The End of the World (as she knows it)

This is a script that got me quite a few meetings and inquiries from studios. Unfortunately, it was never picked up.

Click the link below to read The End of the World (as she knows it):

pdf file: End of the World_IT.pdf

Although I never got a straight answer on this, I think my script was in the running with the script Seeking a Best Friend for the End of the World (and probably a few others), and for whatever reason, they chose the one with the male lead instead of the female lead.

I thought I'd put it out there for writers to see what studios are looking for -- it's a breezy read -- at least that's my opinion, man.


A new year and more posting on the way...

This blog has been on hiatus for a spell, but as things get less hectic in life, content will be on its way.

A few quick updates on why posts have been non-existent:

  1. I've spent the last year and a half teaching 5th grade at a high-needs elementary school in Phoenix. As someone completely new to teaching, this has been pretty time-consuming. Not without success though... I've been placing an emphasis on learning through writing (even teaching 5th graders how to write loglines!), and have met success through interactions with Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin's children  books division), a letter from the President himself, and raising reading scores from last in the district to number one as of last quarter's tests.
  2. In conjunction with teaching, I've also been going for my Masters in Elementary Education at Arizona State University. One more semester to go and I can say I am... a master. See my research and projects here and here. See? I've been busy.
  3. Zang Mostly Rewrites has a family. Mrs. Rewrites had Baby Rewrites on June 29th, 2012. Just six months old, Baby Rewrites is already helping me by hitting my computer keys (mostly page down and delete). 
Happy New Year! 

To keep me thinking and get some ideas out there, here are a few screenplay ideas I've been marinating:
  1. The Bargain. A coming of age story about a boy who gets lost in the middle of Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law. 
  2. The Satellite. A sci-fi story set in the distant future. Navy cadets routinely orbit Earth in satellites and maintain our nuclear space station. What happens when one of the cadet satellites gets thrown out of orbit by unknown forces?
  3. Time Will Tell. A film noir time-traveling escapade. 
Have a great day, rewriters.


Cole Streaming On SundanceNow

Cole is now streaming on the internet in the US!

Visit SundanceNow to watch the movie on your computer/television...


Halloween In Space, Vol 1 Num 1

First issue is up at Kosmo Comiks!

Halloween In Spaaaace...

Halloween In Space

Coming soon... Halloween In Space. A graphic melodrama about monsters on a space station.

"I thought I could escape my past in space..." --Frankenstein.



Genre: Horror
Subject: A Prodigy

Synopsis: A caretaker accepts an offer to look after a troubled young genius at his family’s home on Lake Erie’s northern shore. While encouraging the boy’s bizarre scientific pursuits, she becomes increasingly immersed in his grotesque experiments.


James Eaton was an imposing figure, his fiery ginger hair brushing against the saucepans dangling from the ceiling. He glared first at Daisy Clarke and then at his wife, sipping from a coffee mug and thumbing through Life magazine at the kitchen table. “I’m worried, Ms. Clarke,” he said. “That my boy has not been rightfully looked after.”
Daisy winced, the last copy of her reference letter crushed in Mr. Eaton’s paw. “I can assure you, sir, I am well versed in the methodology needed—”
“Our son is not normal,” Mr. Eaton said.
“He killed the dog,” Mrs. Eaton said, not looking up from her magazine.
“He needs supervision,” Mr. Eaton said, smoothing the reference letter on the counter. “He respects my presence when I am here, but when business draws me away…”
“We lived in New York for a short time,” Mrs. Eaton said.
Mr. Eaton took a deep breath. “The boy needs a guiding hand. As you may have noticed, our neighbors are few and far between. The schoolhouse is not an option at the moment.”
“The schoolhouse? He was enrolled at Columbia—” Daisy stopped short, knowing instantly that she had overstepped her bounds.
“If we wanted an analyst, we would have left Alexander at the goddamned sanatorium,” growled Mr. Eaton.
Daisy stood, flattening her skirt. “Mr. and Mrs. Eaton, as you know from my letter, I have cared for troubled boys—boys far more disturbed than Alexander. I believe my reputation precedes me, and if it has not, then shame on you. If I knew that I was going to be admonished like this, I do not think I would have endured the train ride.”
Mr. Eaton stared down at his shoes. “It was a tragedy, what happened to those boys, Ms. Clarke. You have my condolences.”
“Thank you.”
“Can you cook?” Mrs. Eaton asked.
“I can,” Daisy said, exasperated.
Mr. Eaton took a bottle from the dumbwaiter, found it empty and opened another. “Stay the night, Ms. Clarke, and we will give you our decision in the morning.”
“Only if I can meet Alexander first,” Daisy replied.

She squinted into the afternoon gloom and saw the boy squatted over a fish carcass, probing at it with a geometry compass. Daisy hiked up her skirt and picked her way through the saw grass path toward the dunes, careful to make enough noise so as not to startle him.

“When I spoke out against the war, my parents placed me in a sanatorium,” Alexander said, scrubbing his hands raw with Tide Soap Flakes under the steady gush of well water.
“I heard it was because of the dog,” Daisy replied.
The boy locked the pump against the metal pole and stared out at Lake Erie. “Have you heard of eutrophication?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Take a look at my father’s forearm sometime. There’s a dent there the size of a jawbreaker.”
“Eutrophication is the causation of dents in forearms?” she playfully asked.
The boy smiled. “Sometimes.” He reached out for her hand, and she stepped back for a moment, startled by the adult gesture.
Alexander shrugged. “I just thought you might have trouble going uphill… in the sand… in those shoes.”
It seemed to her that the Alexander was imitating a theater show that he might have seen, or parroting a reproach his father would have given his mother. Charmed, she played along and took his hand. She was immediately grateful—the sharp heels of her boots counteracted gravity, and only the boy’s smooth palm prevented her from tumbling backward down the dunes.

Daisy was undressing when Mr. Eaton flung her door open and wobbled drunkenly in the doorway, his shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows. She noticed the crater in his forearm, like someone had removed a potato and neglected to replace the earth. He smiled at her sheepishly. “The boy saved my life,” he said. “Insisting I go to that specialist.”
Mr. Eaton offered Daisy the job as Alexander’s caretaker on the slurred condition that she would care for the boy as she would one of her own. She dutifully accepted and had him sign the contract she had brought with her from Toronto in the event he did not recall the conversation in the morning.

Daisy woke up from her travel-induced slumber, her bladder full. She found the bathroom, careful to not make noise.
On her return, Daisy made a wrong turn, stumbling at the end of an unfamiliar hallway. A door was cracked open, and sounds of wet growling and hitched breathing escaped into the hallway.
Daisy glanced inside the room and saw two small twin girls sleeping fitfully on separate single beds, their sharp gray teeth biting at raw lips, lubricated with mucus and spittle. Their huge foreheads lolled from side to side, too heavy for their malnourished four year-old bodies. Only the cotton straps woven through the bed slats prevented the twins from crashing to the wood floor below.
One of the twins convulsed, rattling the glass bottles on the medicine table across the room. Her dead-fish eyes bulged, straining, before she relaxed and collapsed back into her discontented sleep.
“What are you doing?”
Daisy—startled—bit her tongue. With the taste of blood welling in her mouth, she turned and saw Alexander standing in the hallway, his flannel pajamas three sizes too large. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“My parents should have told you,” the boy said, leading Daisy back to her room. “The nursemaid had the night off and I’m sure it just slipped their mind.”

In the morning, Daisy attempted to make small talk with the nursemaid, but the large, sullen woman spoke only in grunts and muttered about dry toast.
Through the window, the clouds had not lifted and Daisy could barely make out Mr. Eaton in a rowboat on the lake. The dinghy traversed a circular pattern through the choppy waves, Mr. Eaton’s strong arm outpacing the weaker one.
Daisy was about to take a sip of water when Alexander banged into the kitchen from the outdoors, wearing yellow rubber gloves and carrying a wet canvas bag filled with green lake algae. “Don’t drink that,” he said, taking Daisy’s glass and dumping its contents into the sink.
Alexander grabbed Daisy’s hand with his slimy gloves and pulled her down the stairs into the poorly lit basement before she had time to protest. “The water isn’t safe,” Alexander said, tugging on two naked light bulbs. The boy yanked off his gloves and tossed them into a bucket in the corner. He reached into a crate marked Sparklett’s Bottled Water and came out with two glass bottles. He popped the caps with his teeth and handed one to Daisy. “If you’re going to be my au pair, I want you to stay alive at least a little while.”
Alexander drank deep while Daisy took a tentative sip. “I tried to get my father to invest in water purification,” he said. “But he’s more interested in real estate. I told him that he has to get out of the market by ‘28—1929 at the latest.”
“I read that you were quite the little economist,” Daisy said, exploring the cramped quarters, blanching when she caught scent of a tub of rancid algae.
“They wanted me to be, but I sort of sabotaged that by championing Socialism, railing against war, and expressing my concerns that there was no God to save us.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because I want to be an explorer and botanist. Like Meriwether Lewis. Only in South America or along the Nile or something like that. I hated New York.”
“Tell me about your dog, Alexander.”
The boy rummaged through a milk crate and started setting beakers and flasks on the tin shelf attached to the crumbling basement wall. “Rufus had a tumor on his skull that you could see through his fur,” he said. “It was interesting to me. And if you want to think that I killed him, go ahead. You wouldn’t be the first.”
“I’m on your side,” Daisy said.
Alexander struck a match and lit a Bunsen burner. He handed Daisy a pair of aviator goggles. “Then put these on. We’re testing for phosphates.”

It was nearly dawn when Alexander shook Daisy awake. “One of the twins died,” he said. Mrs. Eaton and the nursemaid’s wails competed upstairs while Daisy boiled three bottles of Sparklett’s water for tea. Mr. Eaton sat at the table, playing with his cufflinks.
Alexander trundled down the stairs in a dark charcoal suit, and Daisy noticed Mr. Eaton’s face blush a deep red. “What is this now?” he barked at his son.
“I want to observe the autopsy,” Alexander said.
“Autopsy? There is no autopsy.”
“But we need to determine the cause of death.”
“She has suffered enough. I will not tolerate one more word—”
“Father—” Alexander crumpled to the floor, Mr. Eaton’s blow to his head so swift that it seemed to Daisy that it might not have even occurred.

After three days, Alexander broke his silence. “I was excited about having a younger sibling,” he said. “But then the twins just came out all wrong.”
Daisy and Alexander were reading in the attic, the rain pattering against the skylight. “I’m sorry about your sister,” Daisy said.
“She was in a lot of pain.”
Daisy nodded. “I read about eutrophication,” she said. “Phosphates from pollution causing mutations in the marine life.”
“No one believes me. They go fishing and cavorting in that goddamn lake all the time.”
She took his hand and squeezed it. “I believe you, Alexander.”
“You do?” The boy’s bruised eyes filled and then welled over.
Daisy let him sob into her frock, not minding the wet tears on her collarbone. She played with his hair until he was silent and exhausted. He exhumed himself from her grip, and she carefully wiped his swollen face with her handkerchief.
“Who knows,” he said. “My parents probably even had intercourse in there.”
Daisy laughed, unable to contain herself.

Mr. Eaton left on business with the nursemaid in tow, agreeing that she deserved a much-needed week with her sister in Oshawa. Daisy consented to make sure that the remaining twin was fed and given her medicine.
Alexander helped with the nursing duties, despite Daisy’s protests. He changed the toxic diapers, cleaning his sister with a love and care that Daisy could not even pretend to muster.
They settled into a comfortable routine, eating large breakfasts and playing badminton in the front yard when the wind died down in the evening. Mrs. Eaton, Daisy learned, kept the same schedule as the housecat, and slept more often than not.

The sun made an appearance and Daisy basked outside in its glow. Alexander sat next to her in the sand, restless.
“Tell me about the boys you took care of before me,” he said. “What were their names?”
Daisy propped herself up on her elbow, deep in thought.
“I read your reference letter. They were in a sanitorium. Like me.”
“Julian and Samuel. They were brothers.”
Alexander waited for her to continue.
“They had some bad things happen to them when they were little, and then they did some bad things to other children, but Julian and Samuel had kind souls. I don’t believe boys your age are capable of evil.”
“How come you’re not taking care of them anymore?”
“They decided to commit suicide, Alexander.”
“I did my best to protect them, but everyone was just so… brutal. I did my best.”
“I believe you.”
“They deserved better.”
They sat there in the sun for a moment, and Daisy knew that Alexander had something to tell her. “You said that you were here to help me,” he said.
Daisy nodded and let him lead her into the house.

The twin’s body was rigid; her eyes open in frozen agony.
“How did this happen?” Daisy asked.
“That’s what I need to find out,” Alexander said.
He had cleared the medicine bottles off the table and laid out the set of kitchen knives, bottles of Sparklett’s water, two sets of yellow rubber gloves, and both pairs of aviator goggles.
“The first thing I need you to do is give my mother a sleeping pill,” the boy said.

Daisy sat next to Mrs. Eaton’s bed, her thoughts blank. She waited to make sure that Mrs. Eaton did not move, and then stood, flattening her skirt.

The boy was methodical. He began by turning the twin on her back, and made a jagged incision under the rib cage.
Daisy blinked behind her aviator goggles, the sound of muscle tissue tearing nearly causing her to retch. She imagined the glistening lung she helped Alexander extract was a jellyfish—the tumors lining the viscous flesh were hatchlings clinging to their mother’s tendrils. Daisy and Alexander were setting them free.
The second lung tore in half, the stench overwhelming Daisy, sending her hurtling down the stairs, through the kitchen and out onto the lawn. She rested her face on the cool grass, breathing deep into the clean, damp earth.

Daisy gathered herself. There was still a lot of work to be done and the boy needed her help.

Alexander brooded on the floor, the blood congealing on the sheets and seeping through the feathertick mattress. “I regret it,” he said, composure faltering. “I didn’t need to open her up for proof.”
Daisy knelt tenderly down next to him. “It’s okay, Alexander. We just need to clean up and everything will be right as rain.” She tried to hug the boy but he jerked away.
“I want my mother,” he said.
Hurt, Daisy watched him slump out of the room. She thought that she had understood him. She thought all he needed was a push in the right direction from an understanding adult, a conduit to help realize his genius. She had the best intentions for him, but it pained her to realize that he was still a boy who needed his mother.
She padded down the hall and heard the boy sobbing. Daisy grimaced and opened the door to Mrs. Eaton’s room.
Alexander looked up, cheeks streaked with tears. “I didn’t ask you to kill her, Daisy,” the boy said.
“Stop being such a child.”

Daisy could hear the automobile motors rumbling in the distance: the Port Dover fire engine, the ambulance, perhaps a hearse. She decided that she had gone for a long stroll along the lakeshore. When she returned, the twin’s room was a terrifying sight and Mrs. Eaton had been smothered in her sleep. Daisy had rushed outside in a panic and saw the boy’s body floating facedown in the Great Lake, his dead eyes staring down at the eutrophic algae below. It was a tragedy for a boy of such a young age to take his own life.
She would give it a proper amount of time before she allowed herself to ask Mr. Eaton for a reference letter.


Fredette's Sister

Part of the nycmidnight.com short story contest. The assignment, write a story on a surprise genre and subject in one week under 2500 words.

Genre: Mystery
Subject: Begging

Title: Fredette's Sister

No one had killed, raped, or Shanghai’d her. Of that much, Fredette could be sure. Men were honest about those things, and too many had witnessed the porcupine-shaped birthmark on the back of her neck—deep purple against her pale skin—as she left town after town to think otherwise.
Despite the sightings, it worried Fredette that every man who tried to recall her face could only remember the face of their dead wives, their mothers, the girls they loved when they were too little to know any different. Fredette did not even have a photograph to reassure himself that these descriptions were false.

Sister where are you going to. Pleese wait.

As Fredette traveled, his suitcase grew lighter. The winter came along the way, and he wore his clothes instead of packing them. He picked up the telegrams he had wired ahead for Hannah, still unclaimed at each office, and used them to fill the empty suitcase. He distrusted its weight and opened it frequently to check to see that the telegrams were still there, the ribbons of curled paper tied at the middle with worn twine.

Rest there and we will travel together. I bought an ass to cart your belongings. I know what they mean to you.
Fredette received just one telegram. It was in Minneapolis, sent by way of Fargo. “Hg” was all that it had read. Fredette kept it in his breast pocket, thinking it might manufacture a dream she wanted him to see.

Stay there Hannah. What who is hg. Pleese reply.

Like others before him, the telegrapher in Fargo did not remember her face but could draw the birthmark from memory, the quills the same color as faded ink.
Fredette bought his second donkey there. The first had turned ornery and rheumy, worn out from hauling his sister’s heavy trunk on the two-wheeled cart. He wired ahead to the next town, the one after that, and the one after that. “What is another word for ‘beg?’” Fredette asked the telegrapher.
“How do you spell that?” Fredette asked, dropping coins on the table.
I pleed of you just write me that you are fine.

He followed her sightings through the Great Plains, grew the first beard of his life, and slept in between two warring buffalo herds. The Indians, upon seeing Fredette—skin, clothes, horse, and ass all the same rusted color—allowed him to stumble through their country in peace.

I am in Dedwood til morning. A man here gave you food and a bed. He has done the same for me.

His sister’s footprints stopped at the Pacific Ocean. Fredette was at the end of the telegraph wire, almost out of money but filled with hope. He had studied the ship ledgers, accounting for every name and alias on the books, from Jimmer Aardsma to Y. Zovlov, and found no hint of Hannah Spalding. Either she was close or she had sprouted feathered wings and flown upwards, finding the place birds live when they leave the earth behind.

I saw a campfire miles away in the dark and it filled my heart to know I was not alone. Know you are not alone Hannah. I am with you always.

But the few souls trudging across the muddy avenues near the ocean did not like to raise their eyes. They did not like to witness the lost, and they did not want to talk to a man like Fredette.

You have disapointed me sister. If you do not wish for me to follow tell me now.

Fredette witnessed a trap-door walkway drop surprised drunks into a wet pit. The hotelier told Fredette that the drunks would be roped together and stuffed into a ship’s cargo hold, fed only water and rice until Shanghai. This had not been Hannah’s fate—Fredette checked the registers, this time finding descriptions instead of names: Male, Jew nose, strong; Female, small breasts, loud; Male, one hand, frightened. Records were kept for everything, Fredette learned, as if waiting for a man like him to scrutinize history.
The hotelier, needing no invitation, read the ledger over Fredette’s shoulder. “Most of them came through here at one time or the other. It is easy to remember when they are described so simply.”
This hotelier, unlike the others, had not seen Hannah. He could not tell Fredette which way she had traveled. “There is someone out past Rattlesnake Mountain,” the hotelier said. “I have heard he has been known to answer questions that cannot be found.”
“I am not interested in Indians or mystics,” Fredette said. “I need facts.”
“If your sister wants to talk to you, he may be able to help you listen.”
“A medium?” Fredette asked, still skeptical.
The hotelier shook his head. “A scientist. I cannot explain any more than that. He may or may not let you in. You have to qualify.”
“What does it mean to qualify?”
The hotelier shrugged his shoulders. “I only listen to conversations, mister, and I have told you all I heard.”

Do you ever dream of your son? Do you remember what you had?

Fredette readied to leave in the morning. He scrubbed his thin shirts with coarse soap, contemplating whether to leave his sister's trunk at the hotel or to cart it with him to the scientist's cabin in the mountains. For the first time since he packed it, Fredette decided to open the trunk—he had resisted until now, worried that the sight of her belongings would depress him.
He popped the latches, jiggered the lid loose, and lifted. Tears immediately welled in Fredette's eyes. The clothes, shoes, and hatboxes were coated in dirt and leaves. Most items were worn through, as if a miniature cyclone had ripped through them in a self-contained dustbowl.
He lifted the trunk with a whimper and found a small hole on the bottom, perhaps caused by a rock outside of Sioux Falls, a stump in Pierre...
Fredette chided himself. If only he had opened the trunk or noticed the damage early on—he could have prevented the destruction that followed.

I must rest for a few days sister. Sickness has rendered me to bed. Pray that I be well and I the same for you.

Fredette found the scientist outside of an A-frame cabin in the mountains, leveling a pine board in between two sawhorses—he looked more like a carpenter than a man who could find Fredette’s sister. “My name is George Fredette and I am searching for a woman named Hannah Spalding.”
The scientist took a nail from his mouth and hammered it into the board. “Why are you looking for her?” he asked.
Fredette thought about Hannah’s doll he secretly coveted when he was a child. He remembered walking with her on a busy street, her fingernails digging into his wrist, slightly telling him which why to turn, like a knee in a horse’s ribs. “She is my sister,” Fredette said.
When he saw that the scientist was expecting a more elaborate answer, Fredette worried that he was about to be turned away. "I have traveled from Chicago, and I will not rest until I see her home." His eyes filled too quickly to wipe away without the scientist noticing.
“I build things,” the scientist said. “As a means of communication. I am not a Christian and I cannot help you if you want to speak to the dead.”
“She is not dead,” Fredette said, suddenly angry. “She has a birthmark that people have seen as evidence.”
“Why is it again you wish to find her?”
“She knows not what she is doing.” Fredette studied the scientist and knew he still was not satisfied. “She always needed looking after.”
“Is she ill?”
“Yes. Yes, ill twice over. So ill she would abandon her child and take the money left from the child's father. She does not know herself.”
“Is her voice affected?”
“She speaks clearly?”
“It is not the sort of illness that affects speech, sir.”
“You know her voice out of a thousand voices?”
"What does her voice have to do with her disappearance?"
"Nothing, Mr. Fredette."
"Then why—"
"Leave now."
Fredette took a step back, as if shot with a small caliber rifle. The scientist shaved a corner off the board and blew it away. Fredette swallowed. "I will not, sir."
The scientist frowned at his woodwork. “Then please refrain from asking questions for which you will not understand the answers.”
Fredette bit the inside of his cheek and clenched his fists.
"Do you know her tone by rote?” the scientist asked. “If another woman spoke, you would know if it was a false voice?"
Fredette thought about the Lord’s Prayer, the shriek at the sight of a wolf spider, the yells of a woman beginning to find herself lost. “Yes,” he said. “A thousand times yes.”
The scientist lifted the board and carried it behind the cabin. Fredette followed, stopping short when he saw the wooden apparatus in the meadow beyond: a colossal bowl, twice the size of a theater stage, constructed from pine boards and nails. Strapped to the wood, metal tubes lined the interior of the bowl like flower petals.
The scientist knocked his board into a gap in the bowl, and turned to face Fredette. "I will need your help to finish this, and then I will return the favor and listen for your sister."

I know you are ashamed and confused. Running away does not cure it.

The scientist gave Fredette bread and cheese. Even though the scientist was a head taller, Fredette felt like a giant in the small cabin, unable to find a smart resting place for his elbows and knees. "Forgive me," Fredette said. "I may not understand the answer, but I still wish to know how you plan to locate my sister."
The scientist chewed for a moment before swallowing. "You are familiar with the telegraph wire?"
Fredette only nodded, the messages in his suitcase heavy in his mind.
“Imagine that you are sending a wire to your sister thirty miles away. Your message is transcribed into code, tapped out, and then rearranged at the other end. She reads the message and then tells the telegrapher her reply. My invention, Mr. Fredette, disseminates her voice into code, sends it to where you are standing thirty miles away—if you are lucky enough to have an apparatus such as the one behind this cabin—and transcribes her exact words into the room. “
"You were correct: I do not understand. Hannah is the smart one."
"Imagine a phonograph. It plays sound from a recording. Now imagine that your sister speaks in that room thirty miles away. I immediately turn her voice into a recording and play it through my phonograph."
"Imagine, Mr. Fredette. No matter where she is, when she speaks it would be as if she is in this room with us. That is why when we do find a voice, you must be able to identify it as hers, otherwise we may be misled."
Fredette only comprehended the word "we," and after so much time traveling alone, decided to put his faith in the scientist.
I remember that you took care of me when father thought I would die from newmoania. You told me to be brave. Do you remember.

The blisters on Fredette's hands felt good and honest. He planed the logs and corded them into neat stacks. The scientist measured and leveled the boards, asking Fredette questions while they worked.
"Is she a soprano or contralto?"
"The one in between."
Fredette nodded.
"Does her pitch rise or fall when she is angry?"
"It falls."
"And when she is happy?"
"I do not know."
"What if she tells you she does not want to be found?"
"I believe—I do believe that was her intent from the beginning."
"Then why pursue her across the continent?"
"Because there is still doubt in my mind, sir."

You have more to contributte to this world than me H. Let the demons take me and free you.

Wires were tangled at the base of the scientist's back wall, like worms emerging from the floorboards.
They had knocked the last plank into place earlier that day, and the scientist had busied himself untangling copper wire for the rest of the afternoon.
Fredette drank burnt coffee and waited.
As darkness fell, the scientist lit the lamp and beckoned Fredette over to the table, clamping one last wire from the wall to a dark mahogany box brimming with metal screws, coils, and gears.
A sound filled the room, like the box stole the outside air and trebled it. Fredette rubbed his ears, disoriented. The scientist detached a wire and fastened it to a bolt on the other end of the box. The room fell silent.
Suddenly, a voice.
Fredette leapt up from the table, frantically searching the shadows for an intruder. The voice continued, garbled, as if underwater. The scientist made another adjustment, and the voice gained focus: an old woman’s words, raspy with age—a muttered prayer for her husband.
The scientist looked to Fredette for affirmation. Fredette, pale, shook his head.

I am frightened that you will grow old and not know the mareacal of your childs smile.

“My calibrations were off,” the scientist explained. “In the morning, I will make an adjustment. Do not worry, Mr. Fredette. We are close.”
Preparing for bed, Fredette emptied his pockets and unfolded the telegram from Fargo. “What do you think ‘hg’ means?” he asked the scientist.
The scientist studied the slip of paper. “H is your sister’s first initial, correct?”
“That does not explain it.”
“No it does not.” The scientist left the cabin and relieved himself. When he returned, his eyes were bright. “Hg is the periodic symbol for mercury,” he said.
The scientist opened a kit and brought out a vial, shaking it under the lamp’s light. He poured a drop from the vial onto a piece of paper, the mercury an otherworldly silver globule on the white surface.
“It is poisonous, is it not?” asked Fredette.
The scientist nodded. “Beautiful though.”
“That does not explain the telegram.”
“No, Mr. Fredette, but what will?”

I do not understand why you left sister. But I will listen to your reasons.

Nightfall again, the trebling of sound, the silence.
Fredette took a deep breath, inhaling the charged air. He knew then that when he heard his sister’s voice, it would not sound as he remembered. It would carry a timbre unknown, a frightening dissonance between what he wished to hear and how the box on the table transcribed her words.
Fredette would close his eyes, his sister’s face finally clear in his mind, and attempt to prolong the moment for as long as he could. He would imagine his heart paused, his blood still, his sister’s voice frozen somewhere in the ether, and then Fredette would breathe again.

You are foregiven H. Love G Fredette.