||Hell on Earth: From the Ashes
Episode 1 - "Promises to Keep"
by B. D. Flory - published with author's permission
Written in screenplay script format.
|Somewhere in Utah. We hold for a moment, camera
centered on the asphalt, shooting down the length of the road. After a beat,
Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" kicks in, just as a long-nose
tractor speeds over the camera from OS. We keep the vehicle in frame as
it speeds down the highway, and we can see *something* climbing on the outside
of the rig. More accurately, some *things*.
MEDIUM SHOT of the rig, as our
POV speeds alongside the truck. Closer now, we can make out more details.
Vaguely humanoid shapes crawl all over the tractor. As we ZOOM IN, we begin
to pick out details: rubbery, mucous-covered flesh, spindly arms and legs
of nightmarish length, a face covered in short, stubby tentacles
that only a mother could love. In short, Wormlings.
Where our heroes await:
At the wheel is a man
of truly epic proportions. A great, bushy, brown beard is spread across
his chest, *almost* concealing an equally great pot-belly. He's clothed
head to toe in denim: jeans, jean jacket, even a baseball cap fabricated
completely of denim. Levi "Denim" Lockridge. We'll call him
LEVI. As we pan away, we see him reach under the dash to his right,
and pull out a sawed off pump shotgun.
To Levi's right (and dwarfed in
his shadow), sits a man even more blue than "Denim". Not his
clothes, you understand. Him. From head to toe, every inch of flesh is
a pale, sickly blue. A Thompson sub-machine gun is slung at his side,
and assorted bits of salvage virtually *burst* from his pockets. Abruptly,
we hear a thump, and the metal of the cab's roof sinks down toward his
face. He cries out in surprise, and fires a quick burst into the dent.
We'll call him BART.
The camera swings to the back seat, where
two more passengers sit. One a Doomsayer, judging from his purple
robe is gathering a globe of green energy around his hands, while
the other dressed in an assortment of the finest rags and cast-offs
smashes out the improvised rear window of the cab with the hilt
of a sword - a nice one. We'll call them GRANT and JARROD,
respectively. Our shot moves between them to bring the four wormlings
on the cab's improvised flatbed into frame, as a jolt of green energy
flies from the Doomsayer's hands and fries the nearest creature.
turns to Jarrod and shouts
"I've already replaced that window three times!"
As a wormling appears at the driver's side window.
Levi shoves the muzzle of his shotgun into the lower portion of its face,
and pulls the trigger.
MEDIUM SHOT, as the wormling tumbles through
the dirt and dust at the side of the road, minus its head.
Move to a CLOSE
SHOT of the truck again; this time, we can see more of the vehicle itself.
As we pan around the vehicle, we can pick out details: the sheet metal
of the cab's rear wall, the rigging of ropes and wires serving as a passenger
side door, the improvised flatbed built over the trailer hitch. This baby's
held together with spit and bubble gum, and the four wormlings aren't
Where we hear the hiss of acid, as the roof over
Bart's head sizzles away. A half-second later, a claw punches through
the gap, grasping blindly at Bart's shirt. In the back seat, Jarrod stabs
out through the broken rear window, and jabs one of the wormlings in the
eye. It clutches at the ruins of its face, and stumbles backward out of
the flatbed. Meanwhile, Grant slings more power out the rear window, and
another wormling gets a sudden and fatal case of radiation
Up front, Bart fires another burst through the roof; this time,
we hear a wormling scream.
CLOSE SHOT, as Bart stands up in the newly created sunroof.
As he turns rearward, the last wormling leaps to the roof of the cab.
Bart falls back inside the cab.
Where Levi grips his shotgun in one hand by
the pump and cocks it. He slides his grip to the trigger, aims
at the roof, and fires again. We hear a wormling screech, and...
as the truck drives away from our POV. The wormling
flies from the roof, landing hard on the camera, and we
Where we find the long-nose tractor pulled over to
the side of the road. The driver's side door swings open, and Levi lumbers
out. He turns back, and bangs on the side of his seat.
"They're gone, Gerry!"
At which point a child of about twelve pulls himself
from under the seat. He grins a grin minus one front tooth, and jumps
down from the cab to the road. Since Levi did, we'll call him GERRY.
"You showed 'em good, right Denim?"
Levi smiles and tousles Gerry's hair.
"Sure did, Gerry. We sure did."
Gerry takes off his cap, and gestures to the truck
"The old girl got pretty beat up, though. Why don't you see if you can
make her purr again."
Gerry runs back to the truck, and pulls a tool chest
from his hiding place. He heaves it out of the truck, and begins to lug
it toward the engine. As the rest of the posse climbs out of the truck,
Levi props the hood of the truck up, and boosts Gerry up to a small platform
jutting out of the side of the tractor. The platform looks like it was
built for just such a purpose. Levi places the tool chest on the platform
next to Gerry, as Jarrod walks up.
"You let your kid work on your engine?"
"Isn't that a little dangerous?"
"To the engine?"
A beat passes.
"To your kid, actually."
"He ain't my kid. He's my God- son. And believe me, if I thought
for one Goddamn minute he'd get hurt "
Levi pauses for a beat, and casts his eyes skyward.
Then returns his attention to Jarrod.
"If I thought for one minute he'd get hurt, I'd pull him outta
there faster'n spit sizzles on a griddle."
LEVI turns to face Gerry, and chuckles.
"But that kid knows his way around an engine better'n I ever could,
so what the hell, y'know? Everybody's gotta pull their weight these
"You aren't kidding."
Bart steps around the truck into view.
"We should get moving. I don't want to be away from the others
any longer than we have to. We checked out that mutant settlement, and
it didn't pan out. Let's go."
"Yer probably right."
We move to a MEDIUM shot of the truck, and find Grant
seated in the foreground, meditating. His eyes are closed, until
(shouts from truck)
"Let's get moving, Doomie! You can meditate
in the truck."
Grant's eyes snap open, and he climbs to his feet.
As he walks back to the truck, he shakes his head and says
"No I can't. It's too bloody loud inside that beast."
Levi starts the truck, and the engine roars into life.
Gerry is seated next to him now, between Levi and Bart. Jarrod is again
in the back seat, and as Grant climbs in next to Jarrod, Levi turns to
him and shouts over the engine
"What'd you say?!"
Grant shakes his head again, and shouts back
EXT. HIGHWAY (2)
Where the posse dismounts from Levi's truck. Traveling
on the highway are a group of refugees, nearly fifty strong. Their clothes,
appearances, and degree of mutation vary a great deal. Presently, an older,
portly black man approaches our heroes - ELIAS. Stress is apparent
on his face. The refugees continue walking.
"What did you find?"
"What about the mutants?"
"There wasn't any mutant settlement in the ruins. Maybe there was,
once; There's only wormlings now."
"We need supplies if we're going to make it
to Junkyard, people. We couldn't salvage much from Gateway, and we're
already running low on food."
"Water is even "
Elias staggers as the ground begins to shake, catching
himself against the side of Levi's truck.
"What the hell was that?"
"I don't know. We've been catching tremors like on and off for
the past couple of hours."
"Maybe. But I wouldn't count on it."
Albeit a couple of miles off the highway, where we
find two men crouched among the scrub brush. The first, BLACK,
is clothed head to toe in black(!), western clothing (duster, work shirt,
jeans, cowboy boots). The other one is dressed in standard survivor style:
a mish-mash of leathers, rags, and improvised armor. We'll call him CULTIST.
As we move in on Black, we can briefly make out a tattoo on the back of
his right hand. The tattoo covers the back of his palm, and depicts a
thick-lined stick figure with a gap in its lower torso, encircled by an
unbroken ring of black ink.
Black watches the refugees through a pair of binoculars for a beat, then
lowers them from his face. He is, without a doubt, harrowed. His taut
flesh is stretched over his cheekbones like a tight leather jacket, and
his eyes are sunk deep in his sockets.
"We should've wiped 'em out at Gateway."
"This has already been explained to you, Black. One of them bears
the mark of our lord. We were careful to leave him alive when we destroyed
Gateway. We will leave him alive now."
"Fine. But there's fifty people down there. I count forty-nine
that *don't* carry the mark."
"Forty-nine that he would protect maybe with his life. I
will not allow you to take any action that might hinder our lord's resurrection."
Black climbs to his feet, shortly joined by Cultist.
"First you tell me the town's a target; Gateway's to be destroyed.
Next thing, you tell me I can't finish the job. Fine. I'll let 'em go.
"But y'know what?"
Cultist looks at Black, askance.
"I got a quota to make."
And the stark exclamation of a gunshot punctuates Black's
sentence. We move to a CLOSE SHOT, framing Cultist's waist and lower torso.
As he falls away from our POV, he reveals Cowboy's gun an old style
six-gun still smoking.
END ACT I
INT. BOWLING ALLEY
Where the refugees are camped, spread among the lanes
and the lobby.
Elias is speaking to our heroes, in low tones. We can't make out any words,
until we move to a MEDIUM SHOT.
"...supplies should keep us going for a little while. It's a good
thing this bowling alley had a bar and grill."
"How much were we able to salvage?"
"Enough to keep us fed for another week or so."
(beat, then Elias sighs)
"It's a hard thing. I led these people back in Gateway. I was the
elder, the leader, The wise one. I had all the answers. Now I'm not
even sure if I'll be able to keep these people fed."
"I don't have the answers."
"We'll keep them fed. The rest..."
"Nobody's got all the answers."
We move back to a shot of the refugees, the ground
begins shaking again. People hunker down and wait, but the shaking only
gets worse; the wood of the bowling lanes begins to issue a tortured groaning
sound, as if the wood was warping in the space of seconds. Just as refugees
begin to flee the lanes, one of the wooden surfaces cracks with a loud
report, then begins to splinter. Jarrod, Levi, Bart, and Grant rush toward
the lanes, as everyone else rushes away from them. Finally, the panels
of the bowling lanes burst upwards, chunks and splinters of wood exploding
everywhere. Squeezing up through the gap is a Salt Rattler, a close cousin
of the Mojave Rattler. It is only visible from the maw up, as its tentacles
begin weaving about in the bowling alley, searching for prey. Shortly,
it seizes a few of the refugees, and our heroes rush into action.
Except for Bart, who runs for the restroom.
Jarrod and Grant fend off the tentacles with hand weapons: a sword and
a glowing green control rod, respectively. Levi just wades in and blasts
any unoccupied tentacles with his shotgun.
In the panic and confusion, the rattler is able to wolf down about 15
people (yum!). Finally, Bart returns from his sojourn to the men's room,
Molotov cocktail in hand. It is a somewhat shoddy device: a rag stuffed
into a plastic Pepsi bottle, which is filled with diesel fuel. He lights
it, and throws it toward the rattler. It bounces once, twice, and comes
up short, fuse slowly burning down. Jarrod drops his sword and dives for
the bottle, heaving it the rest of the way in to the rattler's burrow.
Bart follows up with another cocktail, and another.
The rattlers hole bursts into flames, and the rattler screams a keening,
unearthly wail. Glass shatters all around the bowling alley: light bulbs,
drinking glasses at the bar, the front entrance doors. Finally, the rattler
drops whatever pray it is holding, and retreats.
Slowly, the survivors begin to drag the injured outside the building.
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
Where our heroes are met by Elias.
"What in the *hell* was that?"
"Salt Rattler. A hundred different kinds of mean. And hungry."
"I've heard stories about them, from before the war "
"Probably all true."
"Will it be back?"
"If it's still hungry. We should get the people to the roof."
"It's not going to be safe up there if the rattler comes back.
The roof could come down."
"Safer up there than on the buffet table."
"We can't hide up on the roof forever. If we're going to get to
Junkyard, we need to kill it."
"Or drive it off..."
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
Elsewhere, where we find Bart checking the loads in
his Tommy gun. A woman of perhaps forty-five years approaches him, her
brow furrowed in displeasure. She's dressed in what could best be described
as post-apocalypse chic. Very trendy, yet obviously salvaged clothing.
Let's call her CYNTHIA. Silently, she stands in front of Bart for
a beat. When he pays her no attention, she coughs.
(doesn't look up)
"Do you know why I don't like you?"
"Because I'm a mutant. Because we met in a past life. Because you
read my birth notice before the war, and didn't like the newspaper it
was in. I don't know, lady."
(beat, and Bart stands)
"And I don't much give a damn. Bart closes the Tommy gun's drum,
and turns to walk away."
"You cared before. In Gateway."
Bart stops, but doesn't turn around.
Because I loved your daughter, and you were her mother. That doesn't
much matter now, though, does it? She's dead.
I'll tell you why I didn't like you. Because you wouldn't settle down.
Because you were always off on some new "adventure". Picking
through the ruins of cities, stealing and salvaging whatever you could.
(spins to face Cynthia)
"Wait just a damn "
"Let me finish!"
(beat, as Cynthia composes herself)
"Because I knew you wouldn't be around when my daughter needed
you. And I was right. Just like when that rattler showed up. Just like
Bart's mouth opens to respond, but the answer dies
on his lips.
"You *weren't* there. And now she's dead."
Cynthia spits at Bart's feet and walks away. We hold
for a beat on Bart, and
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
Later. Where we find Grant, Jarrod, Levi, Elias, and
Bart wrapping up a war council.
"You have the Molotovs, Bart?"
"You're sure you can get up into those rafters?"
Gerry runs over, eager as a small puppy.
"I want to help, Uncle Levi! I want to be a hero, too!"
Levi takes Gerry aside. As the others continue speaking
in low tones, we move away with Gerry and Levi.
"The best way you can help is to stay with everyone else, so I
don't have to worry about you, alright Gerry?"
"I got a job to do, and I don't think I can do it right if I'm
baby-sittin' you at the same time."
Gerry sighs and his shoulders droop. Levi tousles his
"Tell you what, bud."
(takes Gerry's sling shot from Gerry's pocket,
and puts it in Gerry's hand)
"Go protect everyone else while we fight the rattler, alright?
That way, we won't have to worry about them. And you'll be a hero. Gerry's
shoulders perk up."
"Alright! Wait'll I tell Elias!"
INT. BOWLING ALLEY
As Levi enters. Jarrod and Grant are standing on the
lanes themselves, while Bart is climbing up into the rafters overhead.
A back pack full of *something* is slung over Bart's shoulder. He slowly
makes his way out across the rafters, until he is in position: directly
over the Salt Rattler's burrow. He wraps his legs around the rafter, pulls
a Zippo-style lighter out of his pocket, and a Molotov out of his back
pack. He waves down to Grant and Jarrod.
Grant and Jarrod begin pounding on the ground with
their feet. Hearing this, Levi rushes over, and cocks his shotgun. Just
as he reaches the dancing duo, a low rumbling begins.
"You wanted to get its attention..."
As the rumbling grows louder and louder, the building
begins to shake, much like before. Grant and Jarrod stop stomping, as
we move to a MEDIUM SHOT of Bart in the rafters, as his balance wavers.
The Molotov slips out of his hands, then his grip slips from the rafters.
Just in time, he's able to hook his now free arm around the rafter he
was sitting on, and halts his fall.
(shouting over the din)
"This wasn't in the plan, Bart!"
"S'ok! Just hold it off!"
"Are you *nuts*! It's *not* OK! That thing is as big as a *house*,
and you want us to *hold it off*?!"
With that, the rattler bursts from it's burrow once
again, tentacles flailing. Jarrod whips out his sword, while Grant draws
a dull metal rod. There's a hissing noise, and the rod begins to glow
green. Levi puts a pattern of shot into the rattler.
As the rattler begins it's many limbed attack, we move back to Bart, who
is trying to shimmy the backpack off his shoulder. Tentacles are reaching
dangerously close to his dangling legs, as he begins dumping Molotovs
down onto the rattler.
We move back below to the rest of our heroes, just as Levi takes a hit
from one of the tentacles. He's knocked to his back and tumbles across
several lanes, where he lies still. We move back to the main combat zone,
as the rattler wraps a tentacle around Grant's purple-hooded head, and
lifts him off his feet. Quickly, Grant presses his glowing control rod
against the rattler's flesh. We hear a sizzle and a scream as it drops
him back to the ground. Jarrod, meanwhile, lays into the rattler with
Back above, Bart drops the last of the pack's contents, followed by the
pack itself. He lights the Zippo one handed, and locks it. He drops the
sputtering flame down onto the rattler, which is by now covered in diesel
fuel. Flames erupt upward from the rattler, nearly reaching Bart's dangling
legs. It screams an unearthly howl, and retreats down into its hole.
The rumbling resumes, but fades quickly, leaving our heroes in silence.
After a couple of beats Levi groans and sits up.
"Did we win?"
(rushes over to help Levi up)
"Yeah, Levi, we got it good. With any luck it won't be back."
Jarrod helps Levi get to his feet, and Levi leans heavily
on Jarrod. Jarrod grunts audibly under Levi's weight, but supports him
as Levi limps outside.
Grant meanwhile looks apprehensively down the now vacant rattler hole.
We hold on him as Bart shouts
"Somebody wanna get me down from here?"
Grant looks up, startled, and replies
"Hold on, I'll be right "
Then we hear Bart shout, as he falls past frame into
the hole. We hear a dull thump, and Grant winces.
"Ow. Ow. Ow."
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
As our heroes emerge through the shattered front doors,
Levi on Jarrod's shoulder, and Bart on Grant's. We can barely make out
"You're just lucky the rattler chewed the dirt up already. Made
for a soft landing."
"Compared to what?"
Bart winces at the thought, and we
END ACT II
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
Where the refugees despite the recent rattler
attack apparently have decided to take shelter for the night. HAND-HELD:
we move among the people for a bit, and find Jarrod speaking with Elias.
We stop to listen in.
"...we saved a lot of people from that thing Elias. Part of that
is thanks to your help on the plan."
"But we lost a lot of people, too. Before we even *had* a plan."
"We weren't expecting "
"We *should* have been *I* should have been expecting it!"
Elias pauses, takes a couple of deep, calming breaths,
"Before the war, the government installed a rattler-deterrent under
the highways. I don't know what they were really named, but everyone
called them "thrummers"."
"You know what happened to the thrummers after the war?"
Jarrod shakes his head.
"Neither do I. And I behaved as if they were still under the highways,
still keeping the rattlers away. I took them for granted. And fifteen
of our people died because of it."
Jarrod reaches out and puts his hand on Elias' shoulder.
"This isn't just on you, Elias. Nobody thought about it. It's a
whole different world out there than it was thirteen years ago. We *all*
need to get used to it."
Jarrod claps Elias shoulder again, and begins to walk
"Jarrod. One more thing."
Jarrod stops, and turns back to Elias.
"There's more to you than you're telling us, isn't there? You're
not just another mutant under those rags. Maybe not even a mutant at
Jarrod responds only with silence. We move to a CLOSE
SHOT of Jarrod's sword, wrapped in rags. Elias stands in BG.
Don't walk away from these people, Jarrod. They need your help
we need your help. As Jarrod speaks, we move to a CLOSE SHOT of him.
If I was going to walk away, I would have done it already. Gateway
The people of Gateway are good, and wise, and just. You *will* make
it to Junkyard.
EXT. BOWLING ALLEY
Out back, where we find Bart, sitting with his Tommy
gun across his lap. The ammo drum laying on the ground, but there is a
bullet in the chamber. Every couple seconds, he picks up the gun, and
closes the chamber- only to open it again, and lay it back on his lap.
He does this three times before Grant approaches him from OS.
"The fights over, Bart. It won't be coming back."
Bart doesn't answer. He picks up the gun again, and
repeats his earlier actions. A silent beat passes.
"I ran, Grant. The first time. I ran and hid. Fifteen people are
died, and I *hid*."
"You came back, right? It could have been seventeen people. Or
twenty-three. You saved those people when you came back and scared the
rattler off with those gas bombs of yours."
"What about Gateway? I wasn't there when Gateway fell, either."
Bart picks up the gun again, opens the chamber, and
begins examining the bullet.
"I wasn't there when she died. Grant steps forward and gently pushes
the gun back down to Bart's lap."
"You didn't know. There's no way you could've."
Bart leaps to his feet, and throws the gun against
the wall of the bowling alley. He punches the brick savagely, Once. Twice.
Thrice. And finally just presses his knuckles against the brick wall.
When he turns around, his fist is bloodied and bruised, and tears are
welling in his eyes.
"I know I couldn't have known."
A beat, and Bart taps his temple.
"I know it, up here."
"In my head."
Another beat, and BART taps his heart.
"But in my gut in my heart "
He shakes his head.
"I should've been there, Grant. I should've been there for her,
and it's twisting me up inside. Bart picks up his gun, and removes the
bullet from the chamber. Grant reaches out to Bart's shoulder, but Bart
shakes him off."
"Just... be there for the rest of us, alright?"
Bart doesn't respond, and doesn't move. We hold, and
ELIAS begins to speak in VO.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep/"
Bart raises his face to the sky, tears streaming down
ELIAS: (vo, cont.)
"But I have promises to keep/"
Bart picks up the ammo drum and reattaches it to his
ELIAS: (vo, cont.)
"And miles to go before I sleep."
Bart walks OS, and we
Over which text appears, fading in one line at a time,
each line centered below the previous line.
In loving memory: Brenda Anne MacKnight/
I love you still, and always/
And I'm sorry/
We hold for a beat on the completed dedication, and
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Last updated: 2003/09/11