Digital Ischemia

26/02/2017

Episode 4: Autumn

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

EPISODE 4: AUTUMN
SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND WHISTLES
FENELLA: A haunting gale rushes through the house, moving and sounding its greeting.
MAX: Ghosts.
FENELLA: What?
MAX: I wish I’d done more.
FENELLA: I don’t see, really, what else you could’ve done.
MAX: There must’ve been someone, somewhere, I could’ve persuaded; made the difference.
FENELLA: That’s the problem: people having free will.  It wasn’t any one person, like it wasn’t any one issue.
MAX: Gho—
FENELLA: Wasn’t goats either.
MAX: Ghosts?

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Fife, Garden; 2019, Autumn, Day
SOUND: VEHICLES RUMBLE DISTANTLY, BIRDS CHIRRUP
FENELLA: Jet aeroplanes roaring beyond clouds, lorries shaking over potholes sound to me like rumbling thunder.  Much as cognitively I enjoy the excitement of an approaching storm, emotionally, primitively, I fear it.  My mind creeps toward my gut, agreeing that there are all sorts of reasons to fear big transport engines.  The smell of kerosene is not at all like aviation fuel.  It pricks my throat, stings my eyes, strains my head, leaves my whole upper body toxic.  It is another real threat that my brain is catching up to my body. Hello.
MAX: You have a phobia about vehicles?  Is this a reaction to our trip?
FENELLA: Seven years would be post-post-traumatic.
MAX: I’m a slow burner.
FENELLA: Unlike the fossil fuels.  No, it’s deeper, more primitive; it’s basic fear.
MAX: Death?
FENELLA: What makes you say that?
MAX: Your partner expired.
FENELLA: Your marriage expired.
MAX: Yet here we still are: in the autumn of our lives.
FENELLA: Like rotting leaves.  Is that why you’re here?
MAX: Because the wind happened to blow this way?  Do you think I’m entirely passive?
FENELLA: Didn’t you just have a wife-shaped hole to fill?
MAX: I think my hypothesis is slightly less self-degrading.
FENELLA: Leave me now.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Because I’ve had enough of you for today and we both know you’ll be back tomorrow.
MAX: All our problems boil down to timing.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: Where did you and he meet?
FENELLA: Are you obsessed with him?
MAX: I would think so.
FENELLA: Cramond.
MAX: Specifically?
FENELLA: That…reception, soirée thing for the almost-celebrated Scots I got invited to. Somebody insisted I went.  Wow, six years—
MAX: I was meant to be there.
FENELLA: Yes, you were.  Giving me a swerve, eh?
MAX: If I’d known, but I was having some dreadful premonition: all that talk of blasting under the firth.
FENELLA: It doesn’t matter; we’re all as guilty as each other.
MAX: It does if he was my substitute.
FENELLA: Hardly.  I really don’t know why he was there, since he was definitely celebrated.
MAX: Not by everyone.
FENELLA: OK, not by you.
MAX: The corporates were quite vitriolic about his appointment.
FENELLA: As they were about all of them.  Even though the tide had turned far too late.
MAX: Whatever about the guest list, where exactly were you?
FENELLA: Cross-examining me?
MAX: Keen to know what I missed.
FENELLA: I was out on the sand, hiding, as usual.  Too many bright lights and clanging people.  The water soothed me.  He just appeared beside me.  I was a bit awestruck, but I’d had just enough fizz to be perverse.  To test him.
MAX: Even then?
FENELLA: Even what?
MAX: Right from the first encounter you had an idea he was worth it?
FENELLA: Worth testing?
MAX: You know what I mean!  You only test the ones you care about.
FENELLA: I told you that.
MAX: I haven’t forgotten.
FENELLA: So there was a lot of me nipping and him being bemused.  He stuck it out for ages.  He had surprisingly big shoulders. Did you ever notice that?
MAX: Tried not to.
FENELLA: I guess the activist business required a certain amount of…climbing.
Anyway, I was getting tired of being waspish and pretending not to know his résumé, and wondering how to coolly extricate myself.  Saved by our dippy hostess redistributing him.
MAX: There has to be more than that.
FENELLA: There was.  I was draining my glass, drawing imaginary dotted lines of least resistance to my exit, when he came striding across the sand at me, stabbing the air, shouting something like, ‘I know you!’  It was a bit blowy.
MAX: And your cool, witty rejoinder?
FENELLA: Lost forever in possibility: the tremor.  Turns out you were prescient even if not present.
MAX: Lost your sandcastle?
FENELLA: That was what freaked me out: the sand; it cracked up – wee patches and lines of it falling in on wee gullies…
MAX: I don’t understand.
FENELLA: The sandscape wa—
MAX: Most people say ‘beach’.
FENELLA: The beach was fracturing and pouring into its own crevasses.  It felt like standing on a crazy paving of quicksand.  Then he hit me—
MAX: Hit you?
FENELLA: He just carried on running and collected me on the way through.  He was staggering about, heading roughly at the buildings, dodging the moving sand.  After all the being flung about, he shoved me into a tree, barking at me to climb.
MAX: Barking!
FENELLA: Ha.  I never climbed a tree in my life.  He was after me, pushing.  I was utterly confused – useless in a catastrophe – bewildered by my stinging hands.  Turned out he had experience of quakes in Asia and the tsunamis that often follow.  So you get up high, preferably on something solid like grounded rock, but a tree was the best he could do.  In the event the wave was big but the sand was enough to absorb it.
MAX: Thank you for that!
FENELLA: You asked!
MAX: The earth moved, the wave rolled over you. Can we just say you were besotted?
FENELLA: I was in shock.  We just sat in the tree, watching helicopters swarming up the firth, hearing sirens swirling down the streets…  My memory’s fogged after that.
MAX: But you saw him again, obviously.
FENELLA: Couple days later he showed up at my house.  ‘You’re the one that dedicated that manifesto to me!’  Done his research, totally took advantage of my enfeebled state and my tattered hands, and charmed through all my defences.
MAX: Bastard.
FENELLA: Aye, weakened me then left me to live through this shit alone.
MAX: Not alone.
FENELLA: That’s right: I can always count on your presence in shitty times.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2021, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FIRE SPUTTERS
FENELLA: Say that again.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Wasn’t recording.
MAX: Fine!  I don’t give you enough credit.
FENELLA: For?
MAX: Prescience.
FENELLA: Ugh.  Don’t patronise me with ‘woman’s intuition’.
MAX: I don’t think it’s gender-specific.  As far as I know it’s unique to you.
FENELLA: Actually you’re not that hard to predict.
MAX: I know.  Much more impressive is being able to foresee global-scale – what are we calling it?  Climate cataclysm?
FENELLA: Again, I don’t think I was the only one who saw that coming.
MAX: I think you’re among very few who knew it was only a matter of days away.
FENELLA: I think you’re havering.
MAX: I think you came for me.
FENELLA: Not in this lifetime.
MAX: In fact I know: you came to my office on the Tuesday.  I was in that meeting that seemed so insurmountably important.  Imagine my disappointment to find I’d missed a far more important one.
FENELLA: Nope.
MAX: No what?
FENELLA: Can’t imagine that.
MAX: Denial is futile.
FENELLA: Almost rhymes.
MAX: Point proved.
FENELLA: Hardly.  Even if I was there, you have no idea why.
MAX: You were there.  My assistant described you.
FENELLA: My description is astonishingly non-specific.
MAX: He didn’t describe you physically.
FENELLA: I barely spoke to him!  I was there all of seven seconds!  What other terms could he possibly use?
MAX: Mine.
FENELLA: Insightful.
MAX: He’s a good assistant.  Second only to you.
FENELLA: Well, go on, Sherlock: how’d you deduce my purpose?
MAX: If it’d been unimportant, you’d’ve emailed or phoned.  If it’d been personal, you’d’ve come to the house.  It had to be the only thing that you couldn’t discuss with anyone else.  Alive.
FENELLA: To distinguish you from?
MAX: Your late activist.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) England, Exeter, Hotel; 2019, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER, MOBILE RINGS
FENELLA: What.
MAX: (DISTORT) I’m outside.  Can I come in?
FENELLA: No.
MAX: (DISTORT) Why?
FENELLA: Because you don’t have special powers or a key.
MAX: (DISTORT) Just let me in.
FENELLA: No.
MAX: (DISTORT) Why?
FENELLA: Because I don’t have special powers either.
MAX: (DISTORT) Where are you?
FENELLA: That’s better.  I’m not at home.
MAX: (DISTORT) Well, hurry up: I need you.
FENELLA: Impossible and unlikely.  I have about twelve minutes just now if you want them.
MAX: (DISTORT) No!  Can’t be done over the phone.  Crisis.
FENELLA: What crisis?
MAX: (DISTORT) Crisis crisis. Need to know basis. In person.
FENELLA: How quickly can you travel six hundred miles?
MAX: (DISTORT) Unacceptable. When are you back?
FENELLA: Tomorrow evening.
MAX: (DISTORT) I’ll see you then.
FENELLA: No you won’t, because I’ll be out.
MAX: (DISTORT) Cancel.
FENELLA: No.  You can either get yourself invited to the Commonedge Trust thing or wait till Sunday.
MAX: (DISTORT) Blacklisted.
FENELLA: Then it would be very bad form of me to take you with me.
MAX: (DISTORT) Brilliant, yes, do that.
FENELLA: No, I’m actually there to work.
MAX: (DISTORT) You can slice through that; I’ll help.  Pedantic nonsense.
FENELLA: Why were you blacklisted again?
MAX: (DISTORT) Offended some bean-counter over her obsessional focus on grains of sand.
FENELLA: Hard to imagine.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: Do I look as ghastly as you?
MAX: Like a burst mattress? You called me back for that?
FENELLA: Remember I said about the third time?
MAX: Being the second time the universe crapped on you. Can I get on with my soul-destroying and literally fruitless pursuit of food now?
FENELLA: I found it.  Listen.

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Garden; 2019, Autumn, Day
SOUND: LEAVES RUSTLE AND SHOOF, BIRD CALLS, BREEZE
MAX: I’m at a loss.
FENELLA: I think I’m the one with loss.
MAX: Mine is what to say.
FENELLA: Unusual for you.
MAX: Highly irregular.
FENELLA: Who’ve you been speaking to?
MAX: To find out?
FENELLA: To pick up a peculiar phrase like that.
MAX: You still amuse me.
FENELLA: Aye, I didn’t expect you to be here to lift my spirits.
MAX: I could just not speak?
FENELLA: I doubt it.  Stand there, at that tree.
MAX: Here?  Why?
FENELLA: I’m going over there to take a picture and I want you out of temptation’s way.
MAX: Why do you want a picture of me?
FENELLA: I don’t.
SOUND: FABRIC PUSHES PAST LEAVES AND BRANCHES
MAX: (OFF) Then what?  It’s all dull orange and brown.
FENELLA: I’m learning to love it.
MAX: (OFF) Are you secretly hoping to catch me hugging this tree?
FENELLA: It’s really not about y—  Oh!
SOUND: FABRIC SLIDES AND TEARS
MAX: (OFF) Are you alright?
FENELLA: (OFF) Yes.  No, I’ve lost contact with my wristy.
MAX: (OFF) Serves you right for using outdated technology.
FENELLA: (OFF) Three years is a museum piece?
MAX: (OFF) No, they transmogrify it into something newer.  Have you got it yet?
FENELLA: (OFF) No.
MAX: (OFF) No?  It’s hard for me to tell from this sub-omniscient position, but you sound a little…stuck.
FENELLA: (OFF) I’m stuck.
MAX: (OFF) Oh, dear.  I don’t suppose you want to release me from tree arrest?
FENELLA: (OFF) Only if you walk quietly away and never speak of this to anyone.
MAX: (OFF) Impossible.  I’m leaving my post now. (PAUSE) Oh, dear.
FENELLA: (OFF) Is that all you have?
MAX: (OFF) Why don’t you just climb back along the branch?
FENELLA: (OFF) I’m not leaving my wristy.  Important files on there.
MAX: (OFF) Important?
FENELLA: (OFF) Personal.
MAX: (OFF) Not important.
FENELLA: (OFF) They are.  They’re recordings of…
MAX: (OFF) Oh, him, right.  Then I think you have to use me as an anchor—
FENELLA: (OFF) I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to crawl over you.
MAX: (OFF) Up to you.  I don’t expect gratitude.
SOUND: FABRIC SHUFFLES, DRAGS
FENELLA: (CLOSE) You’re quite warm, aren’t you?
MAX: (CLOSE) Fuck, woman, I’m doing my best here!
FENELLA: (CLOSE) A bit tense?
MAX: (CLOSE) Just get your—  Ooh, you’re very close. Move along.
FENELLA: (CLOSE) I’m snagged on something.  Can you see?
MAX: (CLOSE) There.  Ahhhhhhh!
SOUND: WHUMP, GRUNTS
FENELLA & MAX: (TOGETHER) I’m not ready for this!
MAX: I’m going back to the tree.  I was safe there.
FENELLA: Look at that!
MAX: (OFF) Not now; I need the safety tree.
FENELLA: My wristy’s still recording!

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2021, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FLICKING THROUGH PHOTOS
MAX: One photo I didn’t understand: Edinburgh Waverley station.
FENELLA: You don’t like the soothing orderliness of parallel lines?
MAX: You have five pictures to remember your life by. Why that one? And don’t give me any smart-arse crap.
FENELLA: The track not taken.
MAX: Well, that’s crystal clear. Although, it reminds me of a night I was stood up. Yes, 2011. In fact, it was that exact night, wasn’t it?
FENELLA: It was.
MAX: But the time-stamp – you said you were too late; you were early.
FENELLA: Except…
MAX: Except it’s an hour later because of your time setting idiosyncrasy.
FENELLA: So I was neither early nor late.
MAX: And you were there.
FENELLA: Hard to define the terms of being stood up, isn’t it?
MAX: I suppose if I look closely I’ll see I was there too.
FENELLA: Almost an existential crisis now.
MAX: So why the fuck did you let me wait, lie to me? Why stand me up? Another of your feminist interludes?
FENELLA: Look again.
MAX: What? The platform? The posters? Trains? People?
FENELLA: People, but not passengers.
MAX: That… looks… Oh, god, she suspected.
FENELLA: What do you do when the man who has invited you on a train to Paris confirms in the same moment that the trip is not entirely professional and that he has unfinished business with his wife?
MAX: You take photographic evidence for future arraignment. Remarkable.

19/02/2017

Episode 3: Summer

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: This evening sky is finely spattered with fugitive tufts of cloud, like a cave pouring bats into dusk.  A crowd of rooks merges and churns.  We are a mesh of interconnecting activity.  I see what you’re doing, by the way.
MAX: I feel my mental acui-racy less every day.  When my memory goes, I’ll need a fall-back.  I’m reduced to making blotches on rock.
FENELLA: If.
MAX: If what?
FENELLA: Never mind.  Anyway, I don’t mean your cave paintings; I mean your categorising of events.
MAX: You were quite bizarrely strict about there being no order.
FENELLA: And yet you’re putting us in seasons.
MAX: I beg your pardon: I am not ‘in season’.
FENELLA: Just let me bask one more time in the warm summer sun.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh University, Lecture Theatre; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: AUDIENCE SHUFFLES, ECHO
FENELLA: The question was: which politician was it who said “environmental legislation is crippling the economy”?  And didn’t they have a p—
MAX: Oh, which one of the seven thousand, one hundred and sixty-two politicians, on which one of the eight hundred thousand, five hundred and twelve recorded occasions?  Who said the fossil fuel industry needs our support in the form of tax incentives in perpetuity?  Who said the nuclear sector needs propping up with decades of investment return guarantees?  Who said car manufacturers should be allowed unsafe, unhealthy exhaust emissions limits to help them make the feeble transition to slightly less unsafe, unhealthy limits?  Who said we need genetically-modified crops to ensure our food security, and therefore we must allow our heroic biotechnology sector some flexibility in regulation?  Who said that the resulting over-application of herbicides analogous to agent orange required by these GM crops, that caused the evolution of super-weeds resistant to everything short of napalm, was the cost of doing business?  Who said the resulting levels of herbicide in bread and lettuce and human breastmilk being eight hundred times the safe limit was scaremongering by woefully out of touch idealists?  Who said shooting badgers was an essential part of a coordinated approach to controlling bovine tuberculosis thereby ensuring the continuing success of our valuable and blameless dairy industry?  Who said the routine use of prophylactic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories was essential for the livestock industry, and in no way connected to the rise in resistant superbugs and dead vultures? Who said, who said, who said?  It couldn’t matter less.  All idiots.
FENELLA: I don’t think she can hear you now, over the roaring of her personal light aircraft engine.
MAX: The answer you’re looking for is this: they’re all spectacularly, perniciously wrong.  Because they all made the same, fundamental mistake: you can’t ‘balance’ nature against human ‘needs’.  Humans are part of nature.  We’re only stealing from one another, or from our future.
FENELLA: Well, I think we lost her vote.
MAX: There are some other people here.
FENELLA: They were with you already.
MAX: What’s next?
FENELLA: Some mellow time and abstinence from sugar.
MAX: Next question.
FENELLA: Why are megafauna so important?  Surely other species or even humans can step in to fill any niche?
MAX: Megafauna, the biggest animals, play significant roles in all their ecosystems.  They disperse seeds over great distances – some seeds even need large mammals to disperse them; they evolved with them.  Just through eating and moving about, megafauna open up areas in forests and maintain grasslands, thereby decreasing the length and intensity of wildfires.  Even when they die, these massive creatures become food for top predators and scavengers.  And their remains are important: carcasses donate a variety of nutrients such as calcium to the soil. Large herbivores interact with a range of small animals – birds, insects, rodents, lizards – for example, several fish species feed on hippopotamus flesh wounds.  The dung of Asian elephants is used by amphibians as a daytime refuge.  Bison wallows support amphibians and birds through creating ephemeral pools, and the bison grazing improves the habitat for prairie dogs and pocket gophers.  Oxpeckers need large herbivores for their diet of ectoparasites, hence the name.  Even blood-sucking insects such as tsetse flies largely depend on herbivores for food.  Less attractive conservation icons perhaps, and these are just a few of the relationships – the ones we know about.  There are myriad interdependencies we haven’t yet discovered.  The message is clear: remove a node from the web and the resulting fraying quickly ends up at our door.  And we’re missing them from our world, just like all the apex predators we’ve bumped off for getting in our way.  But this is not what I came to speak about.  What I want to focus on dwarfs species conservation like the legendary woolly mammoth.  Not content with picking at nodes, we’re directing a flamethrower at the entire web.  We’re too important for the universe not to save, right?  Yes, you’re right: preaching to the converted. Blustering away ineffectually at a hurricane.
FADE.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Spain, Barcelona, Conference Hotel; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER
MAX: Why does it have to be so flaming hot?!
FENELLA: I’ll put some time in your diary to explain lines of latitude.
MAX: Just blot me.
FENELLA: I’m not that kind of girl.  Don’t use th—!  Uch.  I’ll never wear that again.
MAX: I’m melting!  My mind is a finely tuned instrument.  I require supercooling.
FENELLA: Don’t tempt me.
MAX: Where does this go? 
SOUND: DOOR CLICKS OPEN
Ooh, balcony!  I like balconies.
SOUND: DELEGATE CHATTER FADES, DISTANT VEHICLES, BREEZE
FENELLA: Rather spiky.  And still hot.
MAX: Wasn’t that how we began?
FENELLA: Me skewering you on an iceberg?
MAX: Yes, how it all began: 2002, you impaling yourself on the railings at—
FENELLA: I was cooling my face!  May was always obnoxiously sunny, as if to exacerbate the insult of swotting for exams.
MAX: The campus was rather sixties concrete geometry…
FENELLA: Surrounding a postage stamp-sized park incarcerated within iron railings.  I suppose the students would not’ve respected the sacred quadratitude.
MAX: The railings were black.
FENELLA: And therefore the instruments of Lucifer?
MAX: They weren’t cool.
FENELLA: No, and they smelled nasty.
MAX: So why were you nuzzling up against them?
FENELLA: I was trying for shade, green shade, man.
MAX: No excuse for perving.
FENELLA: I was feeling much better until you interfered.
MAX: I was concerned.
FENELLA: No, you weren’t.
MAX: No, I wasn’t.  I was finding things especially ridiculous.
FENELLA: That was the heat.
MAX: I was revelling in the woeful unpreparedness of my classmates.
FENELLA: Being an unmitigated Percy yourself.
MAX: An engaged student with the ability to manage my time?  Yes, mea culpa.
FENELLA: You offered to assist by greasing me up like a pig.
MAX: I thought you might be stuck.
FENELLA: I thought you were rude and lewd.
MAX: The start of every dream romance.  If it hadn’t been for cabbage-face.
FENELLA: And me not finding you remotely attractive, or coherent.  But, if I’d had the chance, I should’ve thanked her for saving me from your lecherous advances.
MAX: There’s a conversation I would’ve enjoyed listening to.
FENELLA: How spectacularly narcissistic.
MAX: The only person who loves me more than me is you, dearest.
FENELLA: And delusional.  Cooler now?
MAX: Hardly.
FENELLA: Good.
MAX: Oh, don’t flounce off!
FENELLA: I have to polish your stuff—your words.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Belgium, Brussels, European Parliament Concourse; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER, SCURRY BY
MAX: Have you seen him – Monsieur transcribey squiggley?
FENELLA: Not since—  What are you doing?!
MAX: Minister.  Balcony.
FENELLA: Alone?
MAX: Almost have her – sort of Jungian hydrology.
FENELLA: You need the rapporteur!
MAX: Yes, that’s why I—
FENELLA: This is why we need some sort of coded hand signals!
MAX: Fingers!  Wiggling!
FENELLA: You always fidg—  Does it feel cooler to you?
MAX: I always get a chill off you.
FENELLA: You’re changing the fucking weather.  Get back out there!  I’ll find him.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: I liked that: changing the weather.  Shame I didn’t.
FENELLA: That’s chaos for you.
MAX: I thought of the comeback too late.
FENELLA: Better be good after ten years.
MAX: You know when the butterfly flaps its wings?
FENELLA: Oh, yeh, in Peru then a typhoon hits Switzerland.
MAX: You feel the butterfly.
FENELLA: I think everyone feels it.
MAX: No, I mean you feel it beat its wings.  You feel it tap its leg.  You sense those tiny vibrations on the far side of the world – those early warnings.
FENELLA: I knew you’d find a way to make this my fault.
MAX: No, that’s not what I—
FENELLA: I know.  Thank you.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Italy, Florence, Hotel Room; 2012, Summer, Night
SOUND: WHUMP, BED SHEETS RUSTLE
MAX: Listen!  I had one of my brilliant ideas!
FENELLA: (Sleepily) Why are you in my bedroom?
MAX: It’s not your bedroom.  It’s a public hotel room.
FENELLA: Which I hired for my privacy. How did you get in?
MAX: Oh, like you only leave your window open for vampires.
FENELLA: You wouldn’t understand, not breathing air like us mere mortals.
MAX: Why are you so sleepy?
FENELLA: Having been asleep.
MAX: Waste of time.  Wait till you hear this.
FENELLA: Can I sleep-wait?
MAX: You’ll never get to sleep now.  This is too exciting.
FENELLA: Probably the most excitement I’ll get in my hotel bedroom.
MAX: You’re lucky this is far too important to be diverted from or I’d have to do something about…
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Have you seen the Climate Clots’ latest?
FENELLA: Yes, I gave you that briefing.  After I wrote it, you know, based on my own research.
MAX: We need to get in front of them.
FENELLA: Predicting their next outpouring of garble is quite difficult.
MAX: No, I mean literally in front of them.  Look where they’re booked.  I’m dancing about Europe already, surely we have to cross paths somewhere.
FENELLA: Which sort of dance do you plan to do in front of them?
MAX: The nimble polka of reason and fact and evidence.
FENELLA: How long before they mash your potato?  Yes.  We don’t have the hordes necessary to infiltrate their gatherings.
MAX: Oh, flash the bat-sign!
FENELLA: Cunning as a pigeon.  Like none of them can navigate the internet.
MAX: You’re quite negative.  Over-tired.
FENELLA: I’m not crushing your hare-brained ideas just as some form of displaced sleep-deprived rage.  It’s also fun, it’s part of my job, plus you’re dangerously untethered.
MAX: How can I possibly be dangerous with you…
FENELLA: Me what?
MAX: Semantic double-exposure.  Never mind.  I must take my untethered tango elsewhere.
FENELLA: Mind your exposure.
MAX: (OFF) Too late.  Curdled.
SOUND: SQUIRMING THROUGH WINDOW, BED SHEETS RUSTLE

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Hill; 2021, Summer, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, BIRDS CALL
MAX: Pretty spectacular back garden.
FENELLA: The apple fell pretty close to the tree, eh?  Well, it blew away a bit then washed back.  On a clear day, up here, I can see Edinburgh.  Like looking at my past self.
MAX: On a clear day you can see yourself.
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Some ghastly self-help aphorism.
FENELLA: And what do you see on a clear day?
MAX: A thousand missed chances.
FENELLA: Still torturing yourself for not saving the world?
MAX: No, just you.
FENELLA: This is all very amusing – the long-running joke on our relationship, the unrequited motif – but don’t try to up the game; we both know this is as far as it goes.
MAX: I do no— I know no such thing.
FENELLA: Choice had; passed.
MAX: When?!
FENELLA: There was a time when I imagined we’d end up with a smallholding.  I’d keep chickens and you’d have some mountains to wrangle.
MAX: When was this between finding me rude and lewd and declining my advances at the end of the world?
FENELLA: The end? Of the world?
MAX: Actually is nigh.
FENELLA: Oh. Well, it was 2010, October, I think: I was getting more and more bothered by drifting toward my thirties without a tangible mission.  And then something remarkable happened.

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Office; 2010, Summer, Day
SOUND: THWACKING PAPERS ABOUT, BANGING CABINETS
MAX: It’s not your birthday?
FENELLA: No.
MAX: Are you sure?
FENELLA: Am I sure I’m not 10 years old?
MAX: Yes, that does seem unlikely.
FENELLA: Where did you get that date from?
MAX: It popped up.
FENELLA: What popped?
MAX: This thing.  So, when is your birthday?
FENELLA: Next year.  Is it possible you believed some fib I inserted in the internet for the purpose of obfuscating my personal information?
MAX: Again, unlikely, but possible.  When next year?
FENELLA: Classified.
MAX: Oh, don’t be stroppy.  When is your birthday?
FENELLA: I try very hard to keep that data private and if you have, all by yourself, aided my mission then I applaud you.
MAX: I shall catch you unawares when you least expect it.
FENELLA: That’s usually when it happens.
MAX: Drat.  I had this whole…
FENELLA: Why would you want to mark my birthday?
MAX: Oh, a grand, romantic gesture.
FENELLA: But why?
MAX: You must wait until your surprise birthday.

SCENE 9.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Suburb; 2011, Summer, Day
SOUND: ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Disappoin-ted!  Expectations left salivating like Pavlov’s wolves!  Exposed to the censure of the world for caprice and to its derision for disappointed hopes, etcetra.
MAX: I know; you would’ve made a great political director.
FENELLA: Oh, that; no, that’s not it…
MAX: Well, it should be it: I spoke to— well, never mind who I spoke to.  They were all quite baffled with the outcome; couldn’t elaborate details of course.  Did you have a meltdown in the interview?
FENELLA: No, no, my heart just wasn’t in it.
MAX: But it was five days ago!?  What’s the matter— What is that fucking whining?!
FENELLA: Neighbour vacuuming car.  Every Saturday.  That used to be me.  Now the wheels have all come off.  Worms everywhere.
MAX: Did I miss something?
SOUND: FADE ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Twice.  All future anniversaries are cancelled.
MAX: I thought this was your fake birthday outing!
FENELLA: No, this was—is your twenty-seventh pitch-a-wacky-idea meeting.
MAX: Then when was the party?
FENELLA: Earlier.  What’s the idea?
MAX: Actually, I did have a thought around bees—
FENELLA: Oh, get to the point!
MAX: A little tetchy?  Is it your rapidly advancing age?
FENELLA: Antenna!
MAX: What?
FENELLA: I can read your online diary.
MAX: Yes, it’s online.
FENELLA: All of it.
MAX: Well, not all of it; some of it’s private.
FENELLA: Not as much as you think.
MAX: Such as?
FENELLA: Antenna.  Getting your communications satellite upgraded?  Long-range political forecasting?  Or, as it turned out: antenatal appointment.  So, you did in fact catch me unawares when I least expected it.
MAX: That’s supposed to be private.
FENELLA: Apparently.  So is there something you need to tell me about your gender or is there something you need to tell me about your imminent unavailability?!
MAX: That rather trumps my point…which was—is that…the idea…your birthday—
FENELLA: Has led us to another birth-day, and it’s time you stopped trying to lead two lives.

12/02/2017

Episode 2: Spring

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Gorge Cave; 2022, Spring, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, RAIN PATTERS
FENELLA: Bluebells trail a fresh scent that underscores the promise of spring, prefaces the heavy sweetness of summer, appetises the smell buds—
MAX: You were on shaky ground, but ‘smell buds’ definitely ruined it.
FENELLA: I’m setting the scene. It’s not ready for an audience, especially not a hostile one.
MAX: Rain makes me fidgety.
FENELLA: Are you seven years old?
MAX: I suppose you immerse yourself in the total rain ganzfeld.
FENELLA: Notwithstanding contrarians, rain twinkles, trickles down the glass, refracting our destination into a thousand tiny, sodium glows.
MAX: What about our starting point?
FENELLA: Which one?
MAX: Tell me a story.
FENELLA: I shall start in the middle.
MAX: By all means.
FENELLA: The second time you blundered in to my life you had taken a notion to go away.
MAX: Lovely juxtaposition.
FENELLA: Must you interrupt?
MAX: I’m resigned to enjoy the ride; there’s no point quibbling over your relentless mangling of the facts.
FENELLA: Had you or had you not announced you were going around Europe?
MAX: Ah, we’re then, then.
FENELLA: Yet you had no idea how to leave.
MAX: And this is about me being left.
FENELLA: Since it’s already about you, you can’t make it any more about you.
MAX: If it isn’t about leaving and being left, what’s your point?
FENELLA: It’s about misdirection, misreading; about finding out subsequently that the trip – that entire theatre of foolishness – was part of the deal for your latest professional ascension.
MAX: Why can’t you just say promotion?
FENELLA: That makes it sound like you were awarded it.
MAX: I was.
FENELLA: No, you acquired it: the inevitable outcome of years of manoeuvring.
MAX: How twisted thou art.
FENELLA: Au contraire, my helical nemesis.
MAX: Then you are that around which I entwist.
FENELLA: Like leaden chains, dearest.
MAX: Yes, so, they insisted on Europe.  This digressing is tiresome.  Carry on.
FENELLA: You insisted.  The train was cutting through Belgium, Holland; you were—
MAX: Belgium is a country.
FENELLA: Well done.
MAX: You make it sound like a place in Holland.
FENELLA: It’s a list, not a belonging.
MAX: A list of two?
FENELLA: You were sleeping; I was updating your various reports and—
MAX: Hang on, back a bit: I insisted?  What deal?
FENELLA: You insisted that you would only take the job if it included the trip.
MAX: Why would I do that?  How could it possibly be for you?!
FENELLA: World class manoeuvring.  I liked it fine on the train.
MAX: Because I was asleep.
FENELLA: Especially.  And because I actually enjoyed presenting your brilliance.
MAX: I only had any brilliance with you.
FENELLA: Your breadth and depth of understanding, your conviction, your ability to bend power and direct the course of events…
MAX: I was quite something.
FENELLA: You made my socks roll up and down.
MAX: There’s a sight to see.
FENELLA: Do you miss that?
MAX: Playing with your socks?
FENELLA: Crunching over sun-baked dust without a map?  Gliding through vast snowfields with a plan fizzing in your head?  Stepping from hall to office to ancient monument with every face turned to you?  Changing the weather from a balcony hundreds of feet above a glittering city?
MAX: I miss the way working with you made me feel.
FENELLA: Well, now we’re getting somewhere… on a train.
MAX: I miss, I really miss your polishing.
FENELLA: I beg your pardon?
MAX: You focus on the point, drill right into it, painfully, then remove everything that isn’t that.  Absolutely everything else goes out.
FENELLA: I’m an unapologetic minimalist.  On a train.
MAX: Let us not forget the train!  I hope you’re recording this.
FENELLA: Always.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Hill; 2019, Spring, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, BIRDS CALL
FENELLA: The sun emerges through thick cloud as a galaxy spreads from the pure dark of eternity.
MAX: Lovely. My turn.
FENELLA: By all m—
MAX: I am a singleton.
FENELLA: You certainly are.  With another ill-advised beard. I never had you down as fashionable.
MAX: I had hoped for a more supportive reaction.
FENELLA: To what?  You stating the bleeding obvious?  Your idiosyncrasies are only just endearing enough to outweigh your irritating traits.
MAX: Thank you again for the support, but that’s not what I mean—what ‘singleton’ means. I’m alone.
FENELLA: And yet here I am.
MAX: My marriage has ended!
FENELLA: Ah!  I’ve been waiting for that.
MAX: Have you?
FENELLA: Because that would make you Ruth-less!
MAX: And yet more support.
FENELLA: OK, thanks for telling me, but you can cut out the sympathy sponge.
MAX: You’re being spectacularly unfair!
FENELLA: Perhaps you’re a little poor of judgement at present, but you don’t come to me for kindness and soothing.  Ever.  That’s not how we work.  So, shall we delve into your motivation?
MAX: Let’s not.
FENELLA: Yes, let’s enquire into when exactly this happened.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Because it wasn’t last week, was it?
MAX: September.
FENELLA: Shortly before or after I was widowed?
MAX: You weren’t wid—before.  Before.
FENELLA: Could there possibly be any connection in your ruthless, selfish mind?
MAX: I beg your pardon?!  Are you suggesting I…in some way engineered this?
FENELLA: I’m asking.
MAX: You think I deliberately ended my marriage in order to swoop upon you?
FENELLA: Perhaps not, but I wonder if the course of events made things harder or easier for you.
MAX: You are astonishingly callous.  Single-minded.  Always were.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Norway, Bergen, Office; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: CHATTER, TYPING
FENELLA: Du trenger en tolk.
MAX: That’s what we need!  You come in with us.
FENELLA: No.  You need an interpreter.
MAX: Yes.  You come in—
FENELLA: No.  I will arrange a professional interpreter.
MAX: We can’t wait!  We’re on the cusp of—
FENELLA: The only thing you’re on the cusp of is a seafood smorgasbord.
MAX: Throwing Norwegian about again after withholding is in poor taste.
FENELLA: Smorgasbord is Swedish and, as for taste, your ill-advised beard is a constellation of crustacean…cremains.
MAX: Alliteration expired on you.
FENELLA: Much like the crustacea.
SOUND: MOBILE RINGS
Interpreter candidate number one.  Go away.  Hose yourself down.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scandinavian Arctic Circle, Snowfield; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: SLEIGH SCRAPES OVER SNOW
MAX: Is this patronisingly twee sleigh business absolutely necessary?
FENELLA: It’s a delightful diversion.
MAX: Why am I here?
FENELLA: Because I know what you want better than you do.
MAX: It’s not as cold as I feared.
FENELLA: That’s the problem.
MAX: You prefer me frozen?
FENELLA: I prefer the parts of the world that are meant to be frozen, frozen.  This is an unmissable opportunity to meet some folk whose land is changing daily.  This land is so flat that the contour lines, if you like, are very wide.  So, a slight variation in altitudinal temperature affects swathes of snowfield, very suddenly.
MAX: Now slushfield.  Soon marsh.
FENELLA: That’s the point.  I explained it well, but it helps being here.
SOUND: SLEIGH SCRAPES, CRUNCHES OVER SNOW
MAX: Being less than frozen.  On land that is suddenly less than frozen.  Wow, it’s like the tide coming in!
FENELLA: Exactly.  Scary?
MAX: It’s like sleet landing on a window.
FENELLA: Not so evocative.
MAX: I suppose you expect me to do something with this new information.
FENELLA: Full marks.  In your own time.
SOUND: FADE OUT SLEIGH SCRAPES; FADE IN CONSTANT WIND; REVERSE
MAX: That was…worthwhile.
FENELLA: Don’t question my authority again.
MAX: Why do we have to go so slowly?  I don’t need to absorb every individual ice crystal.
FENELLA: Because—
MAX: Because the ground can suddenly become unfrozen.  Not just in space; in time.
FENELLA: You could almost see it as a metaphor fo—
MAX: Hush.  I’m fizzing.  What are you gesticulating at her?  Why are we speeding up?
FENELLA: Safe now.  You’re fizzing.
MAX: We don’t have to go slowly?
FENELLA: Not any more.  Just fizz quietly.  Let me immerse myself in the gliding.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Netherlands, Middelburg, University College Roosevelt Campus; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: VOICES, BICYCLE BELL, BREEZE
FENELLA: Where’ve you been?!
MAX: Right here!  You’re the one the went—
FENELLA: Don’t be ridiculous; I knew where I was at all times.  Are you ready for these academics?
MAX: Oh, absolutely, since I can read my notes that are on your laptop via the screens on my fingernails!
FENELLA: Hysteria: check.  Sense of injustice: check.
MAX: Don’t try to make fun of—
FENELLA: Endearing mother-usually-does hairdo: check.  That’s you warmed up.
MAX: You need to take this seriously!
FENELLA: Say that again.
MAX: You…need…to…  Why would you think you have the upper hand?
FENELLA: Look up.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Higher.
MAX: At?
FENELLA: My hand.  How do you feel about summer in southern Europe?
MAX: You got us fired and our passports revoked in less than three hours?
FENELLA: Aye; got the tour sold out and more dates added.  You may kiss my feet.
MAX: That’s quite good.
FENELLA: You even get a week off to let your wife remember you.
MAX: Oh, good.  Great.
FENELLA: I pride myself in thinking of everything.  When the director’s PA calls in the middle of my pancake with capers to queue me up for a quick update, I say ‘how would you like the slides?’
MAX: Smug.
FENELLA: On the hoof.  Just like you’re going to be for these delightfully cosmopolitan academics, whilst feeling calmly assured that I have the long game in my upper hand.
MAX: Mud! Sucking at my hooves! I’m in the reeds!
FENELLA: Quacking with fear?
MAX: Give me peace, woman.
FENELLA: Anything else?
SOUND: RUMMAGING IN BAG
MAX: No.  Yes?  What else could I possibly need from—  My notes!  Give me my notes!
FENELLA: I love testing.
MAX: Why a pancake with capers?
FENELLA: Apparently it’s a Dutch speciality: what can you say when a man offers you ‘pickled flower buds’, alth—
MAX: Never mind!  No, yes: what testing?  No, I’ll have to come back to that.
FENELLA: Go.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Germany, Berlin, Street; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: FOOTSTEPS, VEHICLES, BUSTLE
MAX: You’re surprisingly calm.
FENELLA: You’re Beelzebub’s coach-horse!
MAX: That’s…a beetle.  Are you calling me a beetle?
FENELLA: You poisonous newt!
MAX: Do you mean toad?
FENELLA: Tyrant!  Machiavelli!  Butcher!
MAX: Ladies, ladies!
FENELLA: You’re the sword of fucking Damocles!
MAX: I rather like that.
FENELLA: What happened in there?
MAX: I got a bit bored.
FENELLA: Bored.
MAX: Your Scottish bryophyte people were banging on: “ach, will no-one think of the wee pools and lochans.”
FENELLA: So you tactfully manoeuvred—
MAX: I found an excellent facility on the teleconferencing software: I pressed a button and an automated voice cut them all off.
FENELLA: Yes, apparently everyone else heard, “your chair has muted all participants,” followed by a torturous electronic rendition of Vivaldi.
MAX: Wizard.
FENELLA: They thought you were incompetent or rude or both.
MAX: I thought they were dull.  Where are we going?
FENELLA: I have to buy incontinence pants in German.
MAX: Thank you for that gift for mocking, but do I have to be here?
FENELLA: Since I can’t leave you unattended for two minutes, I’ll have to wee myself.
MAX: Ugh, I don’t want to be thinking of you weeing your way through my meetings.
FENELLA: Good.  I shall establish a hand gesture so you know when I’m letting go.
MAX: Can I still chair?
FENELLA: Oh, get it together!  You’re pissing away golden opportunities—
MAX: (SNIGGERS)
FENELLA: This isn’t ‘arseing about’ time at nob school!  If the sword drops, you cocky fuck…

05/02/2017

Episode 1: Staging

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Perthshire, Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: The third time you came to me, the universe had its foot on my head once again.
MAX: How can you start with a third and a second?
FENELLA: The past is before us: we start now and walk on into the known.
MAX: Surely the future is ahead?
FENELLA: No, behind, unseen, unknown.
MAX: Oh, dear.  We’re walking backwards, forwards.
FENELLA: Exactly.
MAX: And in which direction was the universe going, with its foot on your head?
FENELLA: Remember autumn 2019?
MAX: In its entirety?
FENELLA: I was in my grief miasma and suddenly there you were.
MAX: Not in the miasma.
FENELLA: No, by the river.
MAX: Yes, because I was fine.
FENELLA: You were nowhere near fine, but I’ll come to that.
MAX: Because we’re going backwards.
FENELLA: No, forward, because you didn’t tell me till much later.
MAX: Because the miasma was impenetrable.
FENELLA: How convenient.  So there we were, in step, in the damp autumn leaves, in the rotting silence—

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FIRE CRACKLES
FENELLA: Do you remember that conversation?
MAX: Was that us?
FENELLA: Only five months ago.
MAX: We must’ve been pretty dopey.
FENELLA: But what’s doping us?
MAX: I meant sleepy.
FENELLA: A Freudian sleep.  I used to be articulate. Have I got Alzheimer’s?
MAX: We’re just tired and malnourished.  And stressed.
FENELLA: How did we get here?  Not the trudging; I mean what set us off?
MAX: We had to leave the city.
FENELLA: I know, but why?
MAX: The ca-sastrophe.
FENELLA: What sort of cat-sas-trophe?
MAX: How should I know?!  Enviro-mental disasters were esc-at-aling.  The seriousness of them.  Hm.  I’m not clear on details.  Do you think we rather overreacted?
FENELLA: I feel… my mind is fragmented—memory.  We’re surviving in a cave, in a gorge, what passes for seasons are coming around again, and we’ve lost the big picture.
MAX: Perhaps we’re dead and just don’t know where to go next.
FENELLA: Constructive.
MAX: Open-minded.  OK, do you think this is how radiation affects us?
FENELLA: I remember fretting about plasticine—plastic.  Synthetic chemicals.  I haven’t dismissed consp-iracy theori-cies either.
MAX: What conspiracy?
FENELLA: ‘Forces’ that have the power to erase our memorase.
MAX: I think there was an earthquake.
FENELLA: Yes!  Was that it?
MAX: Why would that give us an-mesia?
FENELLA: Er, trauma?  No…  There were dead birds all over the fields.
MAX: What does that mean?
FENELLA: They don’t get traumatic stress distress.
MAX: They live their lives stressed.
FENELLA: Does that mean they could die of stress or not?
MAX: I think it’s the stress that stops—the stop stress…sorry, lost that thought.
FENELLA: Maybe if we go back over things we can piece us back together…like layers of rotting leaves.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) River Bank, 2021, Autumn, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, INTERMITTENTLY BIRDS CHOKE, MAMMALS COUGH
FENELLA: How did we get here?
MAX: Painfully memorable hours of trampling through dust and ash?
FENELLA: It was a rhetorical whinge.  I really hope at some universal level this all makes sense.
MAX: I can draw you a diagram in the sludge if you like: man begat man begat machine begat pollution begat disaster.
FENELLA: Yes, and we saw it coming, but how did we actually do it?
MAX: Not enough of us stepped out of the machine.  Tiny cogs don’t see the effects of their actions, much less any problems or choices.  Need we analyse this right now?
FENELLA: I guess we can see plenty of effects now.  Oh, I need a break. (SOBS)
MAX: We will find a way.
FENELLA: I know. Or not; it doesn’t matter.  I’m just so sad for everything else we’ve destroyed.  Did you see those birds?
MAX: And the toads and the rabbits and the cows.
FENELLA: Don’t care so much about cows.  Or rabbits.  You know what I mean.  I don’t want to live in a world without birds and toads.
MAX: Wait till the plants frazzle up too.
FENELLA: Maybe we don’t get to understand, really understand, life until we die.
MAX: OK, let’s just get to the gorge and the basic necessities.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Flat; 2021, Summer, Evening
SOUND: GARDEN BIRDS CHIRRUP, VEHICLES RUMBLE
MAX: What brought you two together?
FENELLA: Apart from the tidal wave?
MAX: That was only the start.
FENELLA: He did some remarkable things.
MAX: The man was a force of nature, but why was he the one for you?
FENELLA: That’s pretty intense, personal.
MAX: It’s important.
FENELLA: To me, and to him.  Not for you.
MAX: Then why show me all these photographs?
FENELLA: I’m not ‘showing’ you; I was just glancing through one last time before…maybe not seeing them again, and you’re lurking.
MAX: I’m waiting for nightfall.
FENELLA: Ah, the Clandestine Clot.
MAX: Where’s that?
FENELLA: Up the hill.
MAX: But the time taken is five AM in April.  It wouldn’t be light.
FENELLA: OK, metadata melodramatist.  Any other more likely explanations?
MAX: Your camera time is set wrong.
FENELLA: And why might that be?
MAX: You deliberately set the time wrong?
FENELLA: Aye.
MAX: What on earth’s the matter with you?
FENELLA: For about twenty years I’ve been hoping to catch you out.  Today, at last, my deep laid plan has succeeded!
MAX: Seriously?
FENELLA: No, you narcissistic nitwit.  I leave it on Greenwich Mean Time.
MAX: So it’s actually six AM.
FENELLA: Calamity over; universe back in place.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, HERON CALLS
FENELLA: Night advances like a tide, smothering every feature and creature of the land.  Except for a few chinks: anti-shadows, discarded shards of light.  Through the dark, overhead: a heron; four squawks, one shard receding along the river.  Welcome back, she-crone.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Ah, you’re here; good. The third time you came to me, the universe had its foot on my head once again.
MAX: How can you start with a third and a second?
FENELLA: The past is before us: we start now and walk on into the known.
MAX: Surely the future is ahead?
FENELLA: No, behind, unseen, unknown.
MAX: Oh, dear.  We’re walking backwards, forwards.
FENELLA: Exactly.
MAX: And in which direction was the universe going, with its foot on your head?
FENELLA: Remember autumn 2019?
MAX: In its entirety?
FENELLA: I was in my grief miasma and suddenly there you were.
MAX: Not in the miasma.
FENELLA: No, by the river.
MAX: Yes, because I was fine.
FENELLA: You were nowhere near fine, but I’ll come to that.
MAX: Because we’re going backwards.
FENELLA: No, forward, because you didn’t tell me till much later.
MAX: Because the miasma was impenetrable.
FENELLA: How convenient.  So there we were, in step, in the damp autumn leaves, in the rotting silence—
MAX: I like ‘rotting’.
FENELLA: What do you mean?
MAX: I like the word ‘rotting’.
FENELLA: Thank you.
MAX: It’s redolent of our respective circumstances.
FENELLA: Indeed, for our respective circumstances were riddled with decay.
MAX: They still are.
FENELLA: I don’t know; I think now even the decay has stopped.
MAX: Would you like to start again, differently?
FENELLA: Existentially?
MAX: Or just the story?
FENELLA: Yes, thank you.  The green beaks of bulb sprouts poke through the soil surface.  Snow melt drips and trickles all around.  Winter’s claws recede.  On you go.
MAX: Me?
FENELLA: I’m sure it’s your turn; I’ll keep you right.
MAX: OK.  So, it all began—
FENELLA: No.  Never start at the beginning.
MAX: I think you’ll find it’s logical, in fact it’s chronological, it’s sensible and it’s conventional.
FENELLA: And entirely illusory.  Just start.
MAX: When?
FENELLA: Whenever memory takes you.
MAX: The moss is almost gone.
FENELLA: Has your attention wandered already?
MAX: You said go with the memory.
FENELLA: And you went?
MAX: Forty minutes ago.
FENELLA: The only thing stopping me laughing is the tragedy.
MAX: It’s never stopped you before.
FENELLA: And the pain.  And the hunger.
MAX: I know.  So, I’m here to tell the tale of how we got here.  In space and time.  But not in order.  And you?
FENELLA: I’m here to marshal the recording of events.
MAX: You’re good at that.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Spring, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: Have you ever eaten insects?
FENELLA: No, and I won’t be starting now: vegan waiver.
MAX: We’ll see how long that lasts.
FENELLA: You think my principles will buckle without beans and brown rice?
MAX: You don’t have the luxury of fussiness.
FENELLA: OK: vegan wager.  You win: I eat insects.  I win: what?
MAX: No, no, you need a penance on top of the insects.
FENELLA: Like a garnish?
MAX: Yes, garlic: my share of the wild garlic.
FENELLA: Surely that would only be unpleasant for you?
MAX: You know what I want from you.
FENELLA: Is this garlic or mistletoe?  I never thought you’d be the first to get entangled in…variations on a theme of paganism.
MAX: It can be poppy opium if that works.
FENELLA: Has this nonsense still not died?
MAX: Please don’t debase this.
FENELLA: From what?  Warped idealisation?
MAX: Not quite.
FENELLA: I wouldn’t’ve been that bothered either way, but now you’re making it into a thing.  It feels like the thin edge of…
SOUND: HERON CALLS
MAX: The thin edge of the we—?!
FENELLA: Sshh.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Heron.  Not well.
MAX: They always sound primeval, like they’re choking.
SOUND: HERON CALLS
OK, maybe not like that.  Poor thing.
FENELLA: Nothing like the sound of another creature dying to ruin your lecherous plans.
MAX: Not ruined; resting.
FENELLA: You have a lot of plans at rest.
MAX: Well, it’s hard to progress anything right now.
FENELLA: I was thinking of your ‘wacky idea of the week’.  Dozens and dozens of them – your creativity was awesome.  The extra workload was also awesome.
MAX: Most of them were stolen.
FENELLA: Well, what was the point of deluging me in stolen ideas?!  Oh, don’t start that again.
SOUND: HERON CALLS

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Street; 2021, Autumn, Day
SOUND: VEHICLES RUMBLE, PEDESTRIANS SCURRY, CHATTER
FENELLA: Where have you been?!  You weren’t at your meeting.  It doesn’t matt—
MAX: You were right!
FENELLA: We need to go!
MAX: Not yet.
FENELLA: We need to leave!
MAX: Yes, but not now.
FENELLA: We don’t have time to argue!
MAX: We do.  We always do.  Watch this.
FENELLA: What?  This stupid wobblecam movie?!
MAX: Didn’t have time to set up a crew, sorry.  Just watch it.
FENELLA: This is you?
MAX: Filming, yes; not the subject, obviously.
FENELLA: Are you running?
MAX: Along the road to Arbeith, the flat bit.
FENELLA: That’s a big plane.
MAX: Isn’t it?
FENELLA: Or very close.  Very low.
MAX: See when I turn to look across the field.
FENELLA: Three, four?!  What are they doing?  Practising almost-landing in the middle of nowhere?  And on the other side too!
MAX: Miles from any landing strip.
FENELLA: Offensive?
MAX: Escapist?
FENELLA: Who escaping what?
MAX: See the next clip.
FENELLA: Train window?  Is this you heading into town?
MAX: Nearly at the bridge.
FENELLA: Woh!  What the fuck is that?
MAX: Hefty, eh?
FENELLA: That’s one heavyweight plane.  It looks more like a spaceship—battleship…  How the hell is it staying up?
MAX: Given that we’re not being invaded by aliens, I think somebody has some special technology, serious kit, that they’re not sharing.
FENELLA: Why reveal it now?  I can hear other folk in the carriage exclaiming.
MAX: Nothing to lose?
FENELLA: Something terrible…
MAX: Enough to miss a meeting.
FENELLA: Why me?
MAX: I don’t think it’s personal!  I think they have hierarchies for such eventualities and we’re not even close to being on that list.  I don’t even know who I mean by ‘they’.
FENELLA: No, I mean, why am I on your list?
MAX: There isn’t time.
FENELLA: We always have time to argue!  There are folk all around.  You could’ve picked—
MAX: I mean there isn’t time to explain to anyone else.  You’re the only person I know who could get this—who already got it.  Plus all the stuff we never— You’re my ideal companion for an apocalypse.
FENELLA: Is that what this is?
MAX: Bag packed?

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.