A dark stage. All is black. We hear two voices.
CHILD: It’s dark.
OLD WOMAN: Yes, it’s dark.
CHILD: Where are we?
OLD WOMAN: Here… there… everywhere… nowhere…
OLD WOMAN: Hush now, there’s nothing to be afraid of. The story hasn’t started yet…
Out of the darkness, a small amorphous white shape appears. It dances, breaking into smaller shapes which reassemble and break apart again with an erratic rhythm. Gradually the shape becomes larger. Above the first shape a second one appears, this one a solid white orb and we see now that we are looking at the moon and its reflection in the water below.
EXT. early morning, Sea City.
We view the towering, futuristic/turn-of-the-century architecture of Sea City from the vantage point of a ship approaching the harbor. We see men working the docks and beyond them people on the street making their way to work. Horse drawn carriages share the road with strange modern vehicles, some chock-a-block in the streets, some drifting in the sky above, threading through the black industrial spires and belching smoke stacks. Dirigibles float slowly while speedier air cars zip past.
Our attention is drawn to a small group of street urchins who are waking up and dusting themselves off. They know that they must be up and moving before the well-to-do businessmen replace the shabbily dressed laborers who now populate the streets. A horse and buggy moves past. One of them tunes a radio and over the crackling speakers we hear a man’s voice, then one of the women (Pixel Pilgrim) begins to sing as the others accompany her with knee-slaps, vocals and a make-shift auto harp.
RADIO VOICE (Richie Millenium): We are all wanderers, walking through life, observing… taking everything in…
PIXEL PILGRIM: Made by hand
of brass and wood and steam
pull the lever, turn the key.
but who among us can still understand
our tools and our machines?
Ones and zero's
ones and zero's
Cut the fabric
thread the needle, sew the hem.
Thank a stranger for the clothes you're in.
dollars and cents
dollars and cents
The world is moving so fast
and we... we are nomads.
Once upon a time
around a fire
we danced and laughed along
Now tiny pictures scroll before me
where all my friends have gone
left click right click
left click right click
The world is moving so fast
Pixel Pilgrim and the band of street musicians wander off as our attention is drawn to a small window lit up in a building above.
INT early morning, infirmary.
The camera zooms in and we see a very old man (Old Wirrow) sitting in a tattered, overstuffed chair in a tiny cubicle of a room. Next to him is an elaborate looking machine with an accordion-like billows which slowly expands and contracts. A large tube, like a vacuum hose, extends from the machine to a brass respirator mask which covers the lower half of the man’s face. A nurse stands next to him monitoring the machine. The old man stares blankly ahead as she makes small talk, almost to herself.
NURSE: it’s going to be a lovely day, isn’t it?
She makes some notes on the chart hanging near the machine.
NURSE (cont.): I hear it is supposed to clear up. You should have a nice view out your window today.
The old man stares. The nurse pats his shoulder and exits the room. He has not moved and has barely blinked while the nurse is in the room but after she leaves he reaches up and loosens the leather straps and pulls the respirator away from his face. He retrieves a strange, elaborately decorated pocket watch from his vest and slowly, with a fair amount of difficulty, he begins to turn an outer wheel on the time piece in a counter-clockwise direction.
As he turns the wheel, notch by notch, we hear a corresponding sound far out of place from what we are seeing. A kind of muted mechanical crash as if the noise is made by a great machine heard from a distance. With each turn and accompanying crash, we begin to see that the old man appears to be getting younger. His skin begins to tighten and even the chair seems to mend itself as patches here and there disappear.
The camera zooms in on his placid face. We see a sadness but also a look of determination and resolve. We move closer still to a single eye in which we see the reflection of clouds moving past. The clouds separate and we are following the path of a bird flying along the coast line.
EXT evening, western sea side.
The bird flies until, below it, a boy walking along the beach comes into view. The sun is beginning to set. The boy (9 year old Wirrow) wears shorts and a t-shirt and a pair of beat-up sneakers. The beach is strewn with driftwood and a few beach combers can be seen wandering some distance away. Further down the beach are the remains of an old ship wreck but the boy is making his way towards something even more interesting. It appears a whale has washed ashore. He walks towards the great beast but now sees that it is not a whale but a creature much more fanciful, a mythical sea creature of the kind that one might see drawn on the edges of old maps.
As he gets closer the beast spews out a great glob of ambergris. It slaps its enormous tale on the shore and twists its body in preparation for the return to the sea, then it slowly sinks down under the waves. He walks over to the glob and seeing something shiny, shoves his hand into the great foul smelling mass. He retrieves a strange looking pocket watch and begins to wipe it off, revealing a face with many strange symbols and concentric circles. He notices that there are a number of levers in various places and a ring around the edge that seems to move. As he fiddles with the contraption it begins to emit what appears to be tiny particles of multi-colored lights like microscopic fireflies which float slowly outward then disappear. Entranced by this tiny spectacle, he does not notice that the sky, once filled with magenta, orange and pink clouds, has grown grey and dark.
The camera pulls back and we see that where once driftwood was scattered about there are now piles of blackened, oil coated garbage and twisted metal and the summer beachcombers have been replaced by young children in tattered clothes picking through the debris. Off in the distance only a few remnants of the shipwreck can be seen, like the ribcage of some long extinct beast jutting out of the sand.
Still fixated on the object, he notices that the strange pocket watch has gained a grayish patina and is no longer emitting the brightly colored sparks. As he rubs it with his thumb and turns it over he is suddenly startled by the voice of a boy who is now standing next to him.
THOM: You’d best put that away!
Wirrow looks up.
THOM (cont.): Did you hear me? You’d better put that away or someone will see you with it.
Thom, who is wearing a tattered and dirty black suit, looks down at Wirrow’s casual beachwear and gives him an inquisitive look then snatches the pocket watch out of his hands. He flips it over a couple times then stuffs it into his coat pocket. He reaches down into the rubble and pulls something from the rusty cockpit of an old airplane. With a bit of effort he comes up with a length of metal about 2 inches wide and 8 inches long that comes to a point at one end. He waves the newly found weapon at Wirrow.
THOM (cont.): I don’t know how you got here but you’d better come with me!
Thom gestures for Wirrow to walk inland over the pile of twisted metal and garbage towards a large black blimp that hovers in the background. It is attached to a tower and is secured to the ground by ropes and we can see men at various points beginning to untie the ropes. There is a ramp extending from one end of the gondola and we see that the children who have been picking through the debris are now lining up to throw their findings into a large bin and continue up the ramp where they are searched before they board the vessel. There are about 75 children in line and more appear out of the rubble. Near the ramp a large tube is extended which is spewing a blackish liquid onto the beach. Thom avoids the river of waste but Wirrow, who is struggling to keep from tripping, plants both feet square in the middle of it. He pulls himself out of the muck and looks back at Thom who looks disdainfully at him and gestures for him to keep moving.
WIRROW: Where are we going?
THOM: We’re going back on the ship. Where else? You sure as hell can’t stay out here!
WIRROW: Are you going to hurt me?
THOM: Nah, I’m not going to hurt you. But you’d better stick with me or someone will.
Having made it over the pile of rubble the two boys stand at the tail end of of the two lines of children heading back onto the blimp. Thom stuffs the length of metal into his jacket lining then he takes the pocket watch out of his pocket and hands it back to Wirrow.
THOM: You take this and keep it out of sight. Keep your mouth shut and stay right behind me.
Thom leads him up the ramp, right up the middle past all the other children waiting to be searched straight to the head of the line on the left. The guard sees him and gets a knowing look on his face.
GUARD: (sarcastically) Thom! What a pleasure to see you! What kind of mischief are you up to today?
THOM: Nothing out of the ordinary, sir!
GUARD: So, just the usual mischief then.
THOM: Yes, sir.
GUARD: (Pointing to Wirrow) So who’s this?
THOM: A fledgling. He overslept and didn’t have time to dress.
GUARD: Apparently not! He reeks as well!
THOM: Yes, sir. He’s been assigned to me. He’s got a lot to learn yet.
GUARD1: I should say so! Well, you at least know the drill. Arms out.
Thom stretches his arms straight out to the sides as the guard pats him down. He goes the length of his body then begins to feel around in his jacket pockets and comes across the metal tucked into the lining.
GUARD: What’s this?!
THOM: (looking straight forward) What, sir?
GUARD: (pulling the piece of metal out of his jacket and holding it in front of his face) This!
THOM: Oh, that’s just for scrap, sir.
GUARD: You know to throw that in the bin!
THOM: I’m sorry, sir. Must have slipped my mind as I was looking after my charge. It won’t happen again.
GUARD: (leaning closer to THOM and speaking in earnest now) What are you trying to do to me Thom, get me fired?
THOM: No, sir.
The children near the front of the line have seen the stunt Thom has pulled and are talking and laughing to themselves. This catches the attention of the Supervisor who comes over.
SUPERVISOR: Quiet! What is going on here?
GUARD: It’s nothing, sir, just a scrap of metal that didn’t get thrown in the bin.
SUPERVISOR: Let’s have it.
The Guard hands him the metal strip.
SUPERVISOR: More a weapon, I should say, not simply an overlooked scrap as you put it. I should write you up for this.
GUARD: But I confiscated…
SUPERVISOR: Do you think it best to make excuses? Would you like to find yourself cleaning out the waste trap?
GUARD: No, sir.
SUPERVISOR: How many times do I have to explain to you what your job is? Can you tell me that? What do imagine you will gain by befriending the workers?
GUARD: Befriending sir… no… I…
As the Supervisor chastises the Guard, Thom sees his opportunity and, pulling Wirrow from behind him, shoves him past the Supervisor and up the ramp without the guard or his supervisor noticing. Wirrow looks confused and Thom emphatically motions for him to hurry on up the ramp.
SUPERVISOR: Don’t think I don’t see what goes on around here. I’ve got eyes like a hawk! You want to be one of them, you will soon find yourselves in their ranks.
GUARD: No, sir… I…
SUPERVISOR: (threatening) One more word!
He hands the scrap back to the Guard.
SUPERVISOR (cont.): Now deal with this… and search the boy thoroughly before you allow him on board. Do you hear me?
GUARD: Yes, sir.
The Supervisor walks back to his station. The Guard places the scrap of metal on the table to his right and begins to pat Thom down, making a point to be thorough as the Supervisor continues to eye him. As he pats his legs down to his ankles and the Supervisor looks away momentarily, Thom deftly reaches over and grabs the scrap of metal off the table and slips it into the back of his pants. The Guard, visibly shaken, finishes the pat down and motions for Thom to move up the ramp. Thom walks up the ramp to where Wirrow is standing looking back at him. Thom motions for Wirrow to KEEP WALKING!!
A second guard, who had been keeping one eye on the goings on while conducting searches of the children in the other line, looks over and sees Wirrow sneaking onto the ship but instead of bringing it to the Supervisor’s attention, he keeps silent.
The two boys disappear inside the ship. Moments later first guard looks down and sees that the scrap of metal is missing and so too is the underdressed boy.