU RNT FOREST DAWN Robert is in a forest of blackened trees. They stick out of the ground like matches burnt on one end. The sun above moves in a steady line toward the opposite horizon. In front of him, Bresna holds the corpse of Staggart. She paws at his bloodied face in shock. ROBERT Bresna She swivels around, pistol still in hand. She FIRES a round at Robert. It doesn't hit. ROBERT (CONT) Woah! Hold on! Bresna sizes him up through glossy eyes. BRESNA Who are you? ROBERT I'm It doesn't matter. BRESNA What do you want?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 57 ROBERT To help. BRESNA You can't. ROBERT I can. He comes over to Bresna and the dead Staggart. He kneels beside them. ROBERT (CONT) I'm so sorry that this happened. BRESNA I did it. It was m e. ROBERT I know. But, it wasn't. BRESNA I hated him. I really thought I could hate him. ROBERT It wasn't your fault. BRESNA I killed him. Robert puts his wounded hand over the hole in Staggart's head. Bresna watches. Robert closes his eyes. The KEYS OF A TYPEWRITER sound. A DING Staggart opens his eyes. The hole is gone. STAGGART Nnnngh. BRESNA He's ROBERT I'm sorry. It's okay now. BRESNA How?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 58 ROBERT Don't worry about it. It's a whole thi ng. Staggart is staring up at Bresna He smiles. She hugs him tight against her. She pulls Robert into the hug as well. ROBERT (CONT) Woah. She laughs and lets Robert fall back. Robert smiles for the first time. Bresna and Staggart share a small kiss. BRESNA Thank you. Robert's eyes widen. He smiles back tears. BRESNA (CONT) You're a miracle. I don't know how we can ever repay you. ROBERT No. I'm. It's better like this. Bresna smiles at him. She stands and helps Staggart to his feet. BRESNA We need to get distance from your men. Staggart bites into his lip and nods. They start to walk, but Bresna winces. Robert stands up. ROBERT Right, I'm sorry. Hold on. He holds his hand to Bresna 's stomach wound. She shares a look of awe with Staggart. TYPEWRITER SOUND again. A DING Robert's hand lowers to reveal healthy skin. STAGGART Who are you? Robert looks from one to the other. He smiles at the ground.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 59 ROBERT I'm Robert. He hear s the couple laugh from farther off. He looks up to see that they are disappearing into the matchstick forest. The sun above reaches the other hor izon, and the forest around him becomes dark and formless again. INT. THE DARK ROOM CONTINUOUS Robert is a lone in the darkness. A glowing light grows in front of him. It reveals another door from his apartment building, number "404" this time. Robert pushes the door open. INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Robert walks into another clean version of his apartment. He hears arguing from the other room. He walks toward the sound. INT. THE DARK ROOM BEDROOM CONTINUOUS Robert comes up to the doorway to find the bedroom arranged as it was before. A half packed suitcase is on the bed. A second Robert pa ces alongside. Across from him is a cardboard cutout of Jean frowning. ROBERT 2 You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything. The room is silent for a moment. The first Robert sighs and backs up against the wall. ROBERT 2 (CONT) That's a r idiculous analogy. You're making ridiculous analogies for effect. ROBERT What are you doing? ROBERT 2 Don't do that. Don't be a bitch. No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have look, Frances.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 6 0 ROBERT Robert. ROBERT 2 I can't even talk to you! ROBERT Robert! ROBERT 2 Stop! The first Robert enters the room. He approaches the second Robert. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Jean, stop. Jean. Jean! The second Robert reaches for the suitcase flap and holds it half closed. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Please, Jean. The first Robert puts his hand over the other Robert's hand. The second Robert pushes the flap shut and recoils from the suitcase. ROBERT 2 (CONT) Holy fuck! Are you serious? The second Robert staggers around the bed, pushes the first out of his way, and zips up the suitcase. He grabs Jean's cut out in one arm and the suitcase in the other and storms out of the room. The first Robert sighs and runs a hand across his face. He sits on the edge of the bed and listens to the second Robert arguing alone in the living room. ROBERT 2 (OS) Please, Jean, just talk to me. I love you so much. I'm so sad. Remember when I took you to that writer's retreat? You saw me there. It's just the process, you know?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 61 ROBERT 2 (CONT) It drives me a bit crazy. I can't lo se you. I don't want to lose you! The first Robert drags himself off the bed and into the living room. INT. THE DARK ROOM APARTMENT CONTINUOUS The second Robert has set up the cut out of Jean between the suitcase and the over night bag. The first Robe rt edges toward him. ROBERT 2 Look, I'll stop writing. That's fine! I'll take a break or whatever. I'm sure the publishers will be fine with that. We can spend more time together. It can be like when we first met. I love you. Please, Jean, I love you. The first Robert puts an arm over the second Robert's shoulder. The second Robert looks at him, dazed. The first Robert leads him over to the couch. ROBERT 2 (CONT) You're ROBERT Yeah. Look, you gotta stop doing this to yourself. The second Robert pushes away, as the first tries to sit him down. The second Robert heads to the kitchen where the Malbec sits. He paces. ROBERT (CONT) We can't keep this up. ROBERT 2 Nobody loves me. The novelty wears off. I'm a hack. Stop it! Just shut up and leave!

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 62 ROBERT Robert, stop. ROBERT 2 That's my jacket. The second Robert looks puzzled. There is no jacket in the scene. He shakes his head and staggers to the cut out of Jean. He trips over himself a little as he carries the cut out and the bags to the door. He opens the door and tosses it all into the hallway outside. He slams it shut. ROBERT Come on. The second Robert returns to the kitchen. The first Robert follows. The second Robert stands at the counter staring at the Malbec. The fi rst Robert puts a hand on his shoulder. ROBERT (CONT) This doesn't need to be a tragedy. The second Robert fastens a hand around the neck of the wine bottle. ROBERT (CONT) You get to write the ending to this story, remember? The second Robert grips the bottle with a white knuckled fist. ROBERT (CONT) People change. We can change. The second Robert SMASHES the bottle repeatedly into the countertop. Wine and glass spread across it. The second Robert crumples against the counter, crying. The first Robert watches his other curl up against the cabinets under the countertop. The first Robert lowers himself to the floor and sits with his back against the counter. He sighs and runs his finger through the hair of the other Robert. ROBERT (CONT) It's okay. It's going to be okay.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 63 The second Robert calms down. The first Robert settles his hand in the other Robert's hair. He rests his head back against the cabinets. ROBERT (CONT) I'm sorry. The sophisticated lamp dims and goes out. Darkness. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY Robert wakes up in the kitchen of his messy apartment. Glass covers the floor. A mostly broken bottle of bourbon lies next to him. He groans. Robert makes his way to his feet somehow. He has to squint against the bright dayl ight spilling into the room from the window. ROBERT Fuck. Robert scratches his ass and stumbles off toward the bathroom. He passes a wall with a small rusty blood splotch on it. INT. ROBERT'S BATHROOM CONTINUOUS Robert looks at himself in the mirr or. He inhales and exhales, inhales and exhales. He makes a quick shuffle to the toilet, where he throws up. Robert spits into the toilet and flushes. He goes to the mirror and watches himself again. Turns the faucet on and takes a sip. He swizzles it aro und in his mouth. Spits into the sink. Takes a drink. Splashes some on his face. He stares at himself in the mirror once more. There is a noticeable lack of camera men. Robert looks to the corner of the mirror. He leans in close to see from an angle. Noth ing. Robert freezes. He dashes into the living room. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Robert swings around to face the very plain wall of his apartment with its small blood splotch. He's breathing heavily. He walks up to it and places his hand agains t it. He knocks with a fist. Pushes against it.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 64 He goes to stand in the center of the room. Stares at the giant hole that isn't in his wall. He inspects his wounded palm. The wound doesn't look very healthy, but it's half sealed by a stitched thread that hangs loose. Robert nods. He follows ideas with his eyes. Robert swivels around in place. His typewriter sits on the couch. He scoops it up and does a quick reorder of his desk. He sits down. He starts writing. MONTAGE: Robert tapping at the keys of th e typewriter. Words filling up white paper. Roll pushed over. Working its way back. DING Robert whips the page out of the roll and feeds a new one in. Robert sets his first full page down. The world from the window speeds by. The sun goes up and down. A nest forms on the opposite balcony. Robert drinks a glass of water. The stack of pages is at about 10. Robert fills a glass of water. The stack is at 25. Robert drinks another glass of water. The type hits the page. A phone call from Mo is ignored. The stack is at 40. Daylight is back. The typewriter gives another DING Robert is peeing in the toilet.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 65 Robert places the final page on the stack. A little over 50 pages now. Robert feeds the pages into an orange envelope and s miles. Robert deposits his envelope into a post office box outside. The envelope is addressed to "GOLD TREE PUBLISHING". Robert stands in the center of his apartment and gives a triumphant sigh. END OF MONTAGE INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY Robert fl ops down on the messy floor at the center of the living room. He's all smiles. He breathes in the stale air and closes his eyes. The sunlight sweeps by outside and turns to night. EXT. GRASSY FIELD DAY DREAM Robert opens his eyes. He's on his back in an endless green field. The wind gently blows the grass and it seems to breathe because of this. Robert sits up and looks around. He smiles as wind tussles his hair. Staggart and Bresna approach from the swaying grass. He waves and they wave back. BRES NA Robert! ROBERT Hey you two! What do you think?! STAGGART It's brilliant Robert! BRESNA The perfect story. They skip through the grass around him. ROBERT My publishers are going to kill me!

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 66 BRESNA They'll understand! STAGGART W hat's not to understand? ROBERT Bad writing! Robert laughs. He doesn't hear the couple laughing, so he turns around. He's alone in the field. The grass around him is brittle and dead. The dead spot spreads, green grass turns yellow and then grey. Robert's smile wavers. He stands. In the dead grass ahead of him is a thick mattress. It's covered in colorful sheets and thick pillows. Jean is lying on it, pale as death and with a trickle of vomit running from her mouth to a small puddle beneath her he ad. Her eyes are open and stare at Robert, unblinking. JEAN Where's my happy ending, Robert? Robert is still trying to smile. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT Daylight sweeps into night again from the window and Robert sits up. His apartment is all da rk shadows. A sound comes from his front door. A KEY SCRATCHING at the lock. ROBERT Jean? The door unlocks and opens. Mo is standing in the light of the hallway. He takes in Robert's apartment. MO Holy shit. ROBERT Mo? Mo catches sight of Robert on the floor. He stomps over. ROBERT (CONT) You have a key?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 67 MO Damn it, I should have known you would are you ok ay Robert? How much did you take? I'll call an ambulance. ROBERT What? No, I'm fine. Mo already has his phone out. ROBERT (CONT) Mo! I'm fine. Really. Mo gives him an incredulous look over. ROBERT (CONT) I'm better than fine actually. MO You do look sort of happy. ROBERT I think I am. MO Maybe I should call that ambulance. Robert laughs and gets to his feet with a hand up from Mo. He dusts himself off. ROBERT Sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out. MO Yeah, well maybe try answering a phone call once in a while. Wouldn't hurt. It's been a week. ROBERT Has it?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 68 MO Do you own a calendar? Neve r mind, don't answer that. ROBERT I got distracted. MO Distracted? ROBERT Yeah. MO Great. It's not done is it? ROBERT It is. MO God, what am I going to tell them this time Robert? ROBERT Mo. It's done. MO They'll string us up what? ROBERT I turned in the manuscript yesterday. Mo stares at Robert with a dumb look plastered over his face. MO When? ROBERT Morning. MO Shit. Seriously? Is it good?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 69 ROBERT (laughs) Yeah, actually. Really good. My best yet. I think. MO Really? ROBERT Mo. I actually feel good about this. For the first time in months. It's perfect. MO That's amazing. Mo takes a deep breath and laughs. He has to steady himself on a nearby pile of books. MO (CONT) I really thought it was over for us. ROBERT Me too. Mo almost says something, but instead he grabs Robert and pulls him into a tight hug. MO You're a mess, Robert, b ut I love you. Robert pats Mo's shoulder. ROBERT I love you too buddy. Mo pulls back and blinks away misty eyes. He punches Robert in the arm. MO We should celebrate! Robert smiles. He looks around his mess of an apartment and laughs.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 70 ROBERT Please, anything to get me out of this shit hole. Mo spins around on his heels. MO To alcohol! Robert collects his jacket from the sofa ROBERT Actually, Mo. I'm thinking I'm going to try the whole sober thing for a little while. Mo is startled. He looks at Robert like a crazy person. MO What happened to you? ROBERT I think I had an epiphany. MO Well. Whatever. I need to get drunk. ROBERT (laughs) Alright. Let's go get you drunk. Mo walks out into the hallway. Robert follows. He stares back into his apartment as he goes. Jean's body stares at him from the floor, framed in the little rectangle of light from the doorway. She mouths the same words at him. His smile tightens. He closes the door. Shadows consume the room again. On the counter, the phone RINGS It's Gold Tree publishing. The call goes to the machine.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 71 TRISHA (message) Robert. Call as soon as you get this. Your manuscript arrived today. We we need to just call as soon as you receive this message. We'll try your cell too. And Mo's. Goodbye. The phone light leaves the room in darkness. IN T. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT It's early in the morning, still dark outside. Robert opens the front door and steps into the apartment. He doesn't turn on the light. He wanders across the CRUNCHING glass and crumpled paper to the blinking phone. He plays Trisha's message and stares out the window. He grabs a glass from the drying rack. He holds it out over the floor. Loosens his grip. Before it falls though, Robert grabs the glass once more. He returns it to the rack. He chuckles to himself. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT LATER The phone rings in its dock. Robert is still standing next to it, staring out the window. On the opposite balcony the impressive hawk sits in a large nest. The smooth tops of a number of eggs shimmer in the morning light. Robert sighs and answers the phone. ROBERT Good morning Trisha. I heard that you got the manuscript. TRISHA Robert, I would rather not have this conversation over the phone. We have you and your agent penciled in for a four o'clock today. Does that work? ROBE RT I don't see why not. Sure. We'll be there.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 72 TRISHA Good. Robert Well, talk to you later then. ROBERT Can't wait. Robert waits for her to hang up. He dials Mo's number into the phone and listens to it RING Mo answers with a groan. MO Robe rt, I feel like crap. What do you want? ROBERT Mo, we have a meeting at the publishing house at four. MO Today? Shit. ROBERT Yeah, their moving fast on this thing. Eager to get it out probably. MO Huh. Yeah. I think I got a message from them last night. I might have deleted it on accident. ROBERT No worries. I'll see you there. MO Gross. Yeah. I need aspirin. Mo hangs up. Robert returns the phone to the dock. He closes his eyes. Tries to smile. INT. "GOLD TREE" FRONT DESK DAY Robert walks into an ornate lobby for Gold Tree's offices. A large front desk holds floral arrangements and a number of the publisher's prized texts. Mo is already at the front desk, pacing. A BEMUSED ASSISTANT watches Mo go back and forth. Mo looks at Ro bert as he approaches.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 73 MO Thank god! What the fuck is this Robert? Everybody's acting like there's a funeral. ROBERT I'm sure it's fine. Are they ready for us? ASSISTANT I'll let them know that you're here, Mr. Oliver. The assistant walks off. MO Why does it feel like there's going to be a blood sacrifice? ROBERT You're hungover. MO You haven't told me something. The assistant waves over the two men from a doorway into a nearby conference room. Robert shrugs at Mo and goes to the c onference room. Mo follows after. INT. MEETING ROOM CONTINUOUS Robert and Mo shuffle into the conference room and the door is closed behind them. They face three imposing figures sitting at the far end of a long conference table. From left to right the y are TRISHA, ABEL, and ASIA. Each give s off the aura of eternal youth. They watch Robert and Mo as the two men find seats at the table. TRISHA I suppose you know why we wanted to meet with you today? MO Actually

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 74 ROBERT Sure. ABEL Your manuscript, Robert ROBERT Go on. ASIA We're not sure how to take it. Trisha pushes the small stack pages onto the tablespace between the three publishers. MO Robert, what is that? TRISHA You can understand how we might not be very happy w ith this. ROBERT Sure. It's hard to be happy. I understand. Just take it as is. MO Robert, what it that? ASIA It's a little insulting in fact. MO Robert! ROBERT That's my manuscript. MO What? ABEL Mr. Naifeh, it seems your client has not communicated his intentions here to anyone.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 75 Mo just stares at the thin stack of papers and sinks into his puffy office chair. ROBERT My intentions were to write the ending to my story. MO What did you do, Robert? ABEL We cannot accept these pages as they are. In them, you have essentially written an epilogue to your entire series in which you rewrite the ending of your last book and then categorically tie off every plot thread like a bad fairy tale. This level of craft does not f it with the quality expected of our brand. ROBERT Oh, whatever. You sound like a bad rejection letter. I got you your damned pages. MO Robert, shut up. Just shut the fuck up! ROBERT Mo MO No, shut up. It's pretty clear what's happened here I can't believe you let me congratulate you. You're sick, Robert. ROBERT None of you understand. You're all so god damned pathetic. You don't know what I've done here, what I've been through.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 76 ASIA Robert, you've written eight bestsellers, you d on't get to decide what you've done. ROBERT This is my story! Everyone watches Robert as he stands angrily from the conversation. ROBERT (CONT) It's my story. TRISHA Robert, we understand if this is a lot for you to handle right now. Let's wrap this up, before things get too heated. ABEL Our response at this point, to this manuscript, is obviously no. We will be in touch, Robert, when you're feeling more reasonable. Mo has his face in his hands. Robert flings his chair over and storms out o f the room. TRISHA We're sorry Mohammad. You understand Mo takes his hands away from his face. He kind of nods, and then stands up and rushes out. INT. "GOLD TREE" FRONT DESK CONTINUOUS Robert tears across the room, straight for the exit. Mo comes out after him. MO Robert! Don't you dare just leave on me! Robert swivels and glares at Mo. Mo more than returns it in kind.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 77 MO (CONT) I can't believe you let me walk in their like that. ROBERT Mo, fuck them. They don't get it. MO Get what, Robert? That you've lost your mind. We're all right there on that page with you! ROBERT You can't be on their side! MO There is no other side. ROBERT You have to stick up for my writing. MO What writing? We've all been waiting for a b ook, and you turn in a paperweight. ROBERT It's well written. It's important. MO I don't even care, but it sure as hell doesn't sound like it. ROBERT Fuck you, Mo. You're just like them. MO Be careful, Robert. Robert searches Mo for any sign of a friend. MO (CONT) I knew it was too good to be true. When did you stop being a miracle worker?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 78 ROBERT I was never a miracle worker, Mo. You're all blind, I can't fix that. Mo laughs. He bites a white knuckled fist and shakes his head. A little BEEPING ALARM goes off on both Robert's phone and Mo's. Mo laughs harder this time, tearing up either because of it or despite it. MO The book reading is in two hours. ROBERT Great. MO I guess it doesn't matter. ROBERT I'll be there. MO Why? ROBERT Because this isn't over, Mo. MO Whatever you say, Robert. ROBERT I still have my audience. MO It's at six Robert. Just, be there on time. At the very least. Don't make me look bad. Worse. Robert nods. Mo shakes his head. He sulks over to a nearby chair and collapses into it. Robert watches him for a moment, but then leaves the building.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 79 EXT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT Robert walks up to the warmly lit storefront of the bookstore. Premature Christmas lights glitter in an array of colors above him and window displays advertise best sellers and intriguing reads. Past these window displays, the lobby appears cluttered with PATRONS sitting in foldout chairs. They all stare forward at an empty podium. Robert takes a deep breath and pushes the large front doors open. INT. BOOKSTORE CONTINUOUS The lobby of the bookstore is set up with some thirty or so chairs for the reading. Scattered around this seating arrangement are display stands with Robert's novels prominently featured. Be hind the podium several more chairs are set up for bookstore staff, although Mo sits here as well. As soon as Robert pushes into the bookstore, the seated patrons turn to stare at him. The room is silent. Their eager eyes follow him as he makes his way do wn a center aisle in the seating. They begin to rise and CLAP as Robert approaches the front of the seating. Mo shoots him a glare. He offers a meager smile in return and takes his place at the podium. ROBERT Um. Hello. The crowd is still standing and CLAPPING He motions for them to sit. Immediately the crowd stops clapping and sits. ROBERT (CONT) Hi. Everyone. Murmurs of hello sound from the crowd. ROBERT (CONT) Sorry I'm late. Um. Well, I would like to thank you all for coming out here tonight. I have a few selections here that I would love to read for you, so since I've already wasted enough of your time let's get started, shall we?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 80 The audience CLAPS again. Robert searches through papers in his shoulder bag The applause dies. He pulls out a thick hardcover book and THUMPS it onto the podium. Robert thumbs through pages of the novel S ome MURMURS sound in the silence ROBERT (CONT) I know most of you are probably here because of my Dance of Old Elements series. The crowd's murmurs become excited APPLAUSE Mo watches the crowd's energy with guilt and envy. ROBERT (CONT) I want to apologize because many of you have been patiently awaiting the next book in the series, after some minor delays. It's my ple asure to inform you, that I met with my publishers just a couple hours before this to finalize the manuscript. Members of the audience stand and CLAPPING resumes. Some sporadic CHEERING makes its way into the applause. Mo sinks in his chair. ROBERT (CON T) So to celebrate this, and kind of remind us where we are in the series, I thought I'd read from the latest installment, Old Xenon's Poison Um, let's try page fifty one. Rustling pages. ROBERT Well, you know. Not a lot happens at this point. Robert chuckles nervously

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 81 ROBERT Maybe let's move ahead to page one seventy six. Here we have one of the sweeter moments in the book, between our star crossed lovers, Staggart and Bresna. INT. DINING HALL NIGHT The interior of a dining hall in a stonework fortress glows with light from a dying fire. Bresna is lying on a large oaken bench, staring into the glowing embers. Staggart comes from another room and approaches the fire. Robert narrates the action ROBERT (VO) She pressed her back into the wooden bench, smiling to herself when Staggart failed to notice her. He sat just ahead of her, on the floor, and worked the fire. Bresna watches Staggart pass by. She smiles as he sits in front of her, unaware. She slips off the bench quietly and appr oaches Staggart from behind. ROBERT (VO) Embers danced upward into the stonework chimney and across the floor. Bresna slid off the bench, trying to mask her movements with the crackling of the fire. She reaches out a hand and Staggart bristles. He jumps and almost draws a knife. ROBERT (VO) She was right behind him, could see his muscles tense as she reached out a hand. Staggart grabbed for the knife at his belt. BRESNA Staggart. Staggart relaxes and grins as he recognizes her.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 82 ROBERT (VO) His hand fell away from the blade and he turned, a wry grin forming across his face. STAGGART I think I c ould have gotten my knife out BRESNA Liar. You're so dead. STAGGART You wouldn't have stabbed deep enough. I was already turning and you would've be en disarmed by my rugged charm. Bresna laughs and shoves him a bit as she sits alongside him. ROBERT (VO) Bresna laughed and sat beside him. They stared quietly into the fire. She leaned her head against his shoulder. She leans her he ad against his shoulder. She takes the fire poker and moves around some of the logs. ROBERT (VO) Taking the stick from him, she prodded at the blackened logs. He watched her m ovements, slow, tired, relaxed. STAGGART I missed you. Bresna smiles. ROBERT (VO) She smiled and em bers popped across their skin. BRESNA I missed fireplaces.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 83 Staggart smiles down at the ground. They sit for a moment. ROBERT (VO) Staggart flinc hed and grinned at the ground. STAGGART I guess this is peace. ROBERT (VO) She looked up at him, he down at her. Shadows danced sad wal tzes across their features. The two characters gaze into each other's eyes. ROBERT (VO) They might have kissed if the gunshots and screams from the sleeping quarters hadn't stopp ed them. A couple GUNSHOTS go off in a distant room. They tear away from each other and jerk their heads in the direction of the sound. A long SCREAM. Staggart's grin fade INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT Robert reaches the end of the selection and stops. He has teary eyes, and tries to blink them away. He looks at his audience, eager faces. They seem to show genuine concern. Love even. ROBERT Sorry, teared up there. It's not really my night I guess. I'm just going to skip ahead a bit. The next piece is on page three sixty three. Um. "The moon's pale light shone down on the Veriat forces. Their faces" Robert looks at his audience ready for bloodshed. ROBERT (CONT) "Their faces glowed as they crept through the long grass. The first echoes of battle horn s warbled

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 84 across the plains, much more the calls of a wounded animal than the beginnings of war." Robert frowns at the page. INSERT PAGE Robert's eyes flit acr oss the page finding words : "FIRE, SMEARED, SCREAMING, DEAD, STABBED, CRUSHING, BROKEN, BLOO DIED, LIMB, SLIT, SCARED, RED." The SOUNDS OF BATTLE sneak in from somewhere. Screams and clashes of metal. Gunshots. BACK TO SCENE Robert looks up from the page with big, scared eyes. His audience is in battle garb. Armor and Kevlar, guns and blades. R obert blinks and flips away from the page. ROBERT Let's just move on. How about page thirty five. Sorry, four thirty five. The audience is normal again, but they look flustered. They flip to the new page. Mo is hiding his face behind his hand. ROBERT You know what? Fuck it. Let's just skip ahead to five eighty two shall we? Get this over with. Mo is red in the face, his jaw is tightly clenched. Members of the audience exchange glances and shrugs. ROBERT We all know what's happening here, r ight? Everything's awful, irrecoverably broken. Half of Staggart's family have been executed, and the oth er half remain unaccounted for. People shift in their seats. Robert smiles at them sadly.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 85 ROBERT (CONT) Meanwhile, Bresna has been wounded and lef t for dead under the carcasses of her own soldiers. The two manage to escape the battlefield, and th e forces of the universe pull them together for one final meeting. Oh right, spoilers. The crowd is tense, watching Robert as he watches them. He nods. EX T. BURNT FOREST DAWN Bresna is breathing in deep, painful gasps. She clutches a wound at her side. She falls back against a blackened tree stump and slides down it. Robert narrates. ROBERT (V.O.) She fell against the blackened stump of the matchstick tree and lowered herself down against it. Every breath tore at her; every swell of her lungs pulled in ic e air and stinging agony. She pulls at tabs in her vest and closes her eyes. ROBERT (VO) She loosened her vest and closed her eyes. Concentrating on each breath, she tried to think away the pain. Instead, s he heard footsteps approaching. FOOTSTEPS sound in the leaves nearby. Bresna tenses and presses against the tree. She breathes carefully. ROBERT (VO) A rustle of dead, burnt leaves. She flat tened herself, as much as possible, against the stump behind her and the ground beneath her. Bresna reaches for her pistol, in the grass and weed to her side. She waits.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 86 ROBERT (VO) She reached for the pistol that she had discarded amongst the weeds at her side. Then, gripping it tigh tly to her body, Bresna waited. A figure comes into view. It's Staggart, weary from running. Bresna grimaces. ROBERT (VO) When he came into view, she immediately recognized him. Staggart, with the burns on his scalp and the sharp nose, and that loping gait like a clumsy lion. He was breathless after endless runni ng; a whole life spent running. Staggart rests against a tree. Bresna eyes him. It's almost love, her gaze, not quite. ROBERT (VO) He put a hand against another matchstick tree and tried to catch his breath, but it was slippery and too far away. Bresna wanted to believe that she could hate him, and she raised her pistol. She raises her pistol. It shakes in her hand as she aims it at him. ROBERT (VO) Walten, Heidrech, Stoldt, Bremwicz. She tried to r emember the faces of the men she had watched face torture and death at the hands of Staggart's troops. She had to believe that if he saw her, he would shoot first. But still, she found hersel f whispering into the morning

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 87 BRESNA Staggart. Staggart tenses and turns to look at her. ROBERT (VO) He whipped around, startled and still clutching his own pistol. She waited longer than she should have before she pulled the trigger; just long enough for him to see her crumpled against her tree. His eyes widen in recognition. Her finger pulls the trigger. INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT There is an audible sigh from the audience. Robert's signal that his writing has stirred something in them He looks at them with hatred. He continues. EXT. BURNT FOREST DAWN Bresna's gun FIRES its shot. A bullet hole tears through Staggart's forehead. ROBERT (V.O.) Her shot rang through the dead trees, but her bullet splintered into the wood at Staggart's side. It had gone wide. Perhaps she hadn't aimed it. She couldn't remember. INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT Audience members share looks of confusion as Robert goes off script. Mo stares at Robert, wide eyed. EXT. BURNT FOREST DAWN Staggart blinks through blood and drops his gun. ROBERT (V.O.) Staggart blinked and dropped his gun. "Bresna?"

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 88 He collapses to the ground and Bresna crawls across the forest floor to him. She screams inaudibly over Robert's narration, repeating Staggart's name over a nd over again. ROBERT (V.O.) She dropped her pistol. "You shot at me." She nods, tearing up, "I'm sorry." He rushes to her, and falls to his knees in the weeds. She pulls his body close to hers, bits of him oozing out of the hole in his head. She paws at the wound uselessly. ROBERT (V.O.) They embrace, and Bresna winces with her wound. They're both crying into each other's shoulders. "I love you. I love you so much." Bresna mouths I'm sorry's and I love you's onto Staggart's dead face. INT. BOOKSTORE NIGHT The audience stares in silence at Robert, the heretic. He stops reading and stares back. No claps. No questions. Just betrayal on both sides. Mo sighs. MO Robert. Robert closes his book with a CLAP He thrusts it back into his bag. MO Robert. Robert takes off down the aisle. Mo stands up and follows a few steps. MO Robert! You still have to sign

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 89 Robert blasts open the front door and disappears into the night. The audience blinks and people whisper to each other. Mo sinks ba ck into his chair. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT Robert slams the door open and shut as he enters the apartment. He doesn't turn on the lights. He stumbles into the kitchen and BANGS around in cabinets looking for alcohol. He finds some hidden in a high back corner. He rips open the bottle and takes a swig. The home phone dock beeps out that there is a message. Robert hits the button. MO God damn you. Alright Robert, I get it. Yo u'r e having a very tough time right now. I'm sure. It must be pretty hard to be faced with all this recognition, and money, and adoration I'm sure that really eats at you late at nights. While this message goes on Robert laughs, takes another drink, and kicks at some glass on the floor. MO (CONT) All that responsibility to your millions of fans and shareholders and me. T hat must be real fucki ng tough Robert. But listen you're not the only lucky bastard here ok ay ? You think I don't lie awake at night completely fucking aware that we're both here because of blind luck ? Robert walks to the living room area and pushes at the keys of his typewriter. He takes another deep swig. MO (CONT) That my entire livelihood is riding on the suped up, egotistic, ramblings of a too young curmudgeon and his fleeting bouts of inspiration?!

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 90 MO (CONT) Do y our fucking job, Robert. If not for yourself, then for me, o kay? At least until I find another bright new voice to bring out into the limelight. Please? As the message reaches its end Robert chuckles again. INSERT WRITING Robert has typed out: "MO MONEY" BACK TO SCENE Robert takes one last swig of his liquor, coughs it down, and tosses the bottle onto the kitchen floor. It CLINKS across, but fails to break. Robert frowns. The home phone rings. Robert gives it a glare. He crosses the kitchen and grabs the phone from its dock. The caller ID lists "Mohammad N ." Robert smiles, ends the call, and then hits the call button. The DIAL TO NE drones. He tosses the phone into the next room. He gives a look of triumph. ROBERT Nope! The smart phone JINGLES in his pocket. Robert digs it out. He answers it. ROBERT Mo! So good of you to call! MO Robert, you piece of shit, what do you think you're doing? ROBERT I'm saving you all some time! Some miserable time! You saw their faces, they loved it. If they could just let it sink into their stupid cow brains they'd know that they loved it.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 91 MO You finally lost it. ROBERT Fuck off, Mo! I've never felt better You don't even know I tuned in to the radio waves of the muses and picked up smooth jazz, Mo, the entire universe screaming at me: "There's another way, Robert. There's a better way." And I listened. And I changed. And I'v e done the good work, and can save the world. Let me save the world now! MO I think we're done here. ROBERT Would you just let me save someone? Please. MO Robert. ROBERT We don't have to be cannibals. MO Take care of yourself. Mo hangs up. ROBERT I don't want to be a cannibal. Robert listens to the silence from the phone. He laughs. He throws the phone on the ground at his feet and starts stomping it to pieces. Robert kicks the desk's chair out of his way. He stands in front of the wall. ROBERT I give up. It didn't work.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 92 He puts his hand up to the wall. ROBERT (CONT) Nobody liked it. He waits for some response. ROBERT (CONT) What do I do? It's a wall. ROBERT (CONT) Please. Come back. Nothing's changed. Robert pounds on the wall with his fist. ROBERT (CONT) Take me back! You have to come back! I don't know what I'm doing. Robert retreats to the kitchen, rubbing his temples. ROBERT (CONT) What are you doing, Robert? There was never a hole. He opens a cabinet full of dishware and glasses. He starts to reach for a glass, but stops halfway through the motion. ROBERT (CONT) There was never a hole. Robert crumples against the countertop. His legs don't want to hold him up. He presses his face into the counter and laughs. ROBERT You're crazy. You lost it. He breathes deep. Pushes himself back up. And starts throwing things from the cabinet across the room. G LASSES EXPLODE against walls. Plates fly like Frisbees. Bowls SHATTER on the floor. Robert is still laughing.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 93 When the cabinet has been emptied, he crashes around the apartment looking for more to break. He pulls out drawers and sends them CLATTERING to the floor. The piles of books are thrown over. The sofa cushions pulled out and tossed. Rober t even breaks the light on the ceiling. After the carnage he stands, glaring at the wall. He looks around the wreckage. He grabs a large shard of glass. He drags it indelicately across his left palm. The wound is deep. Blood quickly rises and drips off. R obert smiles. He walks to the wall and presses his new wound to it. Blood drips down. Robert closes his eyes. He opens them again and backs away. The wall is still just a wall. Now it has a bloody palm print too. Robert waits. Nothing. He screams and rus hes back to the wall. He pounds on it again. He topples the desk. The typewriter crashes to the floor with a loud DING Robert stomps on it. He storms off to his bedroom and returns with a hammer. He SMASHES THE HAMMER I NTO THE WALL It punctures the drywall. He does this again and again. Holes dot the wall. He tears at the holes with the back of the hammer. Then with his hands. Blood and dust and dry wall chunks. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT Robert sits on the floor staring at the destroyed wall, in a trance. His hands, shirt and face are bloodied. His eyes begin to tear up. Voices sound from the bedroom. Robert snaps out of his trance. He stands and moves over to the bedroom. INT. ROBERT'S BEDROOM CONTINUOUS Robert approaches the doorway. Th is is not the bedroom from earlier. Instead, clothes lie in heaps around an unmade bed. Dirty mugs and dishes mount a shabby bedside table. Still, Jean is at the bedside and a second Robert paces across from her. She piles imaginary clothing into an imagi nary suitcase.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 94 ROBERT 2 You can't just run away. That doesn't solve anything. JEAN Nobody can solve anything around you! The original Robert takes a tired seat at the edge of the bed, between the couple. JEAN (CONT) You're a pit, Robert. And everything just sorta falls into you and dies. ROBERT I'm not a pit, Jean. ROBERT 2 That's a ridiculous analogy. You're making ridiculous analogies for effect. JEAN You are fucking ridiculous! ROBERT 2 Don't do that. ROBERT Don't call her a bitch. ROBERT 2 Don't be a bitch. JEAN Are you fucking kidding me? ROBERT Damn it, Robert. Come on. JEAN Call me a bitch again. ROBERT Please, you two.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 95 ROBERT 2 No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have look, Frances. JEAN Ew, really? Frances? ROBERT Just stop. ROBERT 2 I can't even talk to you! ROBERT Stop. JEAN Good. Shut the fuck up. ROBERT 2 Stop! ROBERT Just stop fighting! Both Jean and the second Robert stop and look at Robert. He takes a glance at each of them. ROBERT (CONT) What? You're both ridiculous. I'm ridiculous. Let's all just stop. Jean and the second Robert look at each other, confused. Jean purses her lips. She grabs her imaginary suitcase, closes it, and drags it off the bed. RO BERT 2 Jean, stop. Jean. Jean! Jean drags her suitcase out of the bedroom. The second Robert rushes after her. ROBERT Really?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 96 Robert shakes his head. He lets out a small laugh. Then, he stands and follows after the arguing couple INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY The room is the same anger torn, glass shard disaster that Robert left. The second Robert and Jean face off in the center of the wreckage. Robert meanders in to find them glaring at each other. ROBERT Would you just slap each other to death and get it over with? They both glare at him and turn back to each other. ROBERT 2 Would you just talk to me, Jean? ROBERT Just tell her that you're sorry. JEAN I'm so tired of talking to you. You like words too much. ROBERT That's a little unfair. ROBERT 2 It's all I have. JEAN Then go look in the mirror and tell yourself why this is happening. The second Robert winces at this. The first Robert walks around the couple. ROBERT I don't think any of us know why this is ROBERT 2 I love you, Jean.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 97 Robert looks over at himself. ROBERT Hmm. That's interesting. JEAN Great. ROBERT Ouch. ROBERT 2 Really? Fuck you! ROBERT Jesus, don't say that. JEAN No, fuck you Robert. All you do is write shitty, sad little stories. You expect me to believe that you know anything about love? ROBERT She's got a point. ROBERT 2 I know this. You and me. JEAN This isn't love Robert. This is self mutilation. ROBERT Fuck, Jean. Jean glances at Robert. The se cond Robert stares at his feet. ROBERT What? Don't tear my heart out. She looks back to the second Robert, sulking in his small square of existence. She approaches and hesitantly puts a hand on his shoulder.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 98 JEAN I'm sorry. I just mean that we're hurting ourselves so much on each other. And for no reason. It doesn't make sense, Robert. The second Robert looks up and stares into her eyes. She stares back. For a moment, it's almost beautiful. Glassy eyes connected. Jean pulls the plug. She tak es off Robert's jacket. JEAN Here's your jacket. ROBERT 2 (sniffling) Thanks. She hands it to him and he accepts. Robert watches himself with pity. JEAN Goodbye, Robert. She waits for a reply, but nothing comes. JEAN Okay. She turns, opens the door, and walks away. ROBERT That's it? You didn't even say goodbye? The second Robert shuffles over to his couch and sinks into it. ROBERT Are you serious?! The second Robert stares at empty space with dead eyes. ROBERT God damn it! Do something! You just sit there. And moan, and whine, and write. What is wrong with you?! Do something!

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 99 The second Robert doesn't react to the outburst. ROBERT Fine! You can sulk. I'm leaving. The second Robert lifts his head up to watch Ro bert storm out of the apartment. INT. DARK HALLWAY CONTINUOUS Robert hurries down the hallway. It continues endlessly into the distance. The soft orange glow of lamps on the walls fades as Robert continues down the hall. ROBERT Jean! JEAN Robert? The voice comes from somewhere in the darkness ahead. A light comes on. Jean stands in front of Robert in a small ring of light. Everything else is darkness. ROBERT Jean, I'm sorry. I tried to tell him. JEAN What? Robert, you don't follow me. ROBERT I know, but I should. Shouldn't I? That's what I'm supposed to do? JEAN But this isn't how it goes. ROBERT It could be. JEAN I don't understand you. ROBERT Me neither.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 100 JEAN Why do you only fight for things when they're already gone? ROBERT I don't like fighting? JEAN All you write about is people who fight. ROBERT I'm outsourcing. Jean laughs. Robert tries to smile. JEAN You are a horrible mess. ROBERT I know. I'm working on that. JEAN Can you tell me, Robert, what in your life made you so sad? Robert laughs. ROBERT God, I don't think I even know. Probably some childhood trauma. JEAN You're so corrosive. I read your books, and wonder if you can even conceive of a story that doesn't end in despair. ROBERT I'm not that bad. JEAN But you are, Robert. And that's dangerous for me. I need to be around people who know how to be happy.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 101 ROBERT I don't know what that means. You made me happy. JEAN I made you briefly not sad. Until the end. ROBERT You're simplifying things though. You can't just be happy. JEAN No, you just can't be happy. You always need things to devolve into misery. ROBERT But that's nature. There are no happy endings. Just happy moments. Endings are inherently sad. We can only ever cut away before it gets too bad. Jean laughs and shakes her head. JEAN Listen to yourself. Fine, I'm cutting away. I'll be the ending of your sad and deeply contemplative exploration of the human heart. ROBERT Come on, Jean. JEAN Goodbye, Robert. ROBERT This was supposed to change something. Jean freezes in place. A voice comes from the darkness around Robert.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 102 SCREENWRITER Why would it? Robert looks around. The darkness lifts INT. MOVIE THEATER CONTINUOUS The house lights come up in the theater seating where Robert started this whole miserable affair. Robert looks back to Jean, but she's gone. SCREENWRITER Come sit with me, Robert. Robert turns toward the voice and sees a man sitting in a r ed cushioned seat in the center of the theater. The man smiles at Robert. This is the SCREENWRITER, early 20s, a dashing and handsome individual. Definitely not just a stressed out, sleep deprived college student. He pats the seat next to him. Robert look s the Screenwriter up and down. He shuffles down the row of seats and sits alongside the man. ROBERT Who are you? SCREENWRITER Let's ease into that. I want to show you something first. The Screenwriter holds up a remote control and presses a play button. An image comes up on the screen. It's the cafŽ from before. Robert is sitting at a table outside. Jean is sitting at an adjacent table. Robert stares at the image and his lips part. He looks over at the Screenwriter, but EXT. OUTSIDE CAFƒ DAY Robert's in the scene. He's looking at Jean, sitting at the table next to him. ROBERT (mumbled) Jean? Jean looks over at him. Robert turns his attention back to a cup of coffee in front of him.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 103 JEAN Holy shit. You're Robert Oliver. Robert smiles at her, a deer caught in the headlights of very pretty semi. ROBERT Damn. You got me. JEAN I literally just finished the first book. ROBERT [NAME OF BOOK]? JEAN Yeah! You wouldn't, like, sign it for me maybe? I have it in my bag. I d on't want to be annoying or anything. Robert smiles. ROBERT No, that's fine. Of course I'll sign it. Jean hops over to Robert's table. She digs in her bag and pulls out a hardcover copy of his book. She hands it to him with a pen. Robert opens the cover. ROBERT So, what's your name? JEAN Jean. Robert signs the title page. ROBERT Oh, cool. That's my middle name, actually. JEAN Really? It's my middle name too.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 104 ROBERT Your name is Jean Jean? Jean laughs. JEAN No, I go by my middle name. ROBERT Oh, right. That makes more sense. What's your first name? JEAN Bleh. Frances. Robert smiles. JEAN (CONT) I know, it's a 50s housewife name. Jean is much more. I don't know. ROBERT Comfortable, form fitting and appropria te for any wardrobe? JEAN (laughs) Yeah, sure. ROBERT Well, it's nice to meet you, Jean. JEAN You're not the one meeting the famous novel writer! ROBERT I'm really more of just a person. JEAN Whatever you say bestseller. Robert gives an embarrassed laugh. They share a moment of awkward silence. Jean smiles. Robert smiles.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 105 ROBERT So, were you waiting for someone? JEAN Not anymore. The two make unflinching eye contact. The sounds of two unchecked universes colliding. A gr eat silence. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT NIGHT There's laughing as the door opens into the dark apartment. The silhouettes of Robert and Jean stand in the doorway. Robert gives Jean a peck on the cheek. She kisses him on the lips. Robert fumbles for the li ght. ROBERT Behold! The light comes on, revealing a barely furnished iteration of the apartment. A foldout table with the typewriter sits on the wall. Nothing much else. JEAN This is it? ROBERT Yup. JEAN Aren't you rich? ROBERT (laughs) Oh I see how it is. He pulls her inside the apartment. She yelps and laughs. Robert pulls her into an embrace. JEAN Really, is that a typewriter? ROBERT What?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 106 JEAN Isn't that a little bit pretentious? ROBERT Whatever. She pulls back a little to look at Robert's face. JEAN Seriously though, we have to make this place look like you're not a serial killer. ROBERT It's not that bad! Jean disappears from Robert's arms. The apartment becomes a blur of movements; a time lapse of Robert's life there. Furniture shows up. Two blurry human forms flutter about the place. Furniture disappears. Robert sinks to the ground, but finds a seat beneath him. INT. MOVIE THEATER CONTINUOUS Robert's in the theater again. The screenwri ter watches from beside him. SCREENWRITER How was that? ROBERT G good. Thank you. I Who are you? SCREENWRITER Well, I think God. ROBERT What? SCREENWRITER Your God at least. I'm a screenwriter, kind of. I wrote am writing you. Robert stares at him.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 107 SCREENWRITER (CONT) I know, that's a lot to take in. Ummm here, let's watch one more thing. I think you should see this. The screenwriter clicks play on his remote again. ON THE SCREEN: INT. JEAN'S APARTMENT NIGHT Jean is sitting on a small sofa watching a television. To her side is a woman, with her feet resting on the coffee table from Robert's apartment. This is ZOEY, early 20s, the peppy best friend. BACK TO SCENE ROBERT This is that's one of Jean's friends. SCREENWRITER Yeah, Zoey. She's peppy. I guess. I had to make her up for this scene to work. ROBERT Is this real? SCREENWRITER None of this is real Robert. Not you. Not me. But, yeah, sure. I mean this is Jean's life right now. ROBERT Why ar e you showing me this? SCREENWRITER Because look at yourself Robert! You're spiraling. And look at her. ROBERT So?

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 108 SCREENWRITER Doesn't she kind of look pretty okay? ROBERT Whatever. That doesn't mean anything. SCREENWRITER Okay, how about you ask her yourself? INT. JEAN'S APARTMENT CONTINUOUS Robert is staring at his bare feet and painted toenails. He looks over at Jean who's watching the TV. Robert touches his face, but it's not his face. He's Zoey. JEAN I know, but it gets t o the point where I can't even tell the difference between any of them, you know? ZOEY What? JEAN I mean, you stuff them all in suits, throw em up in front of a podium and they all start to look and sound the same. Jean glances at Zoey. JEAN ( CONT) What? It's like, alright, I've been painting these star scapes lately. And I look at them and pictures from Hubble and whatever, and the last thing on my mind is democracy or presidents or.. She trails off and glances back at Zoey again.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 109 JEAN Why are you looking at me like that? ZOEY Like what? JEAN Like a crazy person. ZOEY It's nothing. Hey, whatever happened to that "famous" writer you were dating? JEAN Really? Can we not talk about that? ZOEY Sorry, just, you can talk to me you know. If there's anything bothering you. JEAN Yeah, I know. Are you feeling alright? ZOEY I'm just worried about you is all. You really loved that guy, and I know it was messy. JEAN Please, Zoey. ZOEY I just can't tell if you're o ver him or if this is a whole act. JEAN You're freaking me out. ZOEY You don't have to act.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 110 JEAN Let's stop, okay? ZOEY Jean, you broke his heart. JEAN Excuse me? ZOEY You can't just pretend that away! JEAN What the fu Jean and Zoey freeze in place. INT. MOVIE THEATER CONTINUOUS Robert is staring at a screen again. The Screenwriter sits next to him. He gives Robert a bemused look. SCREENWRITER Jesus, Robert. That wasn't very subtle. Have you heard of the Bechdel test? ROBERT Leave me alone SCREENWRITER Look, I was trying to illustrate a point there. ROBERT What point? That I'm a mess? I already got that one, thanks. SCREENWRITER No, Robert. Look, I'm having this one consistent problem here, and I need you to move past this subplot. Cause you know, I only added in Jean as a way to kind of personify your inner struggle. I think you've taken the whole situation a bit far. It's just a

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 111 subplot. And I need us to move on. Because there's more important stuff here. I didn't want this to be a romance. ROBERT You could make her love me. Couldn't you? SCREENWRITER What? Ew. No, Robert come on, man. ROBERT What do you want from me?! SCREENWRITER I'm just like you Robert. I need an ending. And I can't find it. I'm stuck in this story and I'm running out of time. I need you to help me. ROBERT How can I help you? SCREENWRITER I like to believe you kind of know yourself, maybe even a little better than I do. ROBERT I don't. SCREENWRI TER Look, I'm giving you the choice Robert. You should get to choose. ROBERT Choice? SCREENWRITER Sure. ROBERT Sure.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 112 SCREENWRITER The way I see it you have two options. ROBERT Oh, great. A binary. My creator gives me a binary. Choice, huh? SCREENWRITER I'm just calling it like I sees it. ROBERT Whatever. SCREENWRITER I see two options. Either you beg for forgiveness, and write your book like a proper writer. Sure it means abandoning the comfort of moral superiority but in the long run you'll be happy despite that. I'm sure. Throw enough praise at a b roken ego and it's bound to put itself back together? Right? Robert glares at him. The Screenwriter grins SCREENWRITER (CONT) Anyway, option number two: you writ e you're ending, throw in the to wel in a blaze of self affirmed glory, but inevitably are left without credibility, an audience, or (most importantly) a publisher. Robert looks away, staring into the aisle of seats. The Screenwriter gives him a moment to pout. SCREENWRITER (CONT) I'm sure you c ould try to piece that foundation back together, but let' s be honest. You were lucky the first time. Opportunities don't grow on trees, and second chances are a myth.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 113 SCREENWRITER (CONT) Besides, your sacrifice will go unnoticed and they'll likely make the right ending anyw ay. And it is the right ending. One writer to the other, we both know how your novel ends. ROBERT So, my options are: I'm fucked? SCREENWRITER No. E ither you sacrifice your mo rals for the story, your readers, your livelihood. Or you sacrifice all of those for you morals. ROBERT So my options are: I'm fucked. SCREENWRITER We all make sacrifices, Robert. ROBERT What did you sacrifice? SCREENWRITER You. ROBERT Whatever. SCREENWRITER Hey, I'm positive that whatever path you choose, it'll be the right choice and you'll live happily ever after until later, when you let it fester into misery once more. The Screenwriter beams at Robert. Robert scowls. ROBERT Thanks.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 114 SCREENWRITER No problem! Alright, enough of this deus ex m achina bullshit, let's write ourselves out of this mess, shall we? ROBERT Humanum ex machina? SCREENWRITER (laughs) Stercore ex machina. The screenwriter gives Robert a pat on the back. The houselights dim in the theater. On the screen is another shot from the back of the theater, two silhouettes in a sea of seatbacks. The infinite theaters distend into infinity again. SCREENWRITER Go get em tiger. Robert stands and walks away from the screenwriter, up the aisle, and off screen. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT DAY Robert opens the door and peeks in. Things are just the way he left them: a mess. Robert enters and crunches across the room. He looks at the busted typewriter on the floor. He scrounges around a toppled pile of books and digs out the cordless telephone. He dials a number and waits for someone to answer. TRISHA Hello, this is Trisha at Gold Tree publishing. May I ask who's calling? ROBERT Hey, Trisha. It 's me. Robert. The line is silent for a moment. Trisha says something away from the receiver.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 115 TRISHA Um, Robert. Hi. Can you give me one moment, please? ROBERT No. Trisha. She's talking off the phone again. ROBERT (CONT) Trisha. I'm going to do it. You beat me. You won. I'll do it. TRISHA I'm sorry. What was that, Robert? I was away from the phone. ROBERT I'm making the revisions. I'll give you your manuscript. Just give me another month. TRISHA Robert, it's come to the point wh ere we need to talk legal. You've broken contract. ROBERT Okay, Trisha, I need you to shut up and listen to me. TRISHA Robert ROBERT I'm telling you I'm going to write your fucking book, okay?! TRISHA I'm going to end this call, if you keep talking to me like that. ROBERT Give me one month. I'll have your book.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 116 TRISHA That's not how contracts work Mr. Oliver. You can't just move back the date every time you fail to meet it. Call your agent. ROBERT Don't fucking Look, I don' t give a single shit about your contract. I'm giving you your bestseller. I'm giving you your fucking profit margins or whatever it is you all care about. Oprah's book club, I don't know. Give me one month. They'll be writing critical praise on your fuckin g office windows. TRISHA Call Mo. Robert hangs up without checking to see if Trisha did so first. He almost throws the phone across the room, but stops himself. He goes to the kitchen and sets the phone on the countertop. He opens a drawer. In it, are a beat up notebook, a fountain pen, an old kitchen knife, and a little single swig bottle of whiskey. He hovers a hand over the knife, but then collects the pen and notebook. He closes the drawer. He reopens it and grabs the bottle of whiskey. Robert sit s on the floor in the center of the living room area. He opens the notebook to a blank page, takes a swig of whiskey and uncaps the pen. He stares at the blank page and laughs. ROBERT Fuck. Robert stares up at the ceiling. Through the window, day beco mes night. Robert laughs again. He brings his pen down on the page. A single point of ink spreads out. He draws a line off the page. ROBERT (CONT) Come on. Just do it. He writes an "A" and then stops. He closes his eyes. ROBERT (CONT) None of this is real. Just write.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 117 He opens his eyes again and stares down. ROBERT (CONT) Just write. He drops the pen onto the paper. ROBERT (CONT) Please. Robert. A tear drops onto the paper. ROBERT (CONT) Finish this. The thick dot of ink stains the tear. Robert sniffles. ROBERT (CONT) Fuck. He looks around the room. INT. ROBERT'S APARTMENT SET CONTINUOUS Robert's expression turns to confusion. His apartment is a soundstage. Walls and ceiling cut off for lighting fixtures. The vista outside the window is now a green screen. Robert rises and sniffles away the emotion. He steps off the set and approaches the camera. He comes right up to the lens and stares at his own distorted reflection. He almost smiles, but it fades into a deep sadness. S CREENWRITER Robert. Robert pulls away from the camera lens. The Screenwriter from earlier sits at a small fold out table in the mess of lighting, camera and sound equipment. He has a laptop in front of him. He gives a hopeful smile and half closes the la ptop screen. Robert shakes his head. ROBERT This. I can't do this.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 118 SCREENWRITER What did we talk about? ROBERT No. Robert navigates his way through the tangle of equipment. The screenwriter stands. SCREENWRITER Robert. Where are you goin g? Robert ignores the question and walks straight for a large metal door with an exit sign. SCREENWRITER (CONT) Come on. I need you Robert flings open the door and leaves. SCREENWRITER (CONT) To decide. Shit. The screenwriter snaps for the cameraman. SCREENWRITER (CONT) Go! Now. Go. The screenwriter rushes to the exit where Robert left. The cameraman follows. The screenwriter holds the door and the cameraman runs out. EXT. CITY STREET CONTINUOUS The door leads out to the sidewalk in front of Robert's apartment building. Robert stands there staring at his building in disbelief. He notices the cameraman exit after him and runs off down the street. The cameraman pursues. Robert crosses the street and hails a cab. SCREENWRITER Damn it.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 119 The screenwriter runs out in front of a passing car, arms waving. The car skids to a halt. The driver opens the door and stands from the car, yelling at the screenwriter. SCREENWRITER (CONT) Shut up. You're an extra. Give me your car. The driver backs away from the car and wanders to the sidewalk, dazed. The screenwriter jumps in and HONKS for the cameraman. The camera man gets in on the passenger side. They follow the taxi. EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING NIGHT Robert's cab pulls up to a t en story apartment building. He gets out of his cab as the screenwriter and cameraman pull up behind him. They exit their vehicle as Robert approaches the entrance of the building. Two large glass doors loom in front of Robert as he nears the brass paneled intercom. He BUZZES a number on the intercom. Again. Again. SCREENWRITER Just stay back. Watch. Robert looks at his two stalkers warily. He presses the button again. A tired voice comes on. JEAN Oh my god. Stop buzzing. Who is this? ROBERT Je an. It's me. Robert. The line is silent. Robert glares at the screenwriter. JEAN What the fuck, Robert? It's two in the morning. Go home. ROBERT I can't. Jean. Please. Let me in. JEAN No.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 120 ROBERT Jean. JEAN Robert. Don't be pathetic. ROBERT I need to talk. I don't have anyone else. JEAN It's two in the morning. I work tomorrow. ROBERT I have no one. JEAN I know. I'm still not letting you in. ROBERT I broke contract. JEAN What? ROBERT I can 't write the book. Because I don't know. I don't care anymore. Please let me in, Jean. JEAN You can't just show up at two in the morning Robert. ROBERT I know, I'm sorry. I'm so sad. JEAN Well, okay, but still. ROBERT I know. JEAN Okay.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 121 ROBERT I'm no t going to leave. JEAN Really? Robert, really? ROBERT Please, I'm not here to fight. JEAN Whatever. You god damn ROBERT I love you. JEAN No! You can't just say that. ROBERT Jean, I love you. JEAN Yeah, well. You're an idiot, Robert. ROBERT I know. I've made so many mistakes. You have no idea. I have destroyed everything. I have. And you were right. And I want to stop. I need to stop. I can't keep doing it. JEAN That's great, Robert. Please go home. ROBERT I don't think I have a home anymore. I think I imagined it all. I have nowhere to go, Jean. JEAN That's not alright.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 122 ROBERT I know. I'm sorry. JEAN I'm so mad at you right now, Robert. ROBERT Yeah, me too. JEAN This is really fucked up, what y ou're doing. ROBERT I know. But there's nothing else. No one else. JEAN So, what do you think is going to happen? I'm going to let you in and what? ROBERT I don't know. JEAN You don't know? You came all the way here at two in the morning and you don't fucking know? God, you think this is some romantic gesture don't you. ROBERT No. I don't know. Please. JEAN I shouldn't let you in. ROBERT I know. JEAN Please go home. Robert is leaning against the intercom. He doesn't respon d. He starts to cry.

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The Novel: A Screenplay Mariman 123 JEAN (CONT) I hate you so god damned much, Robert. Robert sinks down against the wall and starts to curl up on himself. The door BUZZES Robert looks over, startled. He gets to his feet and tries the door. It opens. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath into a clenched fist. He enters the apartment building. The cameraman moves to follow, to catch the closing glass door. Robert looks over his shoulder at them. SCREENWRITER No. Stop. Robert looks away and presses a button next to a large silvery elevator. The front door closes and CLICKS shut. SCREENWRITER (CONT) Just cut here. The elevator doors open and Robert enters. He presses the floor button several times. SCREENWRITER (C ONT) Cut. The elevator doors close and Robert's small, hopeful, sad, beautiful, stupid face disappears forever. SCREENWRITER (CONT) Just fade out. FADE OUT.