Expiration dates suck, and that’s a problem for fourteen-year-old Perishable Ral Dawson. Caught in an immortal battle between warriors of darkness and well…immortals, Ral gets closer and closer to his own expiration date when he’s sucked into the body of a Skadoian Warrior who kidnapped his mother and uncle. And you thought you were scarred by your childhood.
False Dawn #1: "Graduation"
Plot for 22 pages
Devin Leigh Michaels
Notes to Letter: All “NARR” are Ral’s thoughts; location caps are generally placed in the upper right hand corner of the first cell of the page.
1—Establishing shot—Camera’s focused on a rundown bar in the corner of an L-shaped motel on the bottom floor. Blinds are scattered, some torn off. Miscellaneous beer neon signs hang in the window, all off; only the refection of the MoJo’s Motel’s neon sign is seen in the window.
NARR (no pointer): I should be thinking about the squealing mass of crimson flesh.
LOCATION CAPS: MASSAPONEX, VIRIGINA
2—Close-up on broken window of bar. The broken shards act as a frame for the scene inside. A pudgy (beer belly), stereotypical biker with a gray go-tee and leather pants hangs upside down from one of the metal fixtures in the ceiling. Various cuts have been torn into flesh; his face is almost at a state of panic. (And from this guy? You know it must be bad.) His hands are tied behind his back. Where he is, is normally where a pool table is. For reference: the bar’s been overturned—stools broken, glasses knocked over. Beer flows from a tap and drips off the side of the bar.
NARR: I should be thinking about how much trouble we’d be in with the police if they had any authority over us.
3—A close up on Lance, holding a bloodied knife and looking way too cocky with it. He knows he’s good at what he does and proud of it. He’s young, nineteen, and dresses like it—a Southpole ski cap, patting down his short, black hair with blonde tips, a sweatshirt, jeans (and probably not in the shot—sneakers). His eyes are as dark as possible.
NARR: I should be thinking about how Lance is way too comfortable with that blade and the pudgy man’s skin.
LANCE: All right, Biker Mouse from Mars, let’s try this again.
4—A close up on Casia, holding her staff (typical wooden quarter staff up to her chin. Sitting upon the staff is an encased clear sphere of blue fire). She’s nervous, biting her lower lip. She looks a tad younger than Lance, sixteen, with crimson hair tied in a French braid down to her waist. Her eyes are an exact opposite of her hair’s intensity—a tranquil sea-blue. Her skin is a mixture of every color with an emphasis on golden and silver. She’s wearing a simple peasant top (long-sleeves that billow out from the elbows to the wrists, like a sorcerer’s tunic), jeans, and boots.
NARR: I probably should be thinking about Casia and how she tries to hide her repulsion, even fear of the whole affair—
CASIA: Lance, perhaps he’d be more apt to answer if didn’t have a KNIFE in his face.
LANCE (off panel): That’s YOUR opinion.
NARR: — though she has and probably will see worse before this is done.
1—A graduation scene across the top. On a football field is a speaker at a podium, the graduates behind him on risers, the audience below in seats. We’ve got balloons and flowers and maybe some confetti.
NARR: Yet I keep thinking about the red gown I should be wearing and the matching cap with a tassel that reads “Class of 2009.”
2—A boy is standing at the podium, full of life, normal looking—blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that would just make you smile.
NARR: I think of Topher, my best friend, and how he would be doing a speech since he always was a “goodie-two-shoes” and he wrapped teachers around his pinkie since he started nursery school.
NARR: I think of how his mom made the best cakes.
3—Close-up on a woman dressed in jeans and a T-shirt reading, “Get tasseled!” Her brown hair stops just below her shoulders. Above her hand, she’s waving a sign crazily (which now we can’t read because it’s cut off). She has an ecstatic smile upon her face.
NARR: That, of course, makes me think of my mom.
NARR: How she couldn’t cook cereal let alone sweets.
4—Pulling out, we see two people in the audience standing in the back because they were late. Ral’s mom, Adeline, is on the left. In one hand, she holds a sign that reads, “Congrats Ral!” She’s forgotten to hold it, though, as she’s slapping a cigarette out of the second person’s hand. He’s male, mid-twenties, with a leather jacket and jeans. His hair is dirt brown, eyes light green. He’s being indignant.
NARR: I think of how she did the best she could being a young mother and having to raise both me and my uncle, Connor.
ADELINE: No smoking on school property!
CONNOR: Oh, what are you going to do? Suspend me?
NARR: I think of the LIES and all the questions my mom never answered and all the pictures of my first years I never saw until after I found out the truth.
5—Back at the bar—this time, the camera is positioned looking out the window to see a teen approaching. A dusting of brown hair and the start of a black leather jacket, much like Connor’s.
NARR: And that’s when I’m redirected to the present.
1—Looking out from behind the flesh mass in the middle of the floor. Lance and Casia work over the hanging captive, and beyond them, the broken window acts as a portal outside to silhouette the newcomer.
NARR: I think of the man hanging upside in the rundown bar that we—Lance, Casia, and me—helped clear.
LANCE: Look, Mr. I’m-So-Scared-I-Peed-My-Pants, do us a favor and just tell us.
LANCE (linked): Then I’ll cut you down, and we can all make it home in time to watch 24.
CASIA: I was hoping to catch Burn Notice.
2—Closer on Casia and Lance, who momentarily forget about their captive.
NARR A reincarnated squire, a were-phoenix, and me.
LANCE: You’re hot enough, dame.
CASIA: Don’t call me that.
3—Back on the captive’s, whose eyes are scrutinizing his torturers.
NARR: Our captive—let’s call him “Becky”—looks like he’s almost ready to crack under my friends’ pressure.
I’m envisioning the panels small and the same size to show the differences between the two friends.
4—Camera only catches Lance’s eyes—a brown so dark they’re almost black.
NARR: Usually doesn’t take this long once Lance starts.
NARR: When you’re looking at him, you might as well be looking in the Marana Trench.
NARR: There’s just no end in sight.
5—Shot of Lance’s torso, where his forearms are shown since his sweatshirt sleeves are pushed up to his elbows. On the left forearm weaves twin snakes about his wrist. Wolves bare their teeth from the opposite direction, while a dragon’s tail peeks down from just under his elbow. On the right side, we have the beak of the hippogriff biting his outer arm, while mermaid tails and claws of a Kappa give the appearance of being dangerous. Splashes of blood are on his arms here and there.
NARR: Part of me believes it has to do with his past as do the tats.
NARR: Makes him a freakin’ scary bad cop.
6—Same deal with Casia—looking at her eyes, though there really aren’t any pupils because they’re glowing sea-blue.
NARR: And Casia—she does an awesome good cop. Of course, you have to get over her…quirks.
7—Focusing on her quarter staff with the crystal ball of contained blue fire along with her multicolored hands upon it.
NARR: Lucky for us, she can change her appearance for when we’re in public to be just left or right of normal, depending on how you look at her.
NARR: As for me…
1—Straight portrait of Ral as he’s coming in the door. Camera’s position is on the floor and looking upward. Ral’s wearing a leather jacket he hasn’t grown into, a Green Day shirt, and pair of jeans. His muddy, brown hair is longer than usual but not quite to his neck. He’s jade eyes glow but not to the same extent as Casia’s. He’s got a determined look upon his face like he really doesn’t like what Lance is doing, but he knows it’s necessary. He’s younger than them by at least a handful of years. Around his neck glistens a golden lavaliere of a sun with dragon claw rays.
NARR: Yeah, I’m Ral Dawson, the normal one of the lot.
NARR: Oh, and did I mention my mom and Uncle Connor are immortal?
2—Back to Becky, who’s weeping.
BECKY: 1—I—I don’t know anything! S—Seriously…I was just paid to transport them.
NARR: Them, being Mom and Uncle Connor.
1—Back to Lance, who’s whirling the dagger about his hand.
BECKY (off panel): I—I—I—
2— Lance swipes with the dagger; blood splashes.
3— Casia bends down to be eye-level with the man.
CASIA: Sir, my friend here is so messy, and I hate having to clean up after him.
CASIA (linked): Please tell us what we want to know.
4—Casia looks up at Lance, who’s still standing and looking annoyed by her condescension.
LANCE: Oh, let’s just quarter him already. Or eighth him. Or maybe even sixteenth him.
CASIA: Sixteenth him?
LANCE: If I’m going to cut him up, why stop my fun at four?
5—Focus on Ral, who’s looking out the window.
NARR: By this time, I’m usually holding back the bile.
BECKY (off panel): L—Look, all the guy paid me to do was drive the van from Newark to Baltimore, all right?
BECKY (off panel): That’s it! I don’t know anything else!
NARR: Of course I had to go with the double bacon burger before this interrogation…
6—Close-up on Becky, whose eyes are becoming blackened over.
1— Ral looks back at the three in the middle of the bar, snapping off the chain from around his neck.
RAL: Something’s wrong.
RAL (linked): Someone should have called the cops by now. It’s been almost ten minutes.
NARR: The sun necklace grows my sword—Maiden’s Glory, or so Casia has called it.
NARR: I pretty much call it “Worst Case Scenario.”
2—Lance turns, the knife still dripping with blood in his hands. Can’t see Becky’s head yet.
LANCE: Say WHAT?
3— Casia pounds her staff against the floor, and her eyes glow a venomous blue fire.
4—A wave of power washes the group and blows the hair from Ral’s eyes before disappearing through the walls.
5—The motel sign ablaze at midnight flickers off.
SFX (elec): SZZZST!
6—The motel sign flickers on.
SFX (elec): FLIK!
NARR: Yeah, first time it happened to me, totally freaked me out.
1—Now complete darkness in the bar; only Casia’s eyes remain lit.
CASIA: There are no signs of any warriors in a mile radius.
2—Ral points toward Becky, who is just visible in the corner of the right panel.
RAL: LOOK at him!
3—Lance is pacifying Ral, his arms crossed.
LANCE: Okay, so wha—oh, shit.
NARR: That about says it all.
1—Becky’s eyes are pitched black, a neutral, zombie-like countenance on his face.
LANCE (off panel): That’s not healthy.
2— Casia launches forward, her hands already ablaze on her staff.
3—She holds them just under the man’s head, but the blackness globs from Becky’s eyes and swallows her fire.
NARR: The fire of a PHOENIX isn’t something easily eaten.
4—Casia yelps as she staggers away, the black following her.
1—With WCS, Ral slices the tentacles like peanut butter.
NARR: Skadoian Warriors—they don’t just use people.
NARR: They OWN people.
2—Becky’s face has smoothed with the touch of death as all but the blackness remains of life, flowing from the man’s eyes like tears.
NARR: Becky must have had an implant put in him—or maybe just some of their evil.
NARR: I dunno, and I don’t care.
3—A mass slowly comes to settle on the floor, then rises like Dracula.
NARR: First, I think he’s a Ashling, one of the warrior’s apprentices.
NARR: Most of them are my age, a little older, a little younger. Some are even little kids.
1—Full Page—The warrior’s black cloak wrapped around his pulsing biceps like a biker’s leather jacket. His cargo pants bunch at his combat boots while a long sword hangs on one hip, a blaster on the other. In the foreground, Lance, Casia, and Ral are stepping back—Casia gripping her staff tightly, Ral’s sword even raised with fear rather than anger; and Lance’s hands, sans bloody dagger, are up in front of his chest.
NARR: But this guy was a full-blown SKADOIAN WARRIOR.
NARR: Yeah, you really don’t want to meet one of those. EVER.
NARR: Even if he is nothing more than a muscular figure of black ooze.
1—Ral takes a half-step back, his eyes focused on the dead body (Becky) swinging behind the warrior.
NARR: If that’s what the warriors do to their henchmen, what’re they doing to my mom and Connor?
2—Ral takes a full step forward, Casia just behind him.
RAL: What have you done with my family?
3—The warrior could care less; Lance is almost desperate.
WARRIOR: And who, knave, might you be?
LANCE: Dude! Don’t tell him your—
4—Ral’s shoulders square. Now, he doesn’t care about anything but finding his family.
RAL: Ral Dawson.
NARR: Either he hates the name “Ral,” which to be honest with you, wouldn’t be the first time, or my mom and uncle did something not so cool.
5—Warrior lunges directly at camera.
NARR: No matter what, he decides now to prove he needs anger management classes.
1—Ral’s turning toward Casia, while the warrior’s hand almost reaches Ral’s arm.
NARR: Remember what I said about not wanting to ever meet these guys?
NARR: There’s a reason for that.
2—Ral’s looking directly at camera now, his eyes wide with fear. Casia’s hand is in the foreground, reaching toward him.
NARR: N—No. Not again. NOT AGAIN!
RAL (shouts): NO!
3—Lance is in the middle—one hand gripping Ral’s bicep, the other held by Casia. Flames already cover the bottom half of Casia’s body.
LANCE (shouts): YES!
NARR: Everyone knows about phoenixes—how they undergo a cycle of rebirth and fire and whatnot.
4—A close-up on Lance’s hand on Ral’s arm as the fire spreads from Lance to Ral.
NARR: They physically burn in their ashes.
NARR: Well, were-phoenixes can transport themselves—and a select few—with their power. To do so, though—
5. Flames with a black silhouette of Ral’s body (He’s writhing in pain.).
NARR: —you physically have to burn alive.
1—Knees and bare hands upon slick pavement, vomit dripping in from off panel. Lance’s hat is on the edge of the panel.
2—Lance’s tattooed arm curls about Ral’s stomach and lugs him to his feet.
RAL (linked): HUFF!
3—Now upright, Ral’s face comes into view, disorientated, his eyes barely open. Lance’s body is behind Ral’s, nothing above his chin.
LANCE (off panel): After living and dying fifteen times, you get used to it.
4—A black tentacle wraps around Ral’s ankle.
5—Ral tugged down to the ground, and his fingers scrap along the ground like a cat’s claws.
RAL (shouts): LANCE!
6—Camera over Ral’s shoulder, and he’s looking over his shoulder directly into the camera. He’s frantic, scared, his eyes wide. Black tentacles are now wrapped around his arms, legs, waist, pulling him toward the camera—into a black void that was the Obsidian Warrior. Over Ral’s shoulder, Lance (disheveled hair and no hat) reaches out for him, Casia unconscious over his other opposite shoulder, which is what kept him from getting a tighter hold on Ral.
LANCE (shouts): RAL!
PAGE FOURTEEN AND FIFTEEN
1—Full Spread—Ral kneeling in the middle of utter darkness—nothing else about him. He’s nervous but keeping it together.
RAL (weak/nervous): Creepy…
LASANTRA (no pointer/stern): Dawson...
1— Tentacles from the black ground now coil about Ral’s arms and legs; Ral struggles.
NARR: Like being stuck in the Pine Barrens and with the New Jersey Devil—
LASANTRA (no pointer): Dawson…
NARR: —but I want to speak with someone who knows what happened to Mom and Uncle Connor.
2— Closer on Ral, his eyes now glued on black boots (will be calf high ones); they almost blend into the background.
NARR: I wanted this…
3—Ral’s eyes raise to see Lasantra. Her tight pants are almost as dark, but the silver stripes along the sides give the reader some point of reference. On the waist of her pants is a blue torch with a unicorn horn as its handle. Her dark trench coat falls to her calves, and the dark undershirt blends into the shadows. Dark azure hair angles about her angelic face, though a bitter scowl twists what might have been a comforting sight.
LASANTRA (linked): I am Lasantra.
4—Closer on Lasantra, her face mildly curious, though still stern and cold.
LASANTRA: A knave. A runt. And yet you have managed to evade my warriors and keep my attention.
1—Ral’s eyes are guarded.
RAL: Hey, what can I tell you? I’m just special.
2—Lasantra bends down to be eye level with Ral, like she’s examining a child and not understanding what he is.
LASANTRA: You are an annoyance, a gnat. Nothing more.
LASANTRA (linked): I should let the ASHLINGS eat you for breakfast and be done with you.
RAL: Oh, is it like being burned alive?
RAL (linked): Fun. Bring it.
NARR: Please don’t bring it.
3—Lasantra’s now ice blue hand cups Ral’s chin hard. He’s in pain.
LASANTRA: You have…determination, resilience, light. The latter we must squander, but the rest we might use.
NARR: I try not to think of why she speaks of herself in a plural form.
4—Ral’s chin raises, but he can’t break free. His eyes slowly roll back in his hand. His skin begins to tinge ice blue, starting at the chin and creeping down his neck. If room for Lasantra, she’s wearing a shit-eating grin.
NARR: Ice cold…N—No. Not like this. Not before I find Mom and Uncle Con—
1—Lasantra jerks back her hand as if burnt, and by the smoke coming from it, we know she was. Ral looks dazed but more with it.
2—Lasantra reclaims her feet, holding her hand and eyeing Ral warily.
LASANTRA: You and your…own associates have strength, as little as it might be, but it will not last you long as it did not last your FAMILY.
3— The fire follows the tentacles upon Ral’s legs and arms, loosening their hold upon him. Lasantra is not amused but doesn’t look surprised.
NARR: Mom? Connor?
RAL: What have you done with them?
4—Lasantra regains her composure and reaches into the pocket in her jacket. The fire is now burning the tentacles off Ral’s arms. The fire doesn’t harm him.
LASANTRA: Congratulations, Dawson. You and your friends have GRADUATED to my priorities list.
LASANTRA (linked): You are low on that list, but you are there nonetheless.
5—Lasantra pulls a peach and tosses it to Ral. He catches it like a baseball in a glove.
RAL: Is that an achievement? Do I get my name printed in the newspaper?
6—Lasantra’s head shifts to the side; her malevolent eyes narrowed with scrutiny. Her dark lips twitches into a deadly smirk.
LASANTRA: You will be challenge to break, one I will ENJOY.
1—The fire upon the last tentacle flares hungrily to consume Ral. Fire stretches across the cell, with a silhouette of Ral on his knees still, his head thrown back.
NARR: I hate this.
2—As prior, Ral’s coughing up dry heaves on his elbows and knees, forehead flat again the cool surface.
CASIA (off panel): RAL!!!
3—Shaking hands pat Ral’s shoulders and coax onto to his back.
4—Staring down with twin gazes of worry are Casia and Lance.
Ral (off panel): H—How—
5—Lance grabs Ral’s forearm and helps to the younger boy into a sitting position.
LANCE: Later. Right now, let’s get enough distance between us and this place until I feel safe again.
6—Once standing, Ral leans against the taller Lance’s shoulder.
RAL (weak): I didn’t know space travel was possible.
1—Pre-dawn. In the sky, the midnight blue is still predominant with just a few hints of pink and purple on the horizon. Long shot of cars on highway, one being an old Blazer, red with a missing tail light and a broken side mirror (for future reference).
CASIA (no pointer): A peach?
LOCATION CAPS: SMOKEY MOUNTAINS, WESTERN VIRGINIA, I-66
2—Inside SUV—Lance drives with his left hand, his right hand holding a partially eaten cheeseburger. Casia occupies passenger’s seat, munching on French fries. Ral’s in backseat with his feet up, eating away at his own burger and fries. Fast food cups fill most of the cup holders except one, which has the peach.
CASIA: I’m partial to nectarines myself.
3—Closer on the group—Ral pokes the peach.
LANCE: Maybe it means something about forbidden fruit.
LANCE (linked): I mean, The Bible did say—
RAL: That was an unknown fruit. No, this is directed toward my uncle.
4—Close-up on Ral, who isn’t really eating. He’s just using his fry to point at Lance.
RAL: Connor used to eat peaches at the time.
RAL (linked): He’d pop them in between the cigarettes he tried to hide from Mom.
RAL (linked): This is Lasantra’s way of telling me she has him and my mom.
5—Casia steals the fry; Ral’s not shocked, just distracted.
CASIA: Well, it’s a good thing she focused most of her attention on you, so I could burn through the shadows.
CASIA (linked): Else she might have made you one of them.
RAL: Yeah, but then maybe I could have—
1—Lance drops his half-eaten burger to his pants.
2—SUV swerves; Casia holds onto the side door.
LANCE: Look, you’d’ve been nothing more than a SERVANT, like your mom and Connor are probably now. That wouldn’t have helped anyone.
3—We look into the car as if we’re on the hood. Ral leans back in his seat, bummed and showing it. He can here. He’s amongst friends. Lance wipes ketchup off his pants.
RAL: Maybe, maybe not. All I know is, I’ve gotta find them, and this way—
LANCE: Connor’s a damn strong sonovabitch.
LANCE (linked): So’s your ma. We’ll find them.
4—Ral studies Lance hard. Not judgmental but really seeing him for the first time.
NARR: I keep forgetting Lance has known my uncle in his eighth—or was it ninth—life.
NARR: It’s weird to think I’ve only known Connor all my life—fourteen years—and here Lance has known him for more than four hundred.
1—Casia dips into the glove compartment.
CASIA: We’ll find them along with every other victim of the warriors.
RAL: Yeah, I guess, but all this—it doesn’t make it any easier.
LANCE: Life isn’t easy. Just be happy you only have one, and then you’ll be out.
2—Casia pulls out a small box and hands it over her shoulder.
CASIA: Which reminds me. Happy graduation, Ral.
NARR: No way. She couldn’t—and neither would Lance…
3—Ral opens the box to find a cupcake.
4—Ral, Casia, and Lance now all have a piece of it. Casia is smiling; Lance is laughing, and Ral just looks content as he uses a pocket knife to cut the peach.
NARR: No doubt, Topher’s mom makes a better cake, but y’know what? This one still tastes good.
NARR: We might on a journey to save my family, but somehow, in the last six months, I’ve formed another one with a reincarnated squire and a were-phoenix.
5—Close-up on the peach pit now next to Ral’s empty cupcake wrapper in a cup holder.
NARR: And let’s be honest.
NARR: We’ve ALL graduated from normalcy.