Log Line: A guardian spirit is charged with witnessing the deaths of several famous persons throughout several decades.
INT: BEDROOM-NIGHT-LOW LIGHTING
LOS ANGELES, CA
I am a witness. It is my charge, and my curse. I’ve been in this position for far longer than even I can recall, and never once have I not had a new soul to move onto once the current charge has expired.
A young woman in her thirties is lounging on a plush bed, seeming not to notice that the WITNESS is standing near. Atop her dresser and vanity are a dozen or more pill bottles, some empty, some still full.
My burden is to know the truth behind the passing of each and every individual that I’m assigned to watch, but say nothing about it. If those who wonder at the facts of such deaths as I am to bear witness were to understand the truth behind the fiction it would change nothing. There are reasons for concealing the deaths of those I’ve witnessed, and more often than not they are petty and quite ridiculous.
Take the young woman I’m watching now. She has no idea I’m here, otherwise she might have already called the cops. It’s a marvel she’s still just lying here considering the number of people she’s angered, but then fate works in ways that I don’t fully understand. It’s not many individuals that can threaten the brother of a president and get away with it. Soon enough she’ll probably join the long line of people that dared to threaten those closest to the throne. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
The WITNESS’S attention is divided as he notices the sound of
the front door being opened, and the sounds of footsteps coming
closer to the bedroom as the woman finally sits up, having heard
the sounds. As she tenses three men enter the room, two the
woman obviously doesn’t know and a third she does. The
recognition comes too late as the first two grab and hold her
while the third picks through the pill bottles, finally selecting one. One of the two men holding the woman tries to force her mouth open, and she tries to bite him. He almost slaps her but is warned away by the third man. The woman looks up at the third man as he approaches.
This is when I truly hate my job. As she looks up she sees me finally, and her eyes go wide as she realizes that I am indeed here.
An individual will only see me when their death is near, in that dawning moment when they realize that the next breath will be their last. Some try to fight, but it’s always the same result. This young woman is no different as she’s force-fed her own pills a handful at a time. The men keep her down as she’s forced to swallow. It only takes a short while, and then she’s gone.
The men roll the woman over, positioning her body to make it look as though she fell upon the bed after an overdose.
It’s a piss poor attempt at staging, but that’s not my concern. She’s dead though, and my job is over. I’ve witnessed the death of MARYLIN MONROE, and now it’s time to move on.
END ACT I
EXT: DEALEY PLAZA-DAY-WELL LIT
Did I happen to mention that I hate my job? Throngs of people have been awaiting the individual that is to be next on my list of influential persons, and I already have a sinking feeling that this one act, whatever form it might take, will be remembered throughout history. If you’ve ever stopped and wondered why the cosmic design seems to include so much tragedy then you likely don’t think much of karma. In order to have both negative and positive forces in the universe there must be a balance that is maintained or at least strived for. Otherwise the system would not exist.
The crowds are stirring in the anticipation of the president appearing with the first lady. The WITNESS is not having a good day, as can be evidenced by the look on his face. He does not want to be here, but the look on his face states that he has to be.
The man I’m here to witness isn’t a saint by any means, but he’s also not the devil. What he’s done, or what’s been done in his name, or whatever it might be, to cause this sudden shift in fortune is beyond my ken, but it must have been something uniquely horrible to need this type of balance.
The WITNESS goes unseen by the crowd as he moves to gain a better vantage point of the motorcade when it comes by. He is in position, but he feels the need to move about, if only to alleviate the boredom.
I can see the motorcade coming now. The cars’ tops are down so
that everyone can see those within. Their waves, their smiling
faces, and their fearless manner make something in me seem to grow in a way I’ve not experienced in too long. It’s a shame that it will soon be gone, along with this man that seems far too important to take in such a cowardly fashion.
It doesn’t take much effort for me to find the lone sniper awaiting his shot in the book suppository, well within range of the motorcade. I would so very much like to say something, anything, but I know that it is not my place. Plus, what do you think would happen to someone telling of a plot to kill the president? I’d either be locked up as a conspirator or as a nutcase. Neither sounds appealing to me. In any case, the moment is just about here.
A gunshot rings out, followed by another. The motorcade keeps rolling as the president’s head is rocked back enough that his gaze falls upon the WITNESS.
I am not entirely ready for the moment his head caves in from the force of the shot. I’m definitely not ready for the chaos that erupts as a result, though I should have been. As his head rocks back however, the man sees me. This young president with all his dreams and hopes for the future, with all his grandiose plans and talk of what is to come, is now lying in the back seat of his car with a good portion of his brains resting in his wife’s shaking, blood-spattered hands. At that moment I am beside the car, moving as it moves, no matter the fact that it speeds up. He sees me, and he knows it’s over.
INT: KITCHEN AREA-DAY-WELL LIT
LOS ANGELES, CA
Losing a brother must be tough. I’m not allowed to remember my life before now, so I wouldn’t know. The only thing I do remember is that I was an only child. Maybe that was better.
I think I’ve shown up a bit early this time. Pity I can’t do anything about it.
The WITNESS is standing in a busy kitchen, unnoticed by everyone. He can hear applause some ways off, and knows that time is drawing short. He hears a distinctive noise that has no place in a kitchen, the ratcheting sound of a gun being chambered.
I’ve seen the man that will do this, I’ve seen his weapon, and I already know the spot where it will happen. I can even hear the procession that will be arriving soon as they begin to descend from the dais where the man of the hour was delivering yet another impassioned speech.
As the procession moves forward, a shot goes off, and ROBERT KENNEDY falls, mortally wounded. SIRHAN SIRHAN, the shooter, is being quickly detained. ROBERT KENNEDY lies upon the floor, where the WITNESS now stands. He sees the WITNESS, and he knows his time has come.
Is everyone else alright?
I actually thought about not answering at all, but I figured that to do so would be unbearably cruel. Others might have thought he was speaking to them, but from the direction of his gaze he was speaking to me. I decided to give him this one small measure of peace. Soon enough I left that place, and not long after, so did he.
INT: BACK SEAT OF CAR-DAY-WELL LIT
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI
This is one assignment I am actually looking forward to being done with. The individual I’m sitting with at the moment is quite simply one of the worst individuals I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting.
Let’s just say it as it is and save time: James Hoffa is not among my favorite people. I actually went against orders and requested more information than usual on this guy just to see if there were any redeemable qualities he might possess. I didn’t find much.
In all the assignments I’ve ever worked this is the one among many that I can’t wait to be done with. I still don’t like my job, but seeing someone like Hoffa get smacked by a healthy dose of karma would be highly satisfying.
What’s worse is that I don’t get to watch from a healthy distance again. I’m in the same car as Hoffa and let me tell you, the guy reeks. I don’t know if it’s the crap he puts in his hair or something else, but it’s absolutely nauseating.
The WITNESS and JIMMY HOFFA are seated in the backseat of a luxury car. JIMMY HOFFA is reading a newspaper, presumably waiting for someone. He doesn’t seem too concerned.
So my end is coming soon, huh?
He knows I’m here. He can see me already, and he know he can’t get me to leave. He’s tried that by clubbing me in the head with the pistol he carries. All that happened as that he put the pistol back down without knowing what happened or why.
It’s why I’m here.
So you say. So you said.
JIMMY HOFFA looks as though he is about to talk again when both he and the WITNESS hear the crunch of gravel underfoot. In the next second a silencer-equipped pistol is hovering near JIMMY HOFFA’S body. He is hit in the chest twice, and then the gunman puts a round between his eyes.
Am I sad this is over? Nope. The gunman looks at me for a moment, though, right at me. I can only surmise that this has something to do with the nature of death and how it’s shared for that split moment between the killer and the victim. That moment is fleeting though as the gunman looks away, no doubt convinced that he’s seeing things.
It doesn’t matter really, because as another person slips in behind the wheel of the car I’m already out, standing behind it as the new driver steers the car towards the open back end of a Mac truck that sits nearby. Within only a minute or two the car is loaded and the truck trundles off down the road. I could probably find out where they’re going, but in this case I really don’t care.
INT: BATHROOM-NIGHT-MODERATE LIGHTING
A heavyset man sits on the toilet, he is sweating profusely and breathing heavily. The WITNESS stands opposite him, watching the man as he speaks. The man is ELVIS PRESLEY, and his time is near.
(looks panicked, sweating)
Ah don’t know man. I, I feel like ah got so much to do still.
I am growing so tired of this job. There’s no growth in this job, no offer of seniority so that I can pick my tasks, and no assurance that I’ll be given someone that welcomes death. Truthfully, I would be glad of that. At least the transition would be easier, and I wouldn’t have to feel like an asshole for telling someone that their number is up.
ELVIS PRESLEY looks to be on the verge of tears, but the WITNESS stands impassive.
If you’ve seen me then the record’s already written. You can’t bargain for more playing time.
Okay, even I know that was a cheap shot, but it fits and I used it, so sue me. He’s scared, I can see that, but he had to know this was coming eventually. The reek coming off of his body is horrendous, but a lot of it has to do with fear, not like my last job, which was mostly some type of hair treatment I don’t care to remember.
There ain’t nothin’ I can do?
(shakes his head)
Everything that’s been done is already past. You’ve gone way past the point of no return. No one that sees me gets to stay for long.
I’ll do anything man, anything! Just don’t let it end like this!
Something about that southern twang in his voice just makes him seem a little more pathetic. At this point he doesn’t have a lot of time left, and by the way he’s pleading he can probably guess as much. All I can do is shake my head in response to his pleas. I can’t help him anymore than the next person. I know where he’s headed, and I know it’s not horrible, but I can’t tell him that. He’s off to a new term of service that he can’t even understand yet, but he will soon enough.
(saddened, shaking, runs one hand through his hair)
ELVIS suddenly sits up straight, grasping his chest with one hand as he looks towards the WITNESS. The WITNESS doesn’t move, but instead just watches as ELVIS collapses.
People fall all the time. Paupers and kings alike, celebrities and nobodies. They all fall eventually, which means they’ll all see someone like me right before the final note of their life is played out. This is no kind of job to aspire to, and if I hadn’t mentioned it before, I’m getting awfully tired of it.
INT: LOFT-NIGHT-LOW LIGHTING
It’s been almost three decades since my last high-profile case.
I almost wonder if the powers that be have heard my reservations
over the years and have decided to take it easy on me for a
while. Of course given where I’m at right now it’s easy to
believe that they were just gearing up for something really puzzling. If so then they picked the right candidate for this assignment. The man I’m here to witness now is a quandary to me, that’s for certain. I guess twenty-seven years in between cases like this however, I might have fallen out of touch with the habits of the famous.
The man I’m here to watch hasn’t seen me yet. He’s a rock star, a legend in his own time I’ve heard, but I won’t reveal who it is, mostly because I’m not technically allowed. He’s troubled, that much is obvious, but the hypodermics I can see sitting near him seem to indicate that the problem is more than just diabetes or a severe case of depression. I can vaguely remember when heroin was first introduced into this country, and thinking then that the country was bound to slowly but inevitably slip into an over-medicated hell.
The home that the WITNESS sits in is nice but rather messy. The individual he is there to watch is sitting upon a stool, staring at the floorboards. A pump-action shotgun sits upon the floor next to him, as do several fully-loaded syringes. The man looks contemplative as he looks at both gun and syringes. As the WITNESS hears the French doors at the opening of the room being pushed open his head is suddenly forced to the ground, but there is no one else there.
This hasn’t happened in a while. There are moments when even I am not allowed to witness what is about to happen, and it is uniquely frustrating. I try to lift my head but it is impossible at this point. There is no one here but myself, this newcomer, and the one I have come to watch. The powers that be have never explained this phenomenon to me, and I don’t expect them to. I see badly worn sneakers approach, turn towards the man, and then turn towards the gun and the syringes. The man I’m here to watch talks amicably with this newcomer, so it is enough to think that they know each other well. As I watch from my limited vantage however I see the newcomer stick the other man with one syringe, then another, and then another, until every last one has been used.
This is easily enough to stop a rampaging elephant in its tracks. The man I’m here to watch doesn’t even struggle, making me think he was high to begin with.
I know enough of this man to understand that he has an unhealthy familiarity with heroin, and will likely be dead soon one way or another. Even as he tips forward I see it in his eyes, he’s almost gone. The stranger catches him though, and then reaches for the shotgun. Now I am allowed to raise my head, just enough that I can see that the man now sees that I am here. The barrel is in his mouth, and despite his inebriated state he knows that I’m here, and he knows what is about to happen. Before I can fully anticipate it the gun goes off, the stranger leaves, and I am able to finally lift my head. Time to move on.
INT: BEDROOM-DAY-WELL LIT
LOS ANGELES, CA
LA seems to be one of deaths favorite haunts. For the past decade I’ve been back here several times, mostly for those that aren’t known to anyone but a few people, and sometimes for minor celebrities. This time though, I’m here for a man that is known throughout the world.
This man has done so much and touched so many throughout his career that I cannot even imagine what his life must have been like. I am not a judge or a jury but I have found his conduct somewhat odd at times. As one of the greatest entertainers to ever live he has a legend that is nearly untouchable, but there is no denying that he was slightly off at times. I am not here to judge though, I am here to watch.
The bedroom the witness stands in is very upscale, with a large bed set in the center and finery displayed all throughout the room. A single individual lies upon the bed, arms folded in as he grabs at his chest, his legs spread across the bed. As I stand over him he sees me without any trouble, and I know that his time is near.
(eyes shining, pleading)
Are you my angel? Is it my time?
It might sound horrible, but I am so very tempted to laugh at this.
Oh God. I have so much left to do, so many things I still have to accomplish. I have a concert coming. I can’t disappoint my fans.
MICHAEL’S voice gets weaker by the second, but he keeps talking. The WITNESS just keeps watch.
(in pain, drifting off)
I wanted to see my sister again. I wanted to tell her, to tell her…
MICHAEL drifts off, his eyes glassing over as he takes his last breath.
Leave this world knowing you were loved.
I swear I can see a smile turn the corners of his mouth, but others might think that this is an effect of gravity or something equally as explainable. In any case it’s time for me to go. Someone will find him, and thousands will soon mourn.
END ACT II
INT: BEDROOM-DAY-WELL LIT
PARADISE CAY, CA
A dark-haired man stands upon a chair in his closet, looking sadly at the floor. Laugh lines wrinkle at the corners of his eyes, and his salt and pepper beard bristles slightly as he speaks.
I’ve made people laugh, and I’ve made them cry. Sometimes I made the wrong people cry.
I said I’ve hated this job before, and I’ve said that I didn’t want to do certain jobs, but yet still here I am.
This individual has touched more people than most I’ve watched, and he’s been made immortal by deed if not by genetics. He’s done wrong, as he confessed just a little while ago when he mistook my presence to mean that he was being judged, but I know he’s done a great deal of good as well.
Many of those I’ve watched, I’ve done so without a hint of compassion. I found their lives to be little more than an answer to the riddle posed by natural selection. The world owes us nothing. Some of those I’ve watched might have done great things if left to enjoy a ripe old age. Letting this man go like this however seems like one of the greatest sins I will ever experience. But I cannot stop it. That’s not my job, and it’s not my place.
He saw me a long while before this moment. He thought I was a crazed fan at first, but when he looked into my eyes he saw that I was here for other reasons. It would seem that every human knows on some instinctual level when their number is up, and this man knew just as many have in the past. I think at this point it’s enough to say that the soul simply knows.
(shakes his head)
There’s nothing left.
I watch, but when I know it’s over, when he is swinging ever so slowly from side to side, I close my eyes. Once again my task is done, and it is time to go. I really hate this job.
END OF ACT III