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.

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