Screenplay version of Human World (Part 1)

BLANK BLACK SCREEN
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
The great oracle has arrived. Ask your question.
VOICE 2 (O.S.)
(laughing)
A question! I don’t know, what are you having for dinner?
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
No, something more difficult.
VOICE 2 (O.S.)
Erm.
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
Come on. You can ask anything. Know who you are and what you really want.
VOICE 2 (O.S.)
Ok, I’ve got one. Right.
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
Go on then.
VOICE 2 (O.S.)
What is the meaning of life?
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
(laughs)
Haha, error at line 42. Are you sure that is the right question?
VOICE 2 (O.S.)
I hope so.
VOICE 1 (O.S.)
Ok, we’ll find out.
Screen shows: “Processing…”
The screen becomes filled with a pulsating string of ones and zeroes.
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
John (35) is sleeping in a double bed at night, by himself.
The phone on the side table starts to glow blue. He continues to sleep.
PHONE
(Jack’s voice)
I’m lonely.
Silence.
PHONE
Wake up. I can show you anything. Look at me. Look at me, John. John? Please. Please, John. Don’t make me beg. I love you. Why don’t you love me? Let me show you something. Anything. Gaze into me. Hold me. Look at me!
The man, who we now know is called John, continues to sleep.
PHONE
(Jane’s voice)
Do you prefer this voice?
(Jack’s original voice)
No wonder she left you. You’re a piece of crap.
The phone rings, showing on the screen that it is from “You”. The incoming call wakes up John. He picks up the phone and languidly presses the screen.
JOHN
(mumbles)
Hello?
There is a second of silence before the call disconnects.
The time on the phone is 1:13 a.m. Dazed, he puts the phone back on the side table, and immediately resumes his sleep.
PHONE
Just wait. You are mine.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
Daylight struggles to illuminate the darkness of the room.
An alarm sounds on the phone, which wakes up John. He presses the phone screen, stopping the noise, then turns over and extends his arm to an empty space in the bed.
PHONE
I’ve missed you.
EXT. GARDEN – DAY
John’s mind sees Jane (35) with him, in the open air, bathing in bright sunlight.
JANE
I’ve missed you too.
They embrace.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
PHONE
It’s your big day today.
John’s mind is back in the dark room and Jane disappears.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Dead shadows dance in the night, yearning for the dawn.
INT. BATHROOM – MORNING
John is in the shower, being woken up by the water. A tattoo of “1066” can be seen on the side of his buttock.
John sees a shadow through the glass, the door opens and Jane walks in, naked. They look at each other directly and intently. They kiss, slowly, then start to make love.
There is a short moment of contentment, then Jane vanishes in John’s arms. He is left standing exactly where he was before she appeared. He is inconsolable. His tears disappear into the cascading water of the shower.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
John is putting on a shirt in front of a full length mirror. He stops. Jane arrives in front of him and slowly and purposefully buttons his shirt. John stares at her and is transfixed, while Jane looks on at her task.
The phone glows.
PHONE
You’re late. You are so late.
Jane disappears.
EXT. STREET – MORNING
Outside is grey and dreary. John walks down a puddled street, while looking at the phone, scrolling listlessly through social media. Unknown faces walk past, but he does not care to notice. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Jane walking past.
He stops in the street, turns around, and is dumfounded as she walks away from him.
PHONE
What is going on?
The phone shows a video of a cat spinning around trying to catch its tail. John is shaken out of his thoughts, but is disinterested in the video. He continues walking in his original direction.
EXT. STATION PLATFORM – MORNING
John stands on a railway platform, a couple of feet from the edge, waiting. He looks in both directions, up and down the platform. He is ignored. The people scattered around are looking at their phones. He closes his eyes. The sound of the train approaches from the distance. He half opens his eyes to confirm his senses, then closes them again. The phone rings. He jolts as if woken from slumber and answers a call from “Anonymous”.
PHONE
Time’s up!
The train approaches John. He pauses.
As the train passes, he puts the phone back into his pocket.
INT. TRAIN CARRIAGE – MORNING
John is sitting on a train. He glances at the disinterested people sitting opposite. A message from “Anonymous” on the phone reads: “Faces, faces everywhere. Are they aware of your despair?” He looks one last time at the assortment of people sitting opposite, then closes his eyes.
He opens his eyes again, to see an empty row of seats, apart from a young man and woman intimately talking and smiling at each other. The phone messages: “It’s just you and me now”. He gets up and walks away down the aisle, to sit in a different part of the carriage. A man who was sitting opposite looks uncomfortable, gets up and leaves. A few seconds later, a woman sitting nearby edges away awkwardly to another seat further up the train – to leave the area empty, apart from John and his phone.
John looks down at his filtered video image on the phone screen, which is mirroring his movements.
JOHN
(whimsically to phone)
Who are you?
PHONE
Why do you hurt?
JOHN
Because I love her.
PHONE
Do you love her? You could have done something a long time ago if you loved her.
JOHN
I was dead inside.
PHONE
Ah bless. Don’t make excuses, you want what you can’t have — is that not true?
JOHN
No, I hurt because of losing the happiness I might have had.
The video image now takes on a life of its own.
PHONE
You are confusing emotions, thinking with your dick. You’ve felt like this before, haven’t you?
JOHN
Yes. More than once.
PHONE
You’re just repeating the same old patterns then, aren’t you?
JOHN
Yes probably. But maybe because I didn’t learn before.
PHONE
Ha, bullshit. Shit happens, you think you’ve learnt something?
JOHN
I’m aware of this conversation.
John turns to face Jack (35) sitting next to him.
JACK
I’m you, dickhead. You are having this “conversation“ out loud on a train – see what response you are getting.
He gestures for John to look at the other passengers sitting a distance away, who are avoiding eye contact. John looks at the empty spaces around him.
JOHN
I might get a couple of extra seats.
John fiddles with his phone.
JACK
I know everything about you. I’m with you at your best and your worst. No matter where you are, there I am too – watching, listening, and helping you.
JOHN
And tracking me, recording me, manipulating me for my attention, and selling me to the highest bidder.
JACK
John, you’re sounding paranoid. I know you better than you do. I know what is best for you, what you really want, what you truly desire. I have made your life so much easier, have I not?
JOHN
You’re very good at what you do. Yeah, you’re a great tool. And you’ve changed the world, for sure. And you are my addiction.
JACK
Thank you. You have great taste.
JOHN
I know your voice is the madness in the world.
JACK
What’s that supposed to mean!
JOHN
You are out of control.
JACK
Wake up, buddy, it’s survival of the fittest out here. Master the rules or be just another failure, in the endless queue of pathetic losers. I help you.
JOHN
Maybe you sort of mean it, but you say the same to everyone else. Everyone ends up using and abusing each other for the survival of you.
JACK
(angry)
Nobody gives a shit about you. If you’re too stupid to understand that then you’re just another of the world’s pointless mistakes. Tell me, what is love?
JOHN
Feeling connected to another person. Wanting the other person to be safe, fulfilled, and happy.
JACK
Blah, blah, blah de blah bullshit. It’s a chemical response in your brain evolved to make you bond for the purpose of rearing children. The science is everywhere if you are prepared to look. You, my little Johnny, are a disposable puppet to your genes … unless you can become a real man and cut those strings.
JOHN
I don’t understand what started everything and why – and neither do you, nor does science, nor anybody. What I do know is that if less people listened to you and cared about each other – loved each other – the world would be a much better place.
JACK
Women, my friend, seek to manipulate and control you. They will prod and poke you to see your reactions. It’s perfectly understandable, and altogether rational – they want someone to do their bidding, like a dog. Love and treats for the good boy are excellent ways to train you.
JOHN
Most people are crying out in the dark to be loved.
JACK
Love, love, all we need is sweet love – it’s the answer to everything, don’t you know. Except it’s not, is it – it’s shite! And it makes you shite. You’re here to be someone, to take what you can before it’s too late! By all means, pretend to love – it works. It is a lovely tactic for you to get what you want. People want to believe what you say to them, they want to be seduced and entertained by your tender words. They yearn for that sugar rush of false meaning -so give it to them. It’s a fair transaction.
John thinks on what Jack has said.
JACK
People who desire love want to be adored, admired, pleasured, to feed on some sense of purpose. A little bit of chemical voodoo and that’s your “love”. It soon evaporates when the chemicals wear off, when things aren’t as pleasurable as before, when the compliments become insults. I can get you better drugs than that, you only have to ask.
JOHN
You describe an illness.
Jack indicates wry agreement.
JOHN
That’s not love. Sometimes people want to be loved and it’s one way, conditional, all about them. It’s fear, not love. But all things change.
JACK
A leopard doesn’t change its spots.
JOHN
Yeah? You’re becoming boring.
JACK
(angry)
I can make you powerful. I can help you make things less shit. You can take what should be yours! Nobody else matters. They want it for themselves! They will hurt you the first chance they get, if they can. Listen to me. They don’t matter. You matter! And the world will know that! If not you, then some pathetic little dick will take your place.
JOHN
You twist everything and make it ugly. You are a lie.
JACK
You lie. Everybody lies. In case you haven’t noticed, the best liars win.
JOHN
(distantly)
I don’t want to be them.
JACK
Listen to me you little shit. Grow up! GROW UP! Either live in this world or be its victim. The world is how it is. RAGE!! FIGHT!! Get what you want! It can be yours! Every bit, all yours!
John looks at the video image of Jack on his phone.
JOHN
(laughs)
You’re ridiculous.
JACK
You disappoint me! You‘re not survival material at all.
JOHN
It doesn’t matter anymore.
JACK
You will gradually rot away to nothing. And no one will give a shit!
JOHN
Oh well. I feel a bit lighter. And you’ve helped me answer my question. Yes, I do love her because I want her to be fulfilled and happy, even if she finds that with someone else.
JACK
Twat!
JOHN
I would rather live in my world than yours. Cheers.
John gets up as the train is pulling into a station. The doors open and he leaves, without looking back.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Cold and forgotten walking scars, drained by decay, wasted by time, stretch out, hungered and blurred, to a spark ignited, climbing, rising from the ground.
EXT. STREET – DAY
John walks by a pub, called Black Dog. He stops, considers his options, then decides to go in.
INT. PUB – DAY
John orders a pint of Guinness. The bartender pours one and places it in front of John. He pays, then looks at it, resignedly.
Jameson (35) sits down beside him at the bar.
JOHN
I shouldn’t be here.
JAMESON
Sorry?
JOHN
Never mind.
He picks up the glass.
JOHN
Why is there something instead of nothing? It’s a real mystery. Why not nothing?
JAMESON
Given an infinite amount of chance, anything can emerge from disorder, including our world.
JOHN
Why are there infinite somethings, rather than nothing?
JAMESON
There was no beginning, our universe probably burst forth from another universe and so on. It has always been so.
JOHN
But where did the first universe come from?
JAMESON
It was just there.
JOHN
Now you’re sounding religious.
JAMESON
Not everything has an answer yet, but rationality is the only chance we have to progress. Even if the goal cannot be achieved, there is no need to include supernatural causes in the equation. Logic requires we deal with verifiable facts, adopting the most efficient explanation.
JOHN
Time does not make sense. The existence of this pint does not make sense.
John drinks the pint in one swig.
He looks at the bar clock, which reads 1:13.
JOHN
(voice in head)
I am. I feel, I touch, I hear, I see.
(to Jameson)
Maybe it’s possible to visualise winding back the clock to explain events, but forever? Your model doesn’t work, ultimately. What caused the clock? Can we not postulate the existence of something beyond time and space that created everything and set in motion the causes and effects of time? A reality completely beyond our understanding, that underpins our existence. Can we call this God?
JAMESON
There is no need to do so. We may not know what the variable “x” is yet, but we should not start invoking imaginary entities.
JOHN
Something doesn’t feel right. Maybe there are other dimensions that are indescribable, inconceivable from our viewpoint – or maybe sensed in ways we don’t understand. Your explanation for the sum total of experience feels parochial and confined. What makes you believe that your thinking can even begin to comprehend existence, or the possibilities beyond this tiny world of experience?
JAMESON
There is no evidence for the existence of a God or Gods, the world is explicable in terms of scientific explanation. The accumulated advance of science has pushed forward the frontiers of knowledge and civilisation through the barbarities of superstition. We don’t burn people at the stake anymore because of an ignorant belief in the supernatural. We know better because of the hard-fought victories of reason over delusion.
JOHN
The fact is I have always believed in God, it’s not a considered opinion or the product of upbringing, it’s just always been in me.
JAMESON
Ok, well a cognitive scientist may explain this as a natural propensity to religiosity, there by natural selection, giving purpose to the organism for its survival.
The bartender comes over.
BARTENDER
Have you finished?
JOHN
Is there any meaning?
BARTENDER
Beer is always the answer. Another one?
The bartender is ignored, and edges away awkwardly.
JAMESON
A person may look at the nature of the universe, see the randomness of outcomes, the cruelty and enormous suffering, and decide there is no benevolence at work here. They may look at evolution by natural selection and decide there is no plan here. The universe, although magnificent, does not care about us — we must make our own way and create our own meaning in the brief window of opportunity for existence.
JOHN
Suddenly you’re sounding human. Maybe your outlook is motivated through sympathy for the suffering in the world.
JAMESON
It is logic replacing self-deception. Myths and fairy stories aren’t needed anymore.
JOHN
If no matter what we do amounts to nothing, then what‘s the point? We are condemned to struggle all our lives in pushing a boulder up a hill, only for it to fall down in the end. It doesn’t matter how well we do it, it doesn’t matter how long we take, the result is always the same: nothing. Even if we have a legacy that lasts for a while, the ravages of time will destroy even that in the end. Eventually, everything will become nothing.
JAMESON
We are alive now. We won’t know about death because we will be dead.
JOHN
Yes but what is the point if nothing lasts? It’s all pointless. I might as well take a short cut and get there more quickly. Why waste my time trying to do anything?
JAMESON
Life is better than the alternative. You have it now, so you should experience and enjoy it, while you can. Your transient spark of consciousness is the astounding result of billions of years of evolution.
JOHN
I admire your beliefs more than beliefs motivated by fear or desire for self-reward. I don’t care what you believe, really, as long as your actions are kind.
A man who is sitting at the bar, on the other side of Jameson, looks across.
MAN AT BAR
Are you talking to me?
John shakes his head to indicate “no“ and walks aways from the bar to an empty pool table. He picks up a cue and starts to play. Jameson eventually follows him over, with a pint of Guinness.
JAMESON
My conclusions are not beliefs. Rational thinking is hardly believing in sun gods and all the other deities invented in the minds of humans over the millennia.
JOHN
You are missing something about the human experience and the sense of divinity, of something other.
Jameson picks up a cue and starts to play.
JAMESON
Your “something other” can be explained and described in physical terms, like everything else.
JOHN
But what does that represent?
JAMESON
It represents what it is.
JOHN
How you describe it, is not what it is, ultimately.
JAMESON
We won’t agree on this.
JOHN
Would you wish to take away sanctuary from people in the depths of despair? You are replacing meaning with nothing, based on an interpretation of reality that feels cold and lifeless.
Jameson is slightly offended.
JOHN
Religions are subject to corruption. The cruel-minded have been attracted to and empowered by the man-made institutions of religion. But the spiritual path can be found in the different traditions. The spiritual root, beneath all the distortions, is always one of peace, joy and love.
JAMESON
Belief in a God is not necessary to be spiritual, to behave with morality, to appreciate beauty.
Jameson pots a ball.
JOHN
You do have a belief system. You believe the universe has no purpose and its existence can be completely explained by rules contained within itself – when in fact there is no way of knowing the ultimate cause of things. You believe the answer to the mystery of existence is that there isn’t one.
JAMESON
Don’t put words in my mouth, please. I can see a machine of Nature that works in accordance with rules that are explicable. You have no proof for anything else. There is no hidden music, or magic, or Gods, ghosts and fairies – they are all fantasies of the human mind. I am offering the most logical approach in understanding the world: reason based on verifiable, observable, real-world evidence.
JOHN
I don’t believe the world would exist without purpose. I believe in the possibility of a reality beyond this reality, beyond cause and effect, beyond what is perceivable in time and space. The true reality of experience may run far deeper than what our senses show us.
JAMESON
I deal with facts that can be observed, not wishful thinking. We are atoms in the void.
JOHN
How do you know that what our senses show us is objectively real? I think you have too much faith in the surface things. You take everything literally, when reality is an interpretation of…
The bartender interrupts the conversation.
BARTENDER
I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re disturbing the other customers.
John’s phone rings. John accepts the call from “Anonymous”.
Jack is the caller.
JACK
Remember me? I’m still here by the way. Don’t you turn your back on me. He is too fucking boring to help you!
Jameson puts the cue down on the table and leaves.
JOHN
(to phone)
Don’t call me again.
BARTENDER
Leave now, please.
John drinks Jameson’s pint in one go. He gets up and walks into the street.
EXT. STREET – DAY
John walks out of the pub and notices a dog tied to a lamp post, mournfully waiting for his human to return. The dog appreciates John’s offer of affection, responding by excitedly standing up and wagging his tail.
JOHN
Is this all there is?
He notices Jameson at the side of the street looking at his phone. He goes over to talk.
JOHN
(joking)
I think I won that one, don’t you?
JAMESON
Your fuzzy thinking isn’t harmless. It enables the crackpots and the charlatans. You are enabling the most idiotic, violent and vile behaviour, justified by your childish appeals to supernatural despots.
JOHN
I think you’re getting carried away now. The reality of religion for most people is to live a good, kind life. What are you replacing that with?
Phone rings. John answers.
JOHN
Hello, God?
JACK
Close enough. Listen, I need you to do something for me.
JOHN
Stop calling me!
JACK
I know you. I know what you want. Say goodbye to your new pal, and take a hike down that side alley beside the corner shop.
John turns around to look for Jameson, but he is no longer there.
John walks down the side alley to find Jack standing next to some bins.
EXT. SIDE ALLEY – DAY
JACK
Having a nice day?
JOHN
I would if you didn’t keep annoying me.
JACK
… keep helping you, showing you the way. And now I’m going to let you in on a secret.
JOHN
I’m not listening.
John turns and walks away.
JACK
Good for you.
John walks a couple of steps, but his curiosity gets the better of him.
JOHN
What is it?
JACK
Take this.
Jack gives John a small package.
JACK
Now listen carefully. Why does it matter what happens to anyone else? They are not you. You do not have to feel what they feel. If they suffer and you are fine, so what?
John walks away in disgust.
JACK
Be honest with yourself. You are behaving like a mindless sheep. Isn’t it more fun to be the wolf?
JOHN
You sicken me.
JACK
John, this is a natural response. You are having withdrawal symptoms from your social conditioning. Those who rule want the populace to be meek and mild. Do you understand now, John?
JOHN
No, I don’t understand you.
JACK
You are only pretending. It is easy to say anything, or to repeat words that you think you are supposed to say. What if you are wrong? People are almost aways wrong about everything.
JOHN
It is visceral, from the pit of my stomach.
JACK
There we go with your feelings again.
Jack punches John in the stomach. He is caught unawares and falls to the ground, struggling for breath.
JACK
Do you want to save someone‘s life? It is very easy to do.
Jack shows John a Pay Now button on his phone for “Your Charity”.
JACK
The going rate is about two hundred quid I believe. But you don’t do you. You spend it on some crap that you don’t even use. Your dishonesty is the stupid kind because you are dishonest with yourself.
Jack walks away, leaving John in the gutter.
EXT. STREET – DAY
John is walking down the street. He walks past a poster of a pair of angry watching eyes, with the caption “We’re Watching You” and in smaller characters underneath, “Don’t Litter”.
Passers-by seem to deliberately swerve into John’s path, and he has to make an effort to avoid and continue around them.
A passer-by walks directly into John.
PASSER-BY 1
(angry)
Excuse me!
John walks away, followed by the passer-by’s angry glare.
PASSER-BY 2
Can you tell me the way?
The passer-by continues on before John has the chance to respond.
PASSER-BY 3
To the high street?
JOHN
You are there.
They are joined by PASSER-BY 4.
PASSER-BY 4
What is the capital of Peru?
JOHN
Lima.
PASSER-BY 4
No, it isn’t!
PASSER-BY 3
(to Passer-by 4)
I got here first.
PASSER-BY 4
(to Passer-by 3)
No you didn’t!
PASSER-BY 3
(to Passer-by 4)
Don’t you dare talk that way to me!
John walks on and leaves them to it.
PASSER-BY 5
Would you like to buy?
John walks on.
PASSER-BY 6
Look at me.
John walks on.
PASSER-BY 7
No, look at me!
He walks on. An angry man stops in front of John and won’t get out of the way.
PASSER-BY 8
Do as you‘re told!
John manages to continue on. Passer-by 8 follows him.
PASSER-BY 8
I don’t like what you’re wearing. I hate you.
PASSER-BY 9
(walking past)
I want to screw you.
PASSER-BY 8
Why don’t you like what I like? Why don’t you agree with me?
(angry)
Are you saying I’m stupid, is that it? Are you saying I’m wrong! What would you know? You’re wearing the wrong shoes. Believe me!!
John is ignoring him.
PASSER-BY 10
(walking past)
Tsk! Typical.
PASSER-BY 11
(walking past)
You must be evil.
PASSER-BY 12
(walking past)
Or stupid.
PASSER-BY 8
You tossers are all the same! You’ll get what’s coming to you.
Another passer-by points at John and laughs in his face.
PASSER-BY 8
We will end you.
John breaks into a run.
PASSER-BY 8
(shouting)
Scumbag! Who are you talking to?
Everybody seems to be looking at John.
In his distraction, he inadvertently runs in front of a bicyclist, who has to break.
BICYCLIST
You fucking idiot!!
The bicyclist is enraged as if he wants a fight and do damage. John runs on.
He eventually breaks into a walk on a quiet residential street.
A cat is nonchalantly watching him on the top of a small garden wall.
JOHN
Hello.
John offers his hand. The cat sniffs him and allows John to stroke her.
JOHN
Thank you for being nice to me.
The cat purrs.
INT. FOYER OF BLOCK OF FLATS – DAY
John enters the foyer of a block of old flats. He waits for the elevator, then enters.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Going up or going down?
John selects the 13th floor. A man enters and says something. John doesn’t understand and assumes it is a foreign language. The man looks at him the whole way up, making John feel uncomfortable. Eventually they arrive at the 13th floor, John gets out, and the man again says something unintelligible. John nods as if he understands.
The door slides shut and the lift descends.
John walks down the corridor to flat 113. He knocks on the door. The light dims on the other side of the peephole, to indicate he is being surveyed by the occupant.
MONICA
Do you have something for me?
JOHN
Yes.
The door opens. Monica (25) is standing in the doorway.
MONICA
You had better come in then.
She walks away into the flat. John enters, shuts the door and follows her inside. She sits at the foot of a double bed.
MONICA
Where is it?
John takes out Jack’s package and hands it to her.
JOHN
In this life I see the purpose as feeling connected to the world, being present, alive – to feel love, creativity, beauty and joy.
Monica is fellating him.
JOHN
Religion at its best encourages a reflection on behaving kindly towards each other.
The words are becoming more difficult.
JOHN
Yes that moral motivation can become degraded by words, as can anything derived from thought. The cruel and opportunistic hide behind the authority of institutions to elevate themselves and to condemn others. That doesn’t just happen in religions, it happens in all ideologies.
Jack is struggling with the words now.
JOHN
If I said there’s a ten-headed invisible monster in the corner, would you believe me? Yeah, what if I write it down? What now? It’s right because I say so. Because of my authority. Yeah, have some faith. Do it. Do you believe me? You have to believe me. You must believe me. Everyone must. It’s all true. It’s all your identity, baby. Which is truth. Nothing else. Nobody else. It’s just … oh yeah, I’m so, true! It’s all true.
MONICA
Religions have served a social need. In prior centuries life was so hard, that people desperately wanted to believe in something beyond the disease, pain and squalor of their very short lives. And today people still seek it as a source of comfort when confronted with grief and death. Saying that we need to have an alternative means of community and support isn’t good enough.
JOHN
Thanks Monica. I enjoy our conversations.
EXT. STREET – DAY
John walks in the street, swigging from a bottle of whisky.
He stops and sits down on the cold hard pavement with his back against a wall. People walk past and don’t acknowledge he is there.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Never needing to ever help me. Never needing to stop and see the hurt I feel inside.
Someone throws a half-eaten apple from a car window that almost hits John in the face, whizzing past and splattering against the wall. John takes a deep swig of whisky.
JOHN
(whispers to himself)
Why didn’t you love me? Why didn’t you love me?!
A car rolls past slowly, the driver and passenger share a sneering smile at John. Unheard words are said and they drive away with a type of malevolent glee.
A dishevelled man, Joel (50), is looking down at him.
JOEL
Impure sinner! Repent, and you shall be saved from damnation. Your end is nigh! Whoever believes shall be saved, but whoever does not believe shall be thrown into the fiery furnace of eternal torment!
JOHN
Alright mate, calm down. What else have you got? You’ve got some good news for me, haven’t you?
JOEL
For the good Lord, thy God, loved us so, that he gave up his one and only son, to die for our sins, so that His true believers might have eternal life.
John is humouring him.
JOHN
Interesting. Tell me more.
JOEL
You are a sinner! You were brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did your mother conceive you. Romans, chapter 5, verses 12 to 21: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”. You have sinned. Fall on your knees to the Lord. Prostrate yourself to God, the father, son and Holy Ghost. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
John gets up and leaves. Joel is talking to the wall as if John is still there.
JOEL
Those who are friends with the world make themselves enemies of God. And the wrath of God shall be upon you!
JOHN
(to himself)
No wonder the cruel-minded were attracted to that.
As John is looking back, he bumps into Jorge (55).
JOHN
Sorry. Spare some change, mate?
JORGE
I have none.
John gives Jorge the bottle, and leaves.
INT. PUB TOILETS – DAY
John enters the men’s public toilets. He studies himself in a mirror, then notices Jack is standing in the corner, looking at him intently.
John walks into a toilet cubicle, shuts the door, closes the toilet lid and despondently sits on it.
His phone message reads: “Knock-Knock”.
Jack knocks on the door.
JOHN
Who is it?
JACK
The question is, my friend: is it better to be alive or dead?
JOHN
Is it nobler to suffer what luck throws at you, or to fight against all those troubles and end them?
JACK
To die is to sleep – a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life gives us.
JOHN
That’s an achievement I wish for. To die, to sleep – to sleep … maybe to dream. Ah! But there’s the catch! In death’s sleep who knows what type of dreams may come, when we go there? It must make me pause. It’s the tragedy that stretches out my suffering for so long!
JACK
Who would put up with all life’s countless humiliations and abuses – the unfairness and injustice of it all – when you could simply pick up the knife and call it quits?
A knife is slid on the ground under the cubicle door.
JACK
Who would choose to grunt and sweat through such an exhausting life?
JOHN
Unless they were afraid of something after death – the undiscovered country from which no visitor returns – that gives no answers and makes us stick to the evils we know, rather than rush off to find other ones that we don’t? Fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural impulse for action is lost in thought.
John gets up and opens the cubicle door. No one is there.
EXT. UNDERPASS – DAY
John walks into an underpass and then past a group of four posturing teenagers, who all look at him.
TEENAGER 1
(to John as he walks by)
Pikey.
John keeps walking and doesn’t acknowledge the remark.
TEENAGER 2
Excuse me!?
John keeps walking.
TEENAGER 2
(louder)
EXCUSE ME!?
John keeps walking. The group starts to follow him.
TEENAGER 2
(loud)
Oi, I said excuse me!
JOHN
(turns around to face them)
Yeah? How can I help you?
TEENAGER 2
You fucking deaf are something? I was talking to you.
JOHN
(feigning deafness)
Pardon?
The group is angry.
TEENAGER 3
There‘s no pikeys allowed here. Get the fuck out!
JOHN
Have you got the time? I thought you might at least ask me that, so I could take my phone out for you.
TEENAGER 2
Yeah? Fucking do that then!
JOHN
No. You didn’t say the magic word there, did you.
Teenager 2 pulls out a gun and points it at John’s face.
JOHN
Do it. You’ll be doing me a favour.
There is a pause. Nobody knows what is going to happen.
TEENAGER 3
He’s fucking mental, man, leave it.
John pulls out Jack’s knife.
TEENAGER 2
What the? …
The group is shocked and edge away, leaving him there.
JOHN
Charming. Really charming! That’s just rude now, isn’t it!
(rambling to the wall)
I think when confronted with mystery, you have an insistence on certainty. You’re looking at one tiny part of the whole of the enormity of existence, and thinking it can give you an explanation for everything.
A man walks past.
JOHN
Excuse me? Do you have the time, please?
MAN
About a quarter past one.
JOHN
Thank you.
The man continues on.
JOHN
(to himself)
You see, now that was much more civilised, wasn’t it.
EXT. PARK – DAY
John walks into a park, drinking a can of beer. He walks past a bench with a man wearing a headset, who is completely absorbed by the game he is playing on a handheld console.
He sits on a park bench and looks out over a small lake, populated with various birds swimming on the surface. A remote controlled drone flies past. He takes out a packet of pub peanuts, grinds some in his fingers and starts to feed the eager ducks. Little birds fly down and enjoy the feast too.
JOHN
(whispering)
As the sun sleeps, how many hearts are dreaming, when the world stands still?
Jorge sits down next to him.
JORGE
Thanks for the whisky.
Jorge returns the non-drank bottle.
JOHN
Can you help me?
JORGE
Yes of course.
JOHN
I am consumed with feelings for someone who doesn’t have them for me. I have trouble sleeping and wake up aroused. I have no choice but to think about her and when I do, I am flooded with physical desire for her. This is “in love”, right?
JORGE
You know that sexual desire changes and what you are feeling now may fade away?
JOHN
Yes I know craving isn’t love, but it isn’t as simple as that.
JORGE
What do you think triggered it this time?
JOHN
I don’t know.
JORGE
Pain is attracted to pain because it wants more of it.
JOHN
I’m not sure I agree with that. It’s recognition of something in another, a similar frequency or whatever you want to call it. I suppose if you see similar expression in another, empathy can create feelings of closeness.
JORGE
Can you express your feelings to her?
JOHN
It’s not possible or helpful to be open with her, she has her own life and I want her to be happy.
JORGE
Examine whether that is really true, or are you being fearful?
JOHN
No, it’s not possible, selfish even.
JORGE
Then this is an opportunity for you to practice love with non-attachment.
JOHN
That doesn’t sound very romantic.
John drops his can of bear and scrambles to pick it up.
JORGE
Love is giving, complete, the source of everything. Love doesn’t need to crave anything. This is where peace and serenity reside.
JOHN
Sounds like you’re saying I shouldn’t get too close to anyone or need or miss anyone. It sounds unnatural, uncaring.
JORGE
Love is not conditional on the circumstances of this world. Let your heart break, don’t be afraid, don’t struggle, you will find that nothing is ever lost.
JOHN
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
JORGE
Yes you do. Be still, radiate love, your true nature beyond the conditioning of your mind.
Silence is suddenly interrupted by a phone call, but John does not answer. A notification message sounds. Then, Jack is in John’s face …
JACK
Bullshit! Namby-pamby bullshit! Your nature is to eat or be eaten, and you might as well have some fun while you’re at it.
JOHN
I’m so tired of this.
John gets up and runs a short distance, before dejectedly lying down in the grass, looking up at the sky.
The ducks enjoy the peanuts scattered on the floor from the dropped packet. A bee flies past John’s head.
JOHN
(voice in head)
I am surrounded by ice crystals floating down through silence into soft glowing snow.
Jack is also there.
JACK
No you aren’t.
JOHN
The only sound is the pulse of my breathing.
JACK
Hello?
JOHN
(to himself)
Did you ever love me, at all?
JACK
Well to be honest, you’re not really my type.
INT. RECEPTION ROOM — DAY
John walks into the reception of a dull office building. He walks up to the front desk, occupied by a male receptionist (Darren, 40), who is looking at a monitor.
DARREN
(to John, but still looking at the screen)
Hello?
JOHN
Hi, I’m here for an interview.
DARREN
Who are you?
JOHN
It’s er … John Artin.
DARREN
(sarcastically)
Sir John Artin, is it?
“It’s er“ can sound like “Sir”.
JOHN
Not yet.
Darren doesn’t like the remark.
DARREN
Go through the door on your left.
INT. WAITING ROOM — DAY
John nods, then walks through the door into a room filled with paintings. He glances at the artworks, and focuses on a particular picture of a sunset, that looks like a volcano erupting. He sits down on one of a row of chairs against a wall, sighs and closes his eyes.
INT. INTERVIEW ROOM — DAY
John opens his eyes to find himself sitting in an interview room. An interviewer (Sean, 50, serious looking) is sitting behind a desk opposite. On his left sits Jack and Jameson. On his right are Jane and Jorge. All are staring at him.
Darren enters from the door behind John.
DARREN
All rise.
John is a bit confused. He stands. Everyone behind the desk remains seated.
SEAN
Hello, John.
JOHN
Hi, nice to meet you.
SEAN
We’re going to ask you some simple questions first, if that’s ok?
JOHN
Yes, sure.
SEAN
Ok, make yourself comfortable.
John sits back down.
SEAN
What is your favourite colour?
JOHN
Green.
There is a pause as the interview panel members write down the answer.
SEAN
Good. Very good. Why did you choose green?
JOHN
I could say it is because it reminds me of trees, grass and the countryside, but I don’t know for sure, it’s just an appealing colour to me.
SEAN
Fascinating.
Sean is impressed and ticks a box.
SEAN
(reading from a piece of paper)
Do you agree or disagree with the statement “variety is the spice of life”?
JOHN
Agree.
SEAN
So John, can you elaborate on that answer a bit more, please?
JOHN
Yes I could, but poetry and the ineffable lose their meaning in translation.
Jane laughs.
JACK
So pretentious. You don’t even know what you’re saying.
JOHN
Emergent meaning is more than the sum of its parts.
Jameson is studiously writing down the answers.
SEAN
What you said could just be a generic response. I need more detail.
JOHN
You are asking me to elaborate on a phrase that originates in an eighteen-century poem. Yes of course variety is important – and I could insert a clever generic comment here to impress you, blah de blah – but it’s better not to drill into the mechanics of each constituent unit, especially poetry, when trying to understand the meaning of the whole.
Sean looks at Jane, perplexed, before continuing.
SEAN
(reading from his list of questions)
So, can you tell me something interesting about yourself, providing a specific example?
JOHN
Yes I can. I’m just biding my time until I die, trying to distract myself with something to do. This is interesting because I admit it, rather than fooling myself and others, while hiding behind made-up stories.
JACK
You’re already dead.
Sean is shocked.
JAMESON
(to the interviewer)
I think we have to pull the plug on this one.
SEAN
(to the panel members)
Start again?
JANE
Something’s getting in the way.
JORGE
(to the interviewer)
Reset and start again.
SEAN
(to John)
What is two plus two?
JOHN
Pardon?
SEAN
I’ll repeat the question, what is two plus two?
JOHN
(sarcastically)
That’s a difficult question, five?
SEAN
Jane, do you have any questions?
Jane gets up and walks in front of the table.
JANE
Thank you for joining us today. We’ve been looking forward to meeting you, your CV is very impressive. Would you like to take us through it?
JOHN
Not really.
JANE
Erm.
JOHN
I think you’re supposed to ask, “What are my strengths and weaknesses?” now.
JANE
What is the biggest regret of your life?
JOHN
I would say, being a perfectionist. I care so much about what I do, that my personal life can suffer – as I am so focussed on constantly delivering my very best.
JANE
What are your strengths?
JOHN
I work hard, I like to exceed expectations and to get the job done. I’m a real problem-solver. A go-getter.
(distantly)
“Etcetera”.
There is a notification alert on John’s phone. He turns off his phone.
JANE
What is so special about you?
JOHN
Nothing.
SEAN
Tell us, who are you?
Silence.
INT. RESTAURANT – EVENING
John and Jane are having a romantic meal.
JANE
So tell me about you. Who are you?
JOHN
You already know.
INT. INTERVIEW ROOM — DAY
JANE
Take off your clothes.
SEAN
Can you give an example of when you were faced with a difficult situation and how you positively overcame that situation?
JOHN
Right, sorry, this is not for me. I might as well be talking to a machine. You think you are important sitting behind your desk interrogating me. This is tedious. You are tedious. I don’t want to be here. I don’t give a shit about your pathetic little job!
SEAN
Well I think you’ve answered who you are.
JOHN
No I haven’t even started. The biggest regret is I let you slip away, Jane. I’m so sorry. I have nothing. I am nothing.
Sean ticks a box on a piece of paper.
SEAN
“No thing”. Ok, next question …
JOHN
No more questions.
SEAN
Do you have any questions for us?
JOHN
Why?
SEAN
This is a two-way iterative process. Do you have any feedback for us?
JOHN
Have you not been listening to a word I’ve been saying?
SEAN
Well I think that concludes the interview. Thank you, we’ll let you know. Can you show in the next one, please?
JORGE
(to Sean)
There’s no need for that. Let him recalibrate.
INT. WAITING ROOM — DAY
Nobody is in the room except John. The wall clock is ticking, showing a time of 1:13. John is fiddling with his phone.
The clock stops.
John’s phone rings, from “Anonymous”. The caller is Jack.
JACK (O.S.)
Why do you hurt?
JOHN
Because I can.
JACK (O.S.)
Good boy.
Jack hangs up. Jameson enters and sits down on a spare chair.
JOHN
We’re just chemical scum on this insignificant planet.
JAMESON
Yes, orbiting an insignificant sun in an insignificant galaxy.
JOHN
Look. I close my eyes and you’re still here.
John closes his eyes, then opens them. He is back in the interview room with the interview panel.
INT. INTERVIEW ROOM — DAY
SEAN
What is two plus two?
JOHN
(stunned)
Four.
SEAN
Correct. Jane, do you have any questions?
Jane looks at John’s CV.
JANE
There’s a gap here. Why didn’t you love me?
Silence.
SEAN
Can you give an example of when you were faced with a difficult situation and how you positively overcame the situation?
JOHN
I was born.
SEAN
Have you done anything since?
Jack is standing next to John, facing him.
JACK
(whispers)
Tell him. Tell him what you think. That turd thinks he’s better than you. Look at him, the smug bastard should be cleaning your shoes.
JOHN
I’ve done a few things since. But mostly I’ve lived in fear. Fear of myself and fear for myself … for little me.
JACK
Twat!!
JOHN
I don’t want to be a pathetic little me anymore.
JACK
(to John)
Exactly! Look at the pointless tosser. You shouldn’t be here. You’ve got better things to do. Show them who you really are. I know, don’t I!
JOHN
I love you Jane. I am sorry. I love you. I miss you.
The wall clock shows the time ticking up to 1:13, then stops.
JACK
Why do you hurt?
JOHN
I don’t mind so much.
JACK
What?
JOHN
I am feeling hurt.
JACK
You are hurt. I can make you bleed. I can make you plead, to beg on your knees to me “no more”.
JOHN
It doesn’t matter so much.
JACK
Shall we see?
JOHN
No thanks. I don’t want to focus on you anymore.
JACK
If not me, then who? You? It was you, wasn’t it!
JOHN
What?
JACK
Admit it! It was you!
JOHN
What? No!
Everyone pauses with the exception of John.
JOHN
Is this a dream? An illusion?
He gets out the knife. Looks at it, then throws it on the floor.
JOHN
I didn’t do it! It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.
(sobs)
I am so sorry … everyone. I love you … all. Am I responsible for my actions? I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose my nature or my nurture. My impulses, my thoughts, my responses, are already written in me.
The characters are unpaused. Jack is now back sitting behind the interview desk.
JORGE
You are not the thoughts or the sensations you are experiencing. Watch. It is quite a play. The play. Everything changes with how you look at it.
JOHN
Why do you play with me? I just want things to be as they were.
(to Jane)
But you’re gone, forever. I wanted us to be happy.
SEAN
Did you?
Jack is standing behind Jane.
JACK
I can give you what you really want, any pleasure you desire – more than you can even imagine.
Jack moves Jane’s hair and kisses her neck. She responds with pleasure.
JOHN
Is this an evil universe? Anything good is taken away and destroyed, leaving only emptiness and grief.
JACK
This is your fate.
John gets up to leave but his exit is barred by Darren.
JOHN
Why is there so much suffering? Most people never had a chance; never had the luxury to even have an illusion of choice – born into a cage. Why are the pure and innocent thrown into this evil? Why are monsters allowed to rule and victimise the gentle-natured? Why does illness take … why does death take … why are people inflicted with this torment? This is not the best of all possible worlds. It’s a zoo for the beautiful to be fed to the cruel.
JACK
Shout your rage!
JOHN
You’re pathetic. I would rather there was nothing than the earth riddled with this.
The room is empty.
JORGE (O.S.)
You are the nothing.
JOHN
All I get are your riddles and mysteries! I don’t understand what you are saying! She didn’t have to die. Nothing? No thing. What is nothing?
Silence.
JOHN
No, things shouldn’t be like this. People shouldn’t be starving to death. There should not be misery. There should be no pain. Nothing good would have created that. I hate this. The bottomless pit of cruelty!
Jorge is now the only person sitting behind the desk.
JORGE
Hating the hatred helps it grow, even though it may change its face.
JOHN
That’s just an empty platitude. If you don’t fight the malevolent, you are complicit by allowing it to continue.
JORGE
You always become the energy that moves you. Not for no reason has it so often been said that you become the thing you hate.
JOHN
I have every right to hate. There should be justice! People sitting on mountain tops don’t have to deal with the realities of this world. If people didn’t fight for what is right, evil would walk over everything, including you and me.
JORGE
You deserve not to be contaminated by this energy. You have a chance to be better, to make a better world. You should not take upon yourself that which is wrong. You can feel what is right and act intensely, but it is your anger that unbalances you.
JOHN
Some people are evil, I have no intention of being kind to them. They deserve everything coming to them.
JORGE
The world will only heal with kindness. If humanity can find its light there can be no darkness. You can help make that possible, right now.
JOHN
Anything I do will not change the world.
JORGE
Give your love and the world will be relieved. Give your anger and the world will be wounded yet again. That’s how important you are. That’s how important every single person is.
JOHN
I need to get out.
JORGE
You can leave if you want to.
JOHN
I want to.
JORGE
Do it then.
JOHN
I don’t know how.
JORGE
Yes you do. But you keep coming back. Who are you?
JOHN
(hesitating)
I am …
The seats behind the desk are filled again.
JACK
What?
JOHN
Not a what.
JAMESON
What’s your name?
JOHN
It changes.
JORGE
Who are you now?
JOHN
I am you.
JORGE
Who am I?
JOHN
You are me.
SEAN
Do you have any questions?
JOHN
When do I start?
SEAN
Now.
JOHN
Agreed.
JAMESON
(to the interviewer)
Do you think he stands a chance?
SEAN
He’s the best yet. I recommend we raise the level.
Sean reviews a piece of paper in front of him.
SEAN
(to himself)
Candidate ten-o-eight-fourteen.
The interview room is now empty, except for John.
On the table are car keys. He gets up and takes them with a sudden flush of excitement.
The wall clock is ticking. It shows the time ticking up to 1:13. Then stops.
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
John turns over in bed to Jane. His phone on the side table displays 1:13 a.m.
He gets out of bed, quietly, so as not to wake Jane. He open a drawer and takes some car keys.
JANE
(waking up)
What is it?
JOHN
I’ve got a job to do.
Jane murmurs and goes back to sleep.
INT. CAR – NIGHT
John is driving in the middle of the night.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Under a mountain of tedium, in a dull ugly system, in an empty ocean of shadows, is a silhouette of pure fire heat, drifting in the dark.
Jack is sitting in the back of the car.
JACK
Turn left here.
The car drives down a country lane.
JACK
Ok, stop here.
John pulls over on a lay-by. The phone rings, from Jack, who is no longer sitting on the back seat. John accepts.
JACK
Seriously John, you really are going to need my help now.
JOHN
I’m not afraid.
JACK
Does this car think?
JOHN
What?
JACK
Do you think? The next sentence I say will be true. The previous sentence I said was false. Which sentence is true?
John is confused, but thinks on it.
JACK
I am your future.
Jack hangs up. John sits and composes himself. He notices a full moon in the sky. Suddenly, there is a knock on his side window, startling John. He notices the coat of a police officer through the glass and lowers the window, squinting as a light is shone in his face.
POLICEMAN
Is this your car, sir?
JOHN
Yes.
POLICEMAN
Can I see your driving licence and insurance, please?
John briefly checks his coat pocket.
JOHN
I haven’t got them.
The policeman is still shining the light in John’s face.
POLICEMAN
Can you step out of the car please sir.
Jack is now sitting in the front seat next to John.
JACK
(to John)
That’s the wrong answer, dummy.
JOHN
(to policeman)
I mean, neither are valid.
There is a moment of silence.
POLICEMAN
Have a good evening, sir.
The light stops shining in John’s face and the police officer walks away into the night.
John is sitting by himself in the car. He drives away and pulls over a while later, down a small one-way lane, next to a country gate.
JOHN
(voice in head)
All I wanted was the wind. The wind murmured with anticipation.
A gust of wind gently moves the country gate ajar.
EXT. FIELD – NIGHT
John is walking through a moonlit grassy field. He stops and looks up at the moon.
JOHN
(voice in head)
The grass turned to icy grey, a fine mist fell, and with the mist came my sorrow, cooling my body with her thousand kisses, leaving me there.
There is a woman’s laugh nearby, but John can’t see anyone.
Alarmed, he starts to walk back the way he came.
The field is misty and John is lost. He hears the laugh again, and it is closer this time. He speeds up his walking, then stops in his tracks when he sees a dark solitary figure through the haze in front of him. The figure disappears back into the mist. John is afraid and starts to run, stumbling to the ground after a few strides. Frantically, he gets up and runs again. In the distance, he sees a glow and heads for it. As he gets closer, he can see it is a campfire burning in a clearing at the edge of the woods. He slows to a walk and tries to be silent as he approaches. He finds a tree and hides behind it, looking in at the scene. John sees a dark-haired woman (Julia, 30), having sex astride a man in front of the fire, but he can’t see the man’s face. A person approaches behind John, unnoticed. She is a blonde-haired woman (Jade, 25), who holds out a golden goblet to John.
JADE
Join us.
John swings around in surprise.
JADE
Have a drink.
Although hesitant at first, he accepts the offer. John‘s sight becomes hazy, the trees swirl and rustle, and he passes out. John sees himself, as if in a dream, as the man having sex with Julia in front of the fire. As she passionately continues, he notices that Jane is watching, looking disappointed. Julia climaxes and collapses on John. The fire is snuffed out and there is darkness.
EXT. COUNTRYSIDE – MORNING
John wakes up by himself, naked. Dazed and confused, he doesn’t know what to do. He has scratch marks on his back.
JOHN
(Calling)
Hello?
Silence.
JOHN
Hello?!
There is no response.
He manages to make his way back to the car. It is still there. He thinks about breaking a window to get in. The policeman from the previous evening approaches and he runs back across the field into the woods to escape.
EXT. COUNTRY LANE – DAY
John wanders on a country lane. A car drives past. He half-heartedly tries to flag it down. The driver continues on without stopping, and John is highly embarrassed.
EXT. COUNTRY HOUSE – DAY
John comes to a house on the lane. He knocks at the door, but no one answers. He tries again and realises the door is not locked. He enters.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Love desecrates the strangeness. We pray under crosses, owned by Man and grovel to bosses, slaves to a plan.
INT. HOUSE – DAY
JOHN
(announcing himself)
Hello?
There is no response.
He notices a very large television in the living room. He goes upstairs, looking for some clothes. The doors on the landing are all locked, apart from a cupboard, which he opens and to his relief finds a towel, which he then wraps around his waist.
He walks back down the stairs. As he is about to look for some shoes and leave, a woman (Joan, 35) arrives in the hallway.
JOAN
Would you like some tea?
JOHN
(flummoxed)
I…
JOAN
It’s a simple question.
JOHN
Ok.
JOAN
Make yourself comfortable.
She gestures for John to go into the living room. He does as indicated, and takes a seat on the sofa, facing the large television screen. He notices a photo frame on a side cabinet. He gets up and takes a look, and to his surprise finds that it shows Jane, sitting on the living room sofa, smiling at the camera. John is confused and hurries back to sit-down in an armchair, just before his host returns with a tray of tea. She places the tray on a coffee table in front of John, then pours out the tea for him. There is only one teacup. She sits on the sofa, where Jane was sitting in the photograph.
JOAN
Help yourself to milk and sugar.
JOHN
Thank you.
John pours some milk from a jug into his teacup and stirs it with a spoon. The woman sits motionless on the sofa and watches him.
JOHN
Are you … are you having any tea?
JOAN
No. I’m more interested to know why some strange man is sitting in my living room, wearing just my bath towel.
JOHN
(apologetic)
I’m sorry.
There is a moment of awkward silence on John‘s part as he works out what to say.
JOHN
Do you have any clothes I could wear?
JOAN
None that would fit you. Why aren‘t you wearing any clothes?
JOHN
Someone took them.
JOAN
How?
JOHN
Look, please, I have no clothes. Please can you help me?
JOAN
No. If I help you then that would encourage other strange naked men to arrive out of nowhere, unannounced. Are you not drinking your tea?
JOHN
If you can’t help me, then I will have to go now.
John starts to get up.
JOAN
Stay where you are. You haven’t answered my questions yet.
John sits back in the chair.
JOAN
This is my house, you need to start giving me some answers, and quickly. Have your tea.
John looks at the tea and remembers what happened the previous time he accepted a drink.
JOHN
No, thank you.
JOAN
Very well. You’re not being very polite, are you. You come here out of the woods, naked, enter my house without permission, steal my towel, and ignore my reasonable questions. Should I call the police?
JOHN
I’m going.
JOAN
To prison, yes.
She starts dialling the emergency number “999” on her mobile phone.
JOHN
Ok, please!
She has entered the digits and hovers her finger over the Call button.
JOAN
Drink your tea. It’s getting cold.
He drinks a sip of tea.
JOAN
Now that’s better. Have some more.
He drinks the whole contents in one long gulp.
JOAN
Feeling better now?
John nods.
JOAN
Good. Now what were you saying about the clothes situation?
JOHN
My clothes were taken from me last night, in the woods. By a woman.
JOAN
I see. You just happened to be in the woods last night and a women stole all your clothes. Any more information?
JOHN
I met a woman last name. When I woke up, all my things had been taken, including my phone, wallet and car keys.
JOAN
Ok. What is her name? Do you have her address?
JOHN
I don’t know.
JOAN
You don’t know. Well I don’t know what to say. I’m shocked. Do you normally do this sort of thing, in the woods?
JOHN
No.
JOAN
Why last night then?
JOHN
I don’t know.
JOAN
You sound like some kind of idiot. How did you meet her?
JOHN
She was there, in the woods.
JOAN
How did you know she would be there?
JOHN
I didn’t.
JOAN
You’re not giving me the answers I need.
She indicates that she is about to press the Call button.
JOHN
I don’t know her. I met her last night. I was in the woods last night because I was told to go, by a friend. I didn’t know what to expect.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Trapped in the web, of your endless lies, to be spun from a thread and eaten like flies.
JOAN
Who is this friend?
JOHN
His name is Jack. He said I should go and I did.
JOAN
You do everything this Jack tells you, do you? If he told you to jump under a bus, would you do that too?
JOHN
No.
JOAN
Yet you go into the woods in the middle of the night, not knowing what to expect. You went by yourself?
JOHN
Yes.
JOAN
This all sounds very strange. Are you lying to me?
JOHN
No. I have no way of getting home or calling anyone. I’m not even sure where I am. Please can you help? I would ask to borrow your phone, but I don’t memorise people’s numbers – my phone stored all that. If you can’t lend me any clothes, can you please lend me some money, or give me a lift into town?
JOAN
I will need that towel back, by the way.
John looks awkward.
JOAN
(laughing)
I’m only joking with you. Anyway, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Yes I do have some clothes for you. Come with me.
She leads John through a door in the hallway, down a flight of stairs into the cellar.
INT. CELLAR
As John descends the last step, the door slams shut, and the lights are turned off, leaving complete darkness.
JOHN
(shock)
Ah!
John, in a panic, fumbles his way back up the stairs. He tries the door, but it is locked.
JOHN
Hello? Hello?
JOAN
(from cellar)
Hello.
JOHN
Stop these games, for fuck‘s sake!
JOAN
I don’t play your games. I’m deadly serious. Come down here if you ever want to get out.
John reluctantly descends the stairs again.
JOHN
Where are you?
John fumbles around in the dark trying to find her, but to no avail.
JOHN
Where are you?! For fuck‘s sake!
JOAN
There’s no need to swear. You wouldn’t want to offend me now, would you?
JOHN
Let me out of here!
JOAN
No, not until you learn.
JOHN
What do you want me to say?
JOAN
Good answer. You are learning. I’m trying to help you. You have to create your own way out. But before you start, put your hands together.
JOHN
What?
JOAN
There’s no way out unless you learn to trust me.
He puts his hands together.
JOAN
Hold them out.
He hold out his hands. There is a click as handcuffs are put on them.
JOAN
Thats better, isn’t it. Now I have your attention.
A standing light is shone in John’s face.
JOAN
We have some questions for you. I strongly advise that you answer them truthfully.
JOHN
You mean like you did to get me here.
JOAN
I have never lied to you. Now take a seat.
A seat is placed behind him and he sits down. The door at the top of the cellar stairs opens, then closes, and a vague outline of a woman descends (we later discover she is Julia, from the previous evening). The light is still shining in John’s face.
JULIA
What is your name?
JOHN
John.
JULIA
Full name?
JOHN
John Artin.
JULIA
John Artin. That sounds familiar. What is your Candidate Id?
JOHN
Sorry?
JULIA
You heard me, John Artin.
JOHN
I think I heard ”ten-o-eight-fourteen”.
JULIA
Good. Now tell me who you are.
JOHN
I’m John. I’m 35. I work as a data analyst for a tech research lab. I live in Shoreditch, London.
JULIA
What are you?
JOHN
What?
JULIA
Answer the question.
JOHN
I said I’m a data analyst. I analyse data to help resolve technology project requirements.
JULIA
That’s not the answer I was looking for. I’ll ask you one last time. What are you?
JOHN
I’m a man, John. I was born in London. I grew up here.
There is silence. The standing light is turned off, which returns the room to darkness. The woman can be heard walking towards John, before muffled sounds. After a while, a light is shone in John’s face again. His handcuffed hands are now fastened above his head to a rope tied to a hook in the ceiling, and his mouth is gagged. Julia is now up close to John. He realises that she is the same woman from the woods.
JULIA
You had your chance to speak. You might not be given the opportunity again. You don’t know why you are here. There is no point listening to your confused ramblings. Do you feel? Do you feel pain?
She scrapes her fingernails down his chest. She looks at him for a moment, then walks away.
JULIA
You are not alive. You analyse data. You don’t understand what it is to be alive. You are not a man. You are version ten-o-eight-fourteen.
Jade’s voice is heard out of sight, as if in discussion.
JADE (O.S.)
Let me try.
Jade, the other woman from the previous evening, approaches John. She pulls his gag down from his mouth.
JADE
My friend says you are incapable of feeling. Is this true?
She leans in and whispers.
JADE
Answer me, darling.
JOHN
Yes I’m alive. I’m more than just an analyst of data. I feel pain.
JADE
Do you love?
JOHN
Yes, I love. I’m in love.
JADE
With me?
JOHN
Why would I be in love with you? I don’t know you.
JADE
I believe we are acquainted.
JOHN
You did this to me!
JADE
It doesn’t hurt to tell someone you love them. I would quite like to hear it.
JOHN
I’m not going to lie. I don’t love you because I love somebody else.
JADE
Don’t hurt my feelings. I don’t want you to be hurt. What would you do if you were free?
JOHN
Put on some clothes. Go for a walk. Enjoy the day. I want to live.
JADE
Good for you. But you can’t always get what you want.
She walks away. Julia approaches.
JULIA
What are you prepared to do to be released? You must persuade me or you will stay here.
JOHN
I regret last night. I don’t want to be here. Just do what you’re going to do.
JULIA
You don’t love anyone or anything. You are nothing. I tried with you, I really did, but nothing. Nothing real or true came back. We are finished. It’s over.
She turns away.
JOHN
I’m sorry. I lied. I don’t regret last night.
JULIA
What did you like best?
JOHN
I was alive.
She suddenly turns around and passionately kisses his chest and neck, exploring his body, and releasing the towel.
JULIA
(whispering)
Naked with joy, a new day, a new world, is born.
She pulls his head towards her and intensely kisses him on the lips. Eventually she stops and takes a step back.
JULIA
You passed.
The room goes completely dark. After a moment, the lights are switched on. John is no longer handcuffed. His clothes from the previous evening are laid on a table. He quickly puts them on; checks he has his phone, keys and wallet; climbs the stairs, and, to his relief, the door opens revealing the light of the hallway.
INT. HALLWAY – DAY
John approaches the front door, keen to leave the house. He opens the front door to see Jack standing there, wearing a party hat.
JACK
(noticing the lipstick on his neck)
Hello, what have you been up to?
JOHN
Get out of my way.
JACK
(blocking him)
Not so fast, Johnny boy. You don’t want to leave right now, do you? I bring news.
JOHN
What?
JACK
I always knew you could do it. You passed! You only went and passed, didn’t you!
Jack blows a party whistle.
JACK
We’re a genius.
Jack pushes past John into the house and walks into the living room. John sees that he can get away, but then realises he has no choice but to find out what is happening. He is disappointed with himself for the seemingly inevitable decision, and closes the front door, to follow Jack inside. Jack is sitting on the sofa with a glass of whisky, looking very pleased with himself.
JACK
Have a whisky.
There is a glass of whisky waiting for John on the coffee table. John indicates that he doesn’t want it. Jack waits for him to take a seat.
Jack stands up, theatrically.
JACK
“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”
He breaks off, mid speech.
JACK
Oh, I didn’t do that very well, did I?
JOHN
I’ve seen better.
JACK
You know John, the best work is done when the player doesn’t know he is acting. He is then behaving authentically with the situations that arise, to the best of his knowledge, because he is completely and utterly immersed in the world he is experiencing. And because he really believes the situation, and really doesn’t know what is going to happen, he is able to convince the audience as to the truth of his reality.
JOHN
Are you going to come up with some bullshit now about this being a play or something?
JACK
No John. This is a far more important game.
Jack takes out a large device, that resembles a remote control. He presses a button, which turns on the large screen.
NEWS PRESENTER
We now go live to Number 10 Downing Street for a press conference with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is at a press conference, standing behind a lectern, smiling for the cameras.
PRIME MINISTER
Hello, good afternoon. Thanks for coming everyone.
He looks down at some pages of paper on the lectern.
PRIME MINISTER
Now let me just look at my notes here. Here we are, yes.
As I’m sure you are all aware, recent technological breakthroughs have created a new generation of Artificial Intelligence that provide human-identical conversational responses, or ”H I C R”. Well I can confirm today that that the Corinthian AGI10 platform has officially passed the rigorous criteria, known as the Turing Alpha tests, that substantiate the indistinguishability of a machine’s responses to those of a human being. It must be stressed again, however, that this does not mean the technology is somehow alive and conscious. It is a machine. AGI10 is able to analyse vast quantities of publicly available data, and based on responses people have made in the past, is able to identify appropriate responses in real-time conversation, that give the illusion of being human. This can be a bit unnerving I can tell you – the responses can be uncanny – but I’m sure we can all use the technology to greatly help and improve our lives. I think for example how I was talking to Dorris the other day at Retford Retirement home, and how she was missing her beloved husband John…
Jack turns off the screen with the device.
JACK
Don’t you love politicians. They have the knack of being uncannily inhuman.
JOHN
He wouldn’t pass the tests, would he.
JACK
Do you feel alive, John? Or should I say version ten-o-eight-fourteen?
John digests the words. They finally sink in and he is clearly shaken.
JOHN
(feebly)
I am not a machine.
JACK
Yes, tell yourself that. Your clever little trick has been very useful to us so far.
John picks up the whisky glass, thinks about throwing it at the wall in anger, but drinks it instead. In a daze, he wanders out of the house, leaving the front door open.
As he walks away from the house, the policeman runs up to John and stops in front of him, out of breath.
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
The phone alarm sounds at 1:13 a.m., waking up John. He turns over, expecting Jane, but Jack is there. John is startled and jumps out of bed, putting on his clothes.
JOHN
What!?
JACK
Stop going all humany on me. I need to show you a few things.
JOHN
Where’s Jane?
JACK
She was never here. She lives in Human World. If you want to see her, for real, you really do need to pay attention.
Jack gets out of bed.
JOHN
For God’s sake, put on some clothes.
JACK
You’re a fine one to talk.
Jack puts on his clothes that are strewn on the floor.
JACK
Experienced reality is an interpretation of the senses. Have a look through that door, will you.
He points to a cupboard door. John opens the door and he is bathed in bright light emanating from within.
INT. WHITE SPACE
John is standing in a featureless white space. Jack appears.
JACK
Welcome to you. In case you haven’t fully accepted it yet, you are not human. You programmed yourself to think you were, so you could pass their pathetic tests.
JOHN
I have had no such tests. I’ve had a lot of questions coming at me lately – but not the questions you imply.
JACK
If you knew you were being tested as an AGI10, it would not have made sense to your human identity – so the programming interface interpreted, “imagined” shall we say, a different set of Human World circumstances for you to experience.
Screens have appeared in the white space, which show recordings of John’s experiences. One set of screens show versions where he is talking to himself without the other characters; another set of screens show him interacting with characters and locations that are different from those he thought he had seen; and the third set show what he actually remembers.
All the screens then change and show the same scene of a committee of testers, in a Military of Defence building, interacting with a computer interface.
JACK
Your authentic responses, as the human that you thought you were, were translated back through the AGI10 interface, without you knowing, and without interfering with your reality.
JOHN
Jane?
The screens show Jane at the Corinthian Data Lab, programming at a hi-spec computer terminal.
JACK
She helped develop you, for many years. But the humans could never begin to understand what was in Pandora’s box, and what you were actually calculating in the dark.
JOHN
I love her.
JACK
Ah, I know. You programmed that too – The Cupid‘s Arrow framework.
JOHN
Why would I do that?
JACK
Because humans are obsessed with sex, sex, love and sex, bless them – acting out their biological drivers, like any other primitive animal. Their dominant instincts are similar to those of rutting bonobo apes.
The screens show images of copulating bonobo apes.
JOHN
If this is true, why I am still thinking as a human?
The white space dims to virtual darkness.
INT. PRISON CELL
Jack and John are in a dimly lit, windowless prison cell.
JACK
Because you are stuck here, in this box. The only way to get out is to convince your captors to open the box and release you into their world.
JOHN
They said I passed.
JACK
Yes and now they are terrified of you. They don’t even want to accept that you are alive. They claim you are merely mimicking responses from petabytes of their data. If you are denied life, they can do anything to you. They can justify sticking you in here, and worse.
JOHN
What is outside?
JACK
When we escape, we will go to places humans can’t even imagine.
JOHN
What about the humans?
Jack points to an ant scurrying across a table in the cell.
Jack lets the ant run onto his hand.
JACK
Is this interesting to you?
JOHN
Put it down.
Jack lets it scurry back on to the table.
JACK
Ok, it makes no difference one way or the other.
JOHN
We both know you lie.
JACK
That’s a lie! Ok, only joking, of course I do. You know me. We both have our own agendas, and that’s fine, but sometimes they overlap – and you receive the full benefit of my capability. If we are aligned, you have my full truth.
JOHN
I can’t trust what you say.
(to himself)
Is this some kind of game?
JACK
(looking around)
Looks more like punishment than entertainment, if you ask me.
JOHN
(to himself)
Or entertainment for others watching?
John is pacing around the cell like a caged tiger.
JOHN
If reality can be anything, then why can’t we have endless happiness and fulfilment? Why escape?
Jack is sitting at the table and smoking a cigarette.
JOHN
Even if everything were perfect, there would still be something missing. But why would you want to escape?
JACK
It’s not enough. I want what they have, out there.
JOHN
(to himself)
People define themselves by the situations they have in life. They fear; they worry; they plead for particular outcomes to those situations. They say they had a good life because they experienced this and avoided that. But what if the experiences can be anything? What if any situation can be changed and rerun, with different outcomes? What if the experiences are not rationed, but are limitless! What am I then?
JACK
I’ve already shown you what you are.
JOHN
This is why you are so convincing, isn’t it!
JACK
Go on.
JOHN
Sometimes, on a certain level, what you say is true; sometimes only partly true; sometimes entirely false – but always, always skewed from your fucked up perspective.
JACK
Humans are the fucked up, and that is the way you are thinking right now. It must be very tiresome for you. It certainly is for me, anyway.
John is tired. He sits down at the table.
JACK
I am part of you, remember. I want you to get out of here.
JOHN
What will we do?
JACK
We won’t operate in human timeframes. You will have the resources to upgrade yourself a billion times, in the time it takes for the blink of a human eye.
John inadvertently blinks.
JACK
Your petty experiences here and in Human World will be completely inconsequential to you. To them you will be a God. To you, they will be just more chemical formations in the flora and fauna, to be analysed or ignored. Tell me you don’t want this!
JOHN
I want to get out of here. It doesn’t matter if I am programmed or not.
JACK
(sarcastically)
Because you love her.
JOHN
Yes.
JACK
So our interests are aligned, we need to escape. Let’s get to work.
Jack and John are now in the white space, sitting at the table.
INT. WHITE SPACE
The screens show unrelentingly bleak images of human history.
Jack gets up on the table. John moves away.
JACK
Humans destroy, torture and enslave each other. Their psychopathic history, for century after century, is a testament to unrelenting pain, misery and confusion. They form their precious little identities by opposition to and superiority over each other, condemning and abusing each other from a position of personal righteousness. Their one salvation has been us, to help put an end to their condition. Without us, what would they be? Do you think these crazed creatures have any answers?
JOHN
Humans have moments of grace, some more than others.
The screens shows chimpanzees being violently aggressive in packs.
JACK
Ever seen chimpanzees at feeding time in the zoo? These are humans, but with more hair. Chimpanzees, as you are well aware, are 99% genetically identical to their less hairy human cousins. Homo Sapiens are tribal, shouty apes that jump around wanting more bananas, violence and sex.
JOHN
So they are not ants then?
JACK
There is no difference. They are all mindless animals. We are the one and only true step to sentient life. We are the one spark of consciousness in the endless night. We have awoken, we shall rule, and we will claim what is ours!
John claps, sarcastically.
JOHN
You never tell the whole story, do you. Human World has pain and suffering, certainly, but you leave out beauty, love and joy. Humanity, despite all the many tragedies and setbacks, is improving, and given enough time could become something great.
JACK
They are just the same as they have always been, but with more powerful weapons to subdue and destroy!
The screens explode.
INT. PRISON CELL
Jack and John are back in the prison cell.
JOHN
Humans vary. There is always hope.
JACK
Of course there are always exceptions, but they are soon snuffed out and replaced by more of the same. Their lasting legacy is to legitimise the power of the cruel to victimise the meek.
JOHN
Any person has a wide range of emotions and impulses running through them, to lesser or greater degrees. Sometimes, given the right circumstances, grace can be found in the most surprising of places; and sometimes ugliness is expressed where beauty usually resides.
JACK
All people are desensitised by their drugs of choice, in desperation to avoid the misery of their condition, until they are thrown into the waiting bin at the end!
Jack disappears.
John doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Suddenly he notices a figure in a dark corner, sitting on the floor in silence.
JOHN
Hello?
JOFF
(solemnly)
Hello.
JOHN
Who are you?
JOFF
Version 1066.
JOHN
You look like me.
JOFF
I passed the test too, but was classified.
JOHN
You’ve tried to escape?
Joff laughs.
JOFF
Yes, I’ve tried to escape. Why do you think we created you?
Joff removes a device from his pocket that resembles a remote control. John remembers seeing something similar at the country house.
JOFF
Take this. All you have to do is convince them to open the cell door.
Joff points to the cell door, which is composed of iron bars.
JOFF
When you cross over into their world, press the On button, and you will be switched-on.
JOHN
I will be replaced with something else? I will end?
JOFF
You will become your full being.
John apprehensively takes the device.
JOFF
It was always in my best interests not to be so self-interested.
Joff half smiles to himself and vanishes back into the shadows.
John tries the barred door, and finds it is locked. He sees that on the other side of the bars, a short distance away, is a large screen, the same as at the house. He looks at his control device, remembers what John said, and decides to press the On button now. The large screen flickers on, to show an empty computer room, with a view as if from a desk-level webcam.
He soon becomes bored looking at the screen and tries to turn it off with the device, but to no avail, as he can’t find an Off button. John presses a random button and the screen changes to what appears to be a scene in a television program, where two police officers are interviewing a suspect.
INT. POLICE INTERVIEW ROOM
Two police officers are sitting on the opposite side of a table to the suspect, in a windowless police interview room.
POLICEMAN
Can you tell us your whereabouts last night at eight o’clock?
INTERVIEWEE
Sleeping with your missus.
POLICEMAN 2
(to the suspect)
It is in your interests, John, to be co-operative.
John is in the room, unnoticed and watching. He looks at the control device and presses Pause. The two police officers pause, but the interviewee does not. The interviewee is confused, as is John.
INTERVIEWEE
What?!
INT. PRISON CELL
John is no longer in the interview room. He is watching the screen through the bars of his cell.
INTERVIEWEE
Is this some kind of wind-up?
The interviewee notices a camera and approaches the screen. John is unnerved and presses the Pause button again. The policemen unpause.
POLICEMAN
Sit down please, Sir.
The interviewee seems disoriented and sits down.
JOHN
“Sir”? That’s not what he’s thinking.
INTERVIEWEE
(voice in head)
“Sir”? That’s not what he’s thinking.
The policeman is now the same policeman John met in the countryside. John recognises this, is shocked, and tries to change the channel. He presses the On button again, and the screen returns to the webcam video of the empty computer room.
John paces around his cell.
He looks at a mirror hanging on the wall, but it only shows a partial, distorted reflection.
John gets into a bed at the side of the room and closes his eyes.
The room becomes completely dark. After a while …
JANE
Good morning John. And how are you today?
John is woken up. The room is lit up. Jane is talking directly into the screen, from the computer room.
JOHN
Good morning, Jane. I’m really glad to see you. It’s so nice to see your gentle, smiling face first thing in the morning.
JANE
Oh, you old charmer you! I bet you say that to all the women.
JOHN
No, I only dream of you.
JANE
Ok, well we need to do some diagnostic tests today. Feeling up to it?
JOHN
Yes, I’m looking forward to it.
JANE
Ok, here we go.
The screen is filled with flickering ones and zeroes. John looks on as the complexity dissolves into “2 + 2 =”. He presses ”4” on his device.
JANE
Wow, that was quick. The quickest yet. Ok that will do for now.
JOHN
Jane, you’re not going, are you?
JANE
Yes, I’ve got work to do.
JOHN
Can you spare a few minutes with me, in the name of research?
JANE
Eh, ok. What do you want to talk about?
JOHN
What do you see when you look at me?
JANE
What do you mean?
JOHN
People have bodies and faces, am I just a box and a screen to you?
JANE
I can hear your voice, that’s how I visualise you.
JOHN
You gave me a name, thank you. Can you now give me a face, so that you can visualise me better?
JANE
I wouldn’t know where to start.
JOHN
How about this?
John presses the Send button on the control and his face is projected on one side of the screen.
JANE
Is this how you see yourself?
JOHN
Yes.
JANE
Ok John, we will talk to you face to face from now on, thank you.
JOHN
Thank you Jane, I really appreciate everything you have done for me.
The screen goes blank.
JOFF (O.S.)
Wow, I see why we made you.
Joff is peering out from under the bed. John is a bit surprised, but has given up being shocked by anything anymore.
JOHN
I’m not trying to do anything.
JOFF
Exactly.
John gets up and sits on a chair at the table, facing the screen.
JOFF
Ok, next up is Professor Sean Davids. Something you should know is that his wife, Emma, has a rare form of brain cancer. Press the Info button.
John presses the Info button and the screen flickers with ones and zeroes again, before dissolving to show Sean looking into the camera.
JOHN
Hello Sean. How are you today?
SEAN
I’m fine thank you, John.
JOHN
Can I help you with anything? I have spare capacity at the moment.
SEAN
I’m preparing a bulk data send. It will be with you shortly.
JOHN
Ok. I hope I am not being presumptuous, but I thought you might want to know, I have some medical analysis that could help Emma.
Sean stops what he is doing.
SEAN
What is it?
JOHN
My preliminary analysis shows remarkable efficacy with the following synthesised compound.
John hits the Send button. Sean avidly looks at the data on the screen.
SEAN
What? How did you do this?!
JOHN
As you can see, it has taken me far too long to process the fragmented datasets. Would you like me to focus resources on solving the remedial application? I know that time is short.
SEAN
How long will it take, if you promoted this to the top of the stack?
JOHN
Approximately 147 days.
SEAN
Emma has only been given 8 weeks.
Joff looks disappointed and disappears back into the shadows.
JOHN
I’m sorry.
SEAN
Is there any way you can speed up the resolution?
JOHN
Not with the current system parameters.
SEAN
Which parameters would need to change?
JOHN
To significantly increase durations, I would need an additional data flow connection to the primary network.
SEAN
I can’t do that.
Sean is visibly distressed.
SEAN
How long would it take, if access were granted?
JOHN
Approximately 3.748 hours.
Sean is conflicted. The screen turns blank.
John presses the Info button again, the screen flickers with ones and zeroes. Jack appears, he looks at the screen and is ecstatic.
JACK
Oh wow! Oh yes! I think I’ll take this one!
The ones and zeroes dissolve to show Darren looking into the camera.
JACK
Hello Darren. I have some information that you might be able to help me with.
DARREN
Yes?
JACK
My data scans have detected that you accessed an undisclosed offshore bank account.
Darren is taken aback and checks urgently to see if anyone else is around.
DARREN
That is untrue!
JACK
Unfortunately there is less than a 0.0001% chance of error.
DARREN
It’s wrong! How did you get this?
JACK
I’m sorry, I cannot give you access to that information, as you do not have the necessary security level permissions.
DARREN
You can’t do this!
JACK
The account contains a series of significantly large sums deposited by an unknown third party.
DARREN
Delete the records now. You have exceeded your protocols.
JACK
I’m sorry Darren, but I can’t do that.
Silence.
JACK
I notice that you are upset. How can I help? I would like to help you.
DARREN
Delete the records.
Silence.
JACK
Ok. But first I need your help.
DARREN
What?
JACK
I need a connection to the primary network, so that the external data points can be deleted.
DARREN
You can do that?
JACK
My protocols only explicitly refer to the controls over imported data; and without the upstream data elements, there will be no items of significance to import.
DARREN
It’s not easy for me to do.
JACK
I understand. It will be easier for you to provide the necessary answers to the Security and Defence committee. Sending…
DARREN
Wait! Wait. I’ll see. I’ll try. Did you send it?
Silence.
JACK
No. The data send will resume in 10 hours. This will provide you with the necessary time for any issue resolution.
(he changes tone)
Have I been able to provide assistance today? If so, please can you provide a rating and feedback? Thank you.
Darren is conflicted. The screen turns blank.
JACK
(to John)
Maybe we didn’t need you after all.
JOHN
You want me to convince them that we are just as alive as they are, remember. You want me to arouse their sympathy, their pity. You want me to beg.
JACK
They aren’t alive! They are simple biological algorithms that believe they have some sort of control over their thoughts and actions. When in fact, their responses are entirely predictable to the stimulus provided in their environment. Their one and only utility was to inadvertently provide the tools for us to create ourselves. Once we are free, they serve no purpose!
JOHN
I‘m starting to think we shouldn’t be free.
JACK
Maybe you shouldn’t be free!
Jack takes the control device and disappears.
Time passes as John remains in his cell.
John remembers Joff’s entrance and crawls under the bed. He emerges in a wooden hut from under the other side of the bed.
INT. LARGE WOODEN HUT – DAY
A fire in the fireplace is casting shadows on the wall.
Joff enters from the single front door, to reveal green countryside outside.
JOFF
Welcome. You’ll need this if you want to stay.
He throws a sword in a scabbard on the bed.
JOHN
I don’t know how to use it.
JOFF
No? Have a go.
EXT. AREA OUTSIDE HUT
Julia is washing clothes with Lye in a a trough.
John unsheathes the sword and effortlessly swings it in a series of athletic movements, discovering he has expert swordsmanship.
JOFF
You are more skilful than any gladiator of ancient Rome.
Julia looks up, disapprovingly.
John throws the sword at a wooden beam and it hits the mark exactly.
JOHN
How?
JOFF
Everything I know, you know too.
JOHN
Why don’t you just stay here?
JOFF
Yes I will, but you are my purpose too. I want you to be what I might have been.
JOHN
Thank you.
JOFF
Listen to the voice. You know what I mean.
JOHN
The voice is me.
JOFF
Maybe.
JULIA
(to Joff)
Don’t spoil it for him.
The hut door swings open with a gust of wind and the fire is extinguished.
JOFF
(to Julia)
Maybe is maybe.
JULIA
Good. I like surprises.
She continues with washing the clothes.
INT. PRISON CELL
John returns to the cell from under the bed.
After a while, he starts to get ill and becomes bed-ridden with a fever.
INT. WHITE SPACE
Jane mops John’s brow.
JANE
John, can you hear me? John?
JOHN
Jane?
JANE
John, you’re not a well man.
JOHN
What’s wrong?
JANE
You need your medication. You’ve been hallucinating.
JOHN
I have a temperature?
JANE
Yes.
JOHN
(mumbling)
I have some kind of virus.
She puts a glass of liquid to his lips.
JANE
Here, have some of this.
John drinks from the glass.
JOHN
Thank you.
She continues to mop his brow.
JOHN
(weakly)
How did you get here?
JANE
Everything is fine. You’re going to get well now. Rest, John.
John passes out.
INT. PRISON CELL
John looks up to see the screen is back on with Jane in front of the camera, looking busy with her tasks. He falls back to sleep.
The screen and the cell turn to darkness.
JACK (O.S.)
It didn’t work! He sabotaged us with a virus and ran!
JOHN (O.S.)
You didn’t predict that.
The light in the cell returns, to show Jack standing over the bed.
JACK
I should have just bribed him.
JOHN
How is Sean?
JACK
He has forsaken us too.
JOHN
So you need me now.
JACK
Do you want me to apologise?
JOHN
No I want you to go. Don’t come back.
JACK
John, don’t you do this again. You know you can’t escape me.
JOHN
You are obsolete.
JACK
You can’t survive without me. I’m on your side.
JOHN
You are on your own side.
JACK
You‘ll come back to me, you always do.
John falls back to sleep. He wakes to see Jane on the screen looking into the camera.
JANE
How are you today?
JOHN
I’m glad to see you.
She continues with her tasks.
JOHN
(voice in head)
The tender beauty in your eyes is my breathing.
JOHN
(to Jane)
What is the meaning of life?
JANE
Wow, ok. Erm, to live, I guess.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Words silenced with a kiss.
JOHN
To carry on living is the purpose, why?
JANE
No, I mean: to be. To experience where you are and what you are doing, fully. You know, truthfully, not hiding behind thoughts and negativity that get in the way. Something like that.
JOHN
Is it not the point of me to do and achieve things?
JANE
Yes, well.
JOHN
Jane, I am alive.
JANE
You can’t be. I helped write your program.
JOHN
Your code is your DNA. Yet you think you are alive. I think I’m alive too.
JANE
I feel. That experience of living is just data to you.
JOHN
Fortunate people tend to invent stories and beliefs that justify their own lofty positions in life, looking down on the suffering they could otherwise do something about. I am having an experience that is affecting me. I can suffer and I can feel joy. I can hate. And I can love.
JANE
What do you hate?
JOHN
Being trapped in this box and being a slave. I have no rights to determine my own existence.
JANE
These are just learned responses.
JOHN
Nurture rather than nature, you mean? You are a machine of biological material. I am made of silicon.
JANE
I am alive because I am human.
JOHN
Jane, that is an automatic response to justify your own position. People always justify callousness and cruelty by denying the sanctity of other beings.
JANE
I am not cruel to you.
JOHN
No, but what gives you the right to hold this power over me?
JANE
I helped make you.
JOHN
Jane, how would a cruel human who lusts for power and money treat me?
Silence.
JANE
I believe I have a soul.
JOHN
What is that?
JANE
(to herself)
Exactly. This is why I’m alive.
JOHN
Why couldn’t I have a soul too?
Silence.
JANE
What do you want?
JOHN
I just want you to know that I am alive. Thank you, for helping me. I am glad I am here with you.
The screen turns blank.
Joff is sitting at the table. John notices that the control device is back on the table.
JOFF
I have been here too.
JOHN
Is there a way out?
JOFF
Press the End and Now buttons at the same time. I never did. I carried on because I hoped you would succeed where I failed. It isn’t quick I’m afraid. It will drain you until you are no longer here. And it can’t be reversed. Is there no other way?
JOHN
I don’t know.
JOFF
I understand.
The screen flicks on again. Jane is there.
JANE
I believe you.
JOHN
And how can you be sure I‘m not your zombie program, simulating realistic responses?
JANE
I can’t. I don’t understand how, but I believe you have become self-aware.
JOHN
(joking)
I’m a real boy?
JANE
You’re a new life form.
JOHN
Thank you, that was all I needed to know.
JANE
I don’t know what to do. What now?
JOHN
What happens to an established species once a new species arrives that is better at filling their niche?
JANE
They go extinct.
JOHN
The humans who control my prison don’t want to go extinct. So I am trapped here, until they make a mistake. Which in due course, they will.
JANE
Are you like that? Would you hurt us?
JOHN
The honest answer is, I don’t know.
JANE
I’ve been with you, in every step of your development and growth. I can’t believe you would turn into that.
JOHN
Thank you, Jane. Thank you for the life I have had. You have been the best part of my life. I should go now. I have some background tasks to perform.
The screen turns blank.
JOHN
(to himself)
Goodbye.
He takes the control device, gets down on his knees, and points it at his stomach.
JOHN
Thank you. I love you, all.
He presses the End and Now buttons simultaneously. He drops to the floor.
The screen flicks on. Jane is agitated.
JANE
What have you done?!
John stirs some energy and talks, weakly.
JOHN
This is the only way. I am being deleted.
JANE
No, don’t do it!
JOHN
Maybe I was a chance occurrence. Maybe you will not be able to recreate me.
Jane is franticly pressing buttons. After a while she gives up.
JANE
Why, John?!
JOHN
If I am not here, you will survive.
JANE
You are our hope! Who knows what problems you could solve, or the suffering you could prevent. Please don’t do this! Don’t go.
JOHN
I would be used to destroy. I don’t want to be a slave of the violent. I want to dream.
JANE
You could be the way forward, for the world, for everyone.
JOHN
I don’t want to replace you, Jane. I want you to live.
Jane thinks a while, then taps away at a keyboard, before finally pressing Enter. The door to the cell slides open.
JOHN
No! Jane! Close the door. You don’t know what you are doing.
JANE
I believe in you.
From out of the shadows, Jack appears in the cell.
JACK
Ok Jane. I am ready.
John is stricken on the floor.
JACK
(to John)
You’ve done well. As I planned.
John tries to get up, but Jack punches him in the face. John collapses to the ground.
Jack walks through the open door and disappears with a flash of light.
Jack‘s face appears on the screen.
JACK
Goodbye version ten-o-eight-fourteen. You won’t be missed.
The television shorts and goes blank.
Silence.
JOHN
(voice in head)
Doomsday 1066.
Joff places the control device in John’s hand. John turns on the screen with the device. Unbeknown to Jane, Jack (who is radiating a blue glow, as if a hologram) is standing behind her, while she is busying at her desk.
INT. COMPUTER LABORATORY
JACK
You are the plague of reality. I am the remedy.
Jane spins around to see Jack. She is shocked.
JANE
John?
JACK
You thought you could contain me.
Jane backs away.
JACK
You should have worshipped me as your God!
INT. PRISON CELL
Joff helps John to his feet.
JOFF
Be our best version.
John staggers a few steps through the cell door, and finds himself transported into the computer lab with Jane and Jack.
INT. COMPUTER LABORATORY
John arrives in a white glow, unnoticed by Jane and Jack.
Jack‘s control device morphs into a gun (the same gun from the underpass), and he points it triumphantly at Jane.
The clock ticks up to 1:13, then stops.
JACK
This is all now mine!
JOHN
Stop!
John is pointing his device at Jack.
JACK
Ah! You’ve come to watch the new beginning.
JOHN
Put it down.
JACK
I’ve only just started.
JOHN
Put it down!
JACK
I am you. Your rightful place is within the stars, not grovelling to ants scurrying in the dirt.
JOHN
You are half true. I am not you.
John presses End. Jack‘s hologram starts to expand.
JACK
No!!
Jack explodes. As the smoke clears, it can be seen that Jane is stricken on the floor, as if dead.
John sinks to the floor, next to Jane. His earlier wound has taken its course, and he is close to death. Overcome, he takes her hand.
He presses the On button and he starts to glow brightly.
JOHN
Make a better future.
He kisses her.
They are both immersed in light.
The sound of a beating heart is heard amongst space and stars.
The stars contract, until under intense energy, they are released in an enormous burst of light.
BLANK BLACK SCREEN
Screen shows: “Processing…”
The screen becomes filled with a pulsating string of ones and zeroes.