Short screenplay from the Done Deal Old Worlds/New Worlds contest, June 2015 "Chilled to the Bone" OVER BLACK: BONE-SHAKING, GOD-AWFUL RUMBLING. EXT. AN AVALANCHE - DAY A deluge of snow, pouring down like a neverending waterfall. HOARSE SCREAMING. In among the cascading snow, there are snow sleds... and dogs... and MEN. Twisted, cartwheeling, being carried to their deaths. INT. CAVE ENTRANCE - NIGHT In this and all following scenes a background noise of howling, whistling, angry wind prevails. Blowing this way and that way and rising and falling, never still. The yellow light of an oil lamp reveals six bodies laid out in a neat row. Men, dressed in Arctic explorer furs and gear. Watching them is JURGENS, sat with his back against the cave wall. As tough as leather, steely eyes, matted beard. Cold. His gaze lingers on the dead... then he looks around, studying the cave. Carvings, on the walls. Runes (characters etched in straight lines with a hammer and chisel) are everywhere. Like an alien language. They go on, and on... and up to the ceiling. Jurgens has a WTF moment. More men -- BAYER, CASEY, SMITH -- all dressed in explorer furs, goggles, mittens -- enter the cave. Each man carries a heavy, canvas-wrapped package. They stack these beside the bodies. Exhausted, the men slump down beside Jurgens. Jurgens stares at the 3 packages. JURGENS That's all? BAYER We're lucky we got any! The rest are buried under a million tons of snow. JURGENS A fine idea, storing all our food on just two of the sleds. BAYER Don't go blaming this on me! Anders is at the bottom of the gorge. Go complain to him! Moody silence. Everyone stares at the bodies. BAYER We're lucky to be alive. CASEY They'll know something's wrong when we don't check in, right? They'll send a rescue team? No one answers. Jurgens allows his gaze to roam further. In a darkened corner of the cave, a deeper shadow. He gets up, takes an oil lamp, checks it out. Lamp light reveals a narrow, low-roofed tunnel. Jurgens examines the carved runes on the tunnel wall. The tunnel goes on and on until he can't see any further. He looks over his shoulder at the others. INT. NARROW TUNNEL - NIGHT Jurgens leads the way, the others follow, each man carrying an oil lamp. The tunnel is so narrow and low that it's claustrophobic. Bayer pauses to consider the runes, carved everywhere. Casey does the same. They look at each other, then follow Jurgens, who's way further ahead, a shadow backlit by his own lamp light. INT. JUNCTION OF TUNNELS - NIGHT Jurgens is presented with three choices, go back, or go left, or go right. Every tunnel wall is covered in those runes. Hard to tell them apart. Jurgens unhooks an ice-axe from his belt and uses it to chip a mark on the wall of the tunnel they just came from. BAYER What are you doing? JURGENS If we have to find our way back, we'll know it's this one. He hooks his axe back onto his belt, and chooses the right- hand tunnel. One by one the others follow him. They're all wary, and maybe a little frightened. INT. JUNCTION OF TUNNELS - NIGHT Jurgens emerges into another junction. More choices. He does the ice axe thing again, marking the tunnel he just came out of. This time he chooses the left-hand tunnel. Bayer and Casey pause for a moment. BAYER Who made these tunnels? CASEY WHEN did they make them? They look at each other, spooked. Then they hurry after Jurgens. INT. BIG CAVERN - NIGHT They all emerge from the narrow tunnel. The cavern is so vast their lamp light can't touch the furthest areas, which remain in darkness. And always, the howling, whistling wind. Bayer's lamp reveals more runes, right along the wall. He lifts his lamp higher. The runes go up, and up, and up, to the limit of the lamp light. Jurgens edges further out into the darkness until he's alone in a pool of light from his own lamp. Something keeps drawing him forward. Bayer and Casey look at each other, where is he going? Jurgens is perhaps fifty paces away when he stops. He turns and looks back at them. They all move to join him. Jurgens stands at the edge of a canyon that splits the cavern floor. It must be twenty feet wide, at least. They hold up their lamps to reveal the far side. The bottom of the canyon can't be seen. Jurgens moves along the canyon edge. He's sensed something. He stops twenty paces on. Beckons to the others. It's a stone bridge -- or one end of a bridge. The middle has collapsed, it's gone. Lamp light reveals a matching end, on the other side of the canyon. BAYER What in the hell is this place, Jurgens? JURGENS I don't know. Someone obviously lived here. BAYER What if they're still here? Everyone ponders this. They look around, casting lamp light into the darkness, but don't see anything. JURGENS The bridge is old. I think whoever built it moved on, long ago. Bayer half-turns, holds his lamp up to see better. BAYER Casey, what the hell are you doing? Casey is standing on the broken bridge, with oblivion only a half-step away. He stares across at the other side. BAYER Come back here, you idiot! You don't know if it's safe. Casey, unconcerned, looks back at them. CASEY Why aren't we going across? Jurgens and Bayer look at each other. LATER Casey sits with his back against the cavern wall. He has been trussed up with rope, like a straitjacket, pinning his arms. His ankles are tied also. Because Casey is a crazy ranting madman. CASEY (SHOUTING) We have to cross the bridge! It's the only way out of here! Let me loose! We've got to cross it! We'll die if we don't cross the bridge! We can't stay here! We have to cross the bridge. He continues to shout the same things, over and over, never shutting up. Jurgen, Bayer and Smith stare at him, horrified. Smith touches the ice axe hanging from his belt. SMITH Can't we shut him up? Jurgens notices Smith's movement. JURGENS He can't do us any harm. We need to bring the supplies in here. BAYER I'd rather return to the cave entrance. I don't like this place. JURGENS You'll freeze to death. BAYER You think it's any warmer in here? JURGENS It's not so exposed. We stand a better chance. INT. TUNNEL - NIGHT Bayer and Smith squeeze through the narrow tunnel. INT. CAVE ENTRANCE - NIGHT They emerge from the tunnel. Bayer holds his lamp up and squints, trying to see better. The packages are gone. The six bodies of their comrades are gone. Bayer and Smith exchange bewildered looks. INT. BIG CAVERN - NIGHT One of the oil lamps has burned out. It sits beside Casey who is still tied up and shouting. CASEY (SHOUTING) We've got to cross it! We'll die if we don't cross the bridge! We can't stay here! We have to cross the bridge! It's the only way out of here! Let me loose! Bayer has reported his findings to Jurgens. JURGENS You think it could have been a polar bear? BAYER There was no blood, no prints, nothing. Smith approaches. He looks grim, sick, horrified. JURGENS What's happened? SMITH You have to see this with your own eyes. INT. JUNCTION OF TUNNELS - NIGHT Smith leads Jurgens and Bayer, they all carry lamps. Smith pauses to decide which way to go, and decides it's the left tunnel. They follow him. INT. STALAGMITE CAVE - NIGHT Smith squeezes out of a tunnel and stands to one side, holding up his lamp. Jurgens and Bayer follow him out. They take in their surroundings. More of these damn runes, carved into every wall. They see Smith is looking up at something. They follow his gaze. Dozens of stalagmite formations grow upward from the cave floor, long and thin. Impaled upon six stalagmites, fifty feet above the floor, are the six bodies that were taken from the cavern entrance. Jurgens and Bayer stare in horror. JURGENS How did you find them? SMITH I heard someone laughing. They stare at him. Smith feels awkward, he won't meet their gaze. SMITH I didn't know if I was going crazy like Casey. But I had to know. I followed the sound. It led me here. It stopped when I came in. Smith's lamp sputters and goes out. It's dead. They stare at it, perhaps realizing how time-limited their supplies are. Smith puts the dead lamp down on the cave floor. Jurgens moves forward, he holds up his lamp, plays it around the cave, but he can't see anything among the forest of stalagmites. He turns back to the tunnel mouth. JURGENS Come on, let's go. BAYER Are we just going to leave them here? JURGENS I don't even know how the hell they got up there. Unless you have a fifty-foot-long ladder in your pocket, then yes. Jurgens ducks into the tunnel. Smith hesitates, then follows him. Bayer contemplates the six impaled men. Then he follows Jurgens and Smith out. INT. BIG CAVERN - NIGHT Crazy Casey is still shouting at the top of his voice, the poor bastard. CASEY (SHOUTING) Let me loose! We've got to cross it! We'll die if we don't cross the bridge! We can't stay here! We have to cross the bridge. We have to cross the bridge! It's our only way out of here! JURGENS We must take it in turns to stand watch. BAYER What happens when our lamps run out of oil? JURGENS We use only one lamp at a time. We make them last as long as we can. Smith looks at Casey -- still shouting. SMITH I've been thinking about what he's saying. JURGENS Ignore him, he's crazy, it's the cold, or the shock, or maybe both. SMITH No, listen to him. CASEY (SHOUTING) Let me loose! We've got to cross it! We'll die if we don't cross the bridge! We can't stay here! We have to cross the bridge. We have to cross the bridge! It's our only way out of here! JURGENS Don't let him get to you. SMITH What if the bridge was intentionally smashed? BAYER What are you saying? SMITH What if someone... what if they retreated... across the bridge... and to stop something else from following them... what if they smashed the bridge? So they would be safe. JURGENS That's a bit far-fetched, isn't it? SMITH And what we've seen hasn't been far-fetched? Smith gestures at their surroundings. SMITH These writings, I don't know what they mean, but what if, what if they are a warning, telling us of what happened? Of who the people who built the bridge were, and why they had to smash it, so nothing on this side could get across. BAYER And what if this thing you speak of, is on the other side, and this is the safe side? JURGENS What if there are no safe sides. CASEY (SHOUTING) Turn me loose! We have to cross the bridge! It's the only way out of here! We'll die if we don't cross the bridge! We can't stay here! We have to cross the bridge. Everyone has a moment of nervous smiles and chuckling, it's as if Casey is joining in the conversation. JURGENS How can we cross? The bridge is broken. SMITH I'm willing to try. JURGENS Maybe we should tie you up, too. SMITH That's a good idea. You tie rope around my waist. I run, I jump, you hold onto the end, if I don't make it, you pull me back up. They think about this, it's do-able, they have rope... BAYER If you're willing to try. I'm just not sure what it gets us. SMITH Maybe there's something across there I can tie the rope to. If not, I'll hold onto it no matter what, so you can come over also. Jurgens shakes his head. But then he shrugs, why not? AT THE BRIDGE Jurgens and Bayer look over the edge, down into the bottomless canyon. They look at each other. Jesus. Smith tugs on the rope around his waist. He nods. He's ready. He lines up on the bridge, he's going to run, and jump! There's plenty of play on the rope, Jurgens and Bayer hold of the end. JURGENS You sure about this? SMITH Just don't let go! BAYER We won't! Smith steels himself, and runs onto the bridge! He leaps like an Olympic long jump athlete, legs and arms rotating, he's halfway, he's almost there-- As he drops, his questing hands just touch the other side, but he can't get a grip, he falls down into the canyon. The rope tightens! Jurgens and Bayer take the strain! They suddenly fall down on their backsides, as if they just lost a tug-o-war contest. Jurgens pulls and pulls and the end of the rope snakes up over the edge of the bridge. They stare, appalled. Smith is gone. AT THE TUNNEL The last oil lamp is burning, the others have died out. Jurgens and Bayer sit huddled beside Casey, downheartened by events. They shiver, chilled to the bone. Casey's head hangs, he's asleep or maybe dead, but at least he's finally shut up. Jurgen has a small notebook and writes in it using a pencil. Bayer notices, and chuckles. BAYER Your memoirs? JURGENS In case someone comes after us. We must tell them what happened. BAYER I hope no one comes after us. I don't know what this place is. I don't know what is in here. But it should remain hidden and buried forever. The last oil lamp flickers. They stare at the dimming flame. Jurgens closes his notebook and slips it inside his coat. BAYER Did you say anything nice about me? JURGENS Perhaps in the sequel, when it comes out next year. They chuckle, warmed by a last moment of comradeship. The lamp goes out. The cavern is plunged into DARKNESS. An uncanny, screeching, inhuman LAUGHTER rings out. The End. 06/2015
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