Episode 16: Fertilized Earth
Dave's sequel to Jon's Ep13 Pitch (Goodbye Tomorrow)... Dave approached this like the 2nd part in a trilogy. One of unrelated characters, ultimately following the fate of the planet. Also he encorporated listener feedback (hear it in Act 1 of Ep13)!
Caveat: It’s a sequel set in the same world, not with the same characters or locations.
Opens on a barren wasteland.. as far as we can see. Grey, grim, drizzle, wind… a lot of mud, tufts of grass here and there, debris scattered around, the odd bit of strewn rubble indicating the ruin of a building, and so on. Through the grey, rainy haze we discern a figure shuffling its way into clarity..
The rough shape of a biped but heavily draped in all sorts of coverings from head to toe. We close in on this figure’s gloved hand in the rain, rifling through some debris as it picks out various bits and pieces from a pile next to what used to be a building of some sort.. We pull back to reveal goggled eyes amongst a heavily covered head. The head covering is a dirty white and we see that the rain is black as it runs down the face. A wider reveal shows he’s carrying a pick-axe and a small assortment of mixed tools on a belt around his waist – but makeshift, like a trowel and a fork that would have once been used for gardening, a small sickle, etc.
Some distance from the figure is another one just the same, slightly smaller, and as the distant one signals to the one we’re following (wave or similar gesture), we see a group of raggedy, dishevelled people emerge from all around the distant figure in white.. our figure starts to run whilst frantically waving at the other.
Cutting to the emerging bodies we see they are all early teens or younger, in tattered, raggedy clothes and in all states of dishevelment and personal disarray.. they’re carrying bats and similar and none of them are covered. They’re clothed but they’ve got exposed skin all over the place, faces and arms and such.
Cutting back and forth between the group and the POV of our 1st running figure, in the closing distance we watch as the teens start encircling the covered figure, who’s pulled out some sort of weapon too.. then we see as the teens each start baiting the figure, diving in to strike him & back out to the safety of the circle. It’s torturous to watch as the figure is outnumbered and the strikes the teens start to land are devastating, taking out his legs until he crumples to his knees.
One of the larger teens walks up to him and rips off the head covering in one vicious movement, exposing the face of an older child, probably about 18/19, to the elements.. As soon as the black rain hits the exposed face, he screams – in unison with the other covered figure running towards him.
The urchins are all laughing at the exposed young man, beating him casually as his face and features distort into a sunken, ashen-coal pit and his eyes roll back in his head, his guttural screams distorting more into anguished gurgles of pain as his body convulses on the ground.
As the urchins start to bore of the screaming, living corpse in their midst, they turn their attention to the still running figure who is almost upon them. One of them with a sword and an odd looking canister steps forwards into the path of the oncoming figure – with an confidence that suggests one or both of these weapons is enough to deter someone.. he starts hefting the cannister threateningly.
POVing from the running figure again as we approach this urchin his face shifts from arrogance to worry and he throws the cannister at us, we pass through an explosive cloud of black rain, undaunted.
The urchin runs swinging the sword, which finds its lazy mark in the figure’s heavily adorned side, however at the same time our figure, using his pickaxe like a traction engine, ploughs the flat of the head into the urchins face, literally decimating the skull with the power of the blow. The urchin’s head all but explodes with the ferocity of the impact and before the blood has hit the ground the figure has twisted his grip and taken a huge pendulum swing with the sharp end finding its target in another urchin’s chest – destroying any fragile idea of the human that was there a moment ago, in a shower of blood and gore.
Lodged, he drops the pickaxe and the cadaver its attached to, fending off two more of the urchins who are already upon him.. they’re trying to pull off his hood too, but our figure is fighting with such ferocity they don’t get a chance before he’s hacking flesh and appendages off of one with the sickle from his belt, before literally beating the other one to death…
As our figure comes to a slow, with bloodied red gloves and the formerly dirty white suit now mostly red and streaked black and white, he drops to his knees over the writhing, exposed body of the other figure, the 18/19 year old. Living but dead, the body is still convulsing and breathing but otherwise completely unresponsive. We see behind him the last two urchins run away.
Our figure gently lifts the body up, and carries him off back into the rainy gloom.
Act 1 opens on a small hovel, constructed out of various assorted pieces of construction. A partial wall of a building with a makeshift tiled roof (obviously reconstructed from a proper building’s roof at some point), plastic & wood mixed walls etc. Inside it’s like a hoarder’s den with a mechanical leaning, reclaimed stuff everywhere. There is a small firepit in the centre and there are two single beds, in between a photo of a man and a younger man (presumably his son, it’s the one we just saw die).
We see the figure arrive with his living dead son in his arms, before placing him down, suffocating him to cease the breathing and state of ‘living deadness’ and then burying him. This, I imagine, could be done in a variety of ways, but largely if not entirely in silence. It’s a grim series of scenes, potentially a kind of montage. It a series of days passing, if not more, and the father trying to continue going about his scavenging, survival business.
There’s some further exploration & excitement when the father comes across more urchins attacking another urchin & he intervenes & saves the latter, not necessarily intentionally to begin with, but more necessity. However this incident gives him the impetus to leave his now incredibly isolated existence, acknowledging that in some fashion he still hopes for better. This section of the movie culminates in him preparing presumably to leave the hovel & writing a note. We get to read the note as he writes it and it basically conveys what we need to know to set the scene. He’s Tom, it was his son that was killed in front of him in the intro, they have scavenged and survived this long, but now without his son it seems a pointless existence. Tom is going for the long walk & he doesn’t know where he’s going, just that he still hopes for something better.
I imagine a lot of Act 1 to be just Tom and thus very little dialogue whatsoever, so there will be a lot of nuance in the detail, actions, movements, contextual clues, where dialogue-exposition may ordinarily be.
I also imagine it being largely done exterior and a very grey, washed out look. We’re trying to convey how grim the world is & how hard just existing day to day is. We also get the context again of the Black Rain and from time to time we’ll see the sky full of silver ships in a tight grid pattern as far as the eye can see. The Rain is a constant companion throughout the act.
In Act 2 we’re still following Tom as he’s intercepted by the urchin he saved earlier on. Taking some shelter Tom takes his mask off and we get some back and forth between them. The urchin’s name is Sink and he’s probably about 14. He doesn’t know, & the only thing he cares about is when they come to be affected by the rain and he reckons he’s a few years off yet. We get some exposition from Sink around what life is like for the kind of urchins like him, surviving in the black rain. He suggests Tom try following him to Corsham – he’s heard there’s other adults there.
So essentially Sink & Tom get to Corsham, which turns out is a village near Bath in England, but of course their version of it is 6+years of uninhabited dereliction and destruction (the Black rain has also been doing something to the earth, so a lot of buildings just collapsed with subsidence & there has been unusual tectonic activity where there hadn’t been before, and over the 6 years this took just about everything left standing, down – this is why Tom was living in a self-built hut)..anyway, the reason for Corsham is there is an underground cold-war bunker there around which a ramshackle network of survivors has been living (Burlington I think it’s called). We discover there are different factions of urchins, some fairly benign, others violent and destructive. We get a lot of new info here – kids can drink the black rain as water, whereas the surviving adults we meet obviously can’t & there is a grim scene with bartering between armed children & desperate adults, complete with tainted water being drunk & resulting carnage. Also, there are the occasional urchins who do not mix well when drinking the black water, and as such we get violent deformities & some potentially nasty scenes with further bleak stuff around that.
We get to meet 2 relatively normal surviving adults who are not that recently arrived either – Corinna & Taj. [For anyone who didn’t hear Goodbye Tomorrow, most adults were wiped out by the Black Rain early on & are vulnerable to even the slightest drop] The three of them, plus Sink intervene to prevent the worst outcome of the clash with the violent urchin faction.
Before things escalate too far in the bunker & surrounds with the competing factions etc, there is a break in escalation as it’s noticed that the sun is shining – which it hasn’t done for years. The Black Rain has stopped.
As the people streak out and look to the sky we see things streaking through the atmosphere below the silver pods, some of which thump into the ground about half a mile away. Our first reveal as to what these are comes with a violent urchin gang interaction.. they discover a huge black beast, loosely bipedal but with armour down its back like a beetle, standing on two cloven feet, with bristly hair where there’s no shell armouring. A thin, long, flat head with a large lower jaw and mandibles. Arms sort of like trunks – no discernible bones in them, but prehensile. Like large moving snakes or similar. Think Elephants trunk but perhaps with a different skin covering.
Tom’s group are presented with the corpses as the humans decide what to do with them. There’s discussion of, what are they, where did they come from, what about eating them, are they a threat, is the rain coming back etc. And with this new turn of events Tom, Taj and Corinna are sort of thrust into a position of authority as the disparate groups rally round a bit at this new turn of events.
Act 2 culminates in a little more confrontation between the new alien beasts & the more violent & warped factions of the urchins as the rest of the Corsham people start to find a bit more of a civilised balance now there is a new paradigm.
There’s a lot going on in this act, all of which is do-able in a script, but I just didn’t want to go into huge amounts of detail. But there’s a lot of room for manoeuvre – concentrate more on the adults, the urchins, the water & those dynamics, or more on the beasts or a blend or whatnot.
Act 3 starts with a time-shift forward 5 years. We’re sat with Tom & a small child in a sort of kitchen area whilst the child eats. Tom, looking a little older is explaining things to him: The alien beasts kept coming and coming in greater numbers. After a while they realised the beasts weren’t a threat and so instead they tried to help them survive – in the early days they often didn’t, and not just from urchin killings. One of them, they called Barney, is still going today! …anyway, after some years the beasts were surviving & helping the humans with some menial construction tasks, heavy lifting, ploughing & the like & in return the humans helped the offspring of the beasts survive too – again, for a year or two they were all dying like the adult beasts initially had.
Nowadays the aliens are so successful and plentiful they’ve spread right across all the open space there is, at least as far as anyone has travelled & can see. Barney, he tells the kid, was one of the first to arrive & is still alive, and one of the most placid and friendly of the aliens, he always stays around the base. Watch out though, Tom notes, not everyone is happy with the beasts..
The child is Taj & Corrina’s, as once the sun came out, everyone got a little happy.
Anyway we move on to see the small farming set-up that the humans have created above the bunker (which they couldn’t do during the black rain years), in a small patch of land. All around we can see the beasts grazing, far and wide.. similarly we see humans going about their business, above ground, with exposed skin (though still carrying packs etc).
We catch up with Sink marshalling some workers on the field of produce when a handful of the alien beasts wander onto the field and starts consuming the veg. This causes a fracas with some of the workers and the aliens.
Tom gets called to help prevent any accidents happening however as we get to the scene we see almost a standoff between some of the aliens and the human that had been working the plot. Barney is there too in amongst it all.
One of the humans shouts something about the threat of this beast scum and starts attacking one of the aliens with a spade and it just plucks him off the ground, tears his head off and drops his body. Which shocks everyone.
Corrina & Sink step in to prevent any more confrontation with the beasts & using herding-like gestures get the aliens to back off too. As the groups disband, we see some people remove the corpse of the dead guy and a few of the aliens head over to sniff the ground where it happened.
We get some scenes with Corrina, Taj & Tom where Corinna and Taj explain what they think is a gathering threat of alien beasts, whereas Tom thinks they’re being hysterical and today’s death was no more malevolent than a horse accidentally kicking someone in the head or throwing off a rider. Corrina and Taj are worried about their son & that Tom is being complacent since the sun came out 5 years ago, and the battles they fought just to get to this point weren’t for nothing, but they need to recognise that this isn’t the end of the fight. Tom accuses them of being extremists like the others (there have been others saying similar things).
We get another scene, in the evening, outdoors with Sink & his farm workers again. This time as they’re finishing up for the evening, they see a large group of the beasts gathered around the spot where the person was killed the other day.. they’re increasingly frantic for some reason, and more and more of them are being drawn towards the ever growing group. Explaining to his colleagues that he doesn’t like to see large groups of beasts so close to the bunker (to muttered anti-beast agreement from some), he takes the group over the break them up. We get a frightful scene here where these aliens turn on the humans.. in trying to break them up, the farmers are set upon almost immediately.. lifted, smashed and broken by the brute strength of the prehensile arms, and the sheer scale of these beasts, the still living but immobile humans then each have a trunk applied to an eye socket, and one to the mouth.. we get the impression the eye is sucked out before both the socket and the mouth are injected with a sort of digestive fluid which dissolves them from the inside, and then the trunks just suck in the gooey sustenance.. leaving the skin, clothing, hair and all the annoying bits, lying as husks on the ground.
I reckon you could make that bit pretty horrific, and I think for this movie we should double down on the gore for these bits, given the visceral opening scene. Also the audience deserves the payoff by now.
The film culminates with a scene set the next morning. Tom rises to screams and chaotic sounds, and we’re with him, following him all the way as he puts on some clothes and heads out of the door into one of the bunkers chambers and along the corridors, as he follows the signs of panic.
Corrina passes Tom going the other way, she’s getting out she tells him & she’s gone. It’s a passionate moment but we don’t know why. She fucking hates Tom…
As we all broach the entrance and move into open ground, Tom clambers to the top of the grass hillock that forms part of the entrance to the bunker section of the community, and we get a view across the surrounding fields and hills. As far as the eye can see, surrounding the bunker & ramshackle dwellings around it in every direction, are thousands of the alien beasts, all standing still, all facing towards Tom and the other group of people still standing looking back.
In the foreground are a large number of human husks, spread all around, with the occasional wailing family member pulling at one here and there.
In a beat the entire sea of beasts moves forward towards Tom as he starts to run back towards the bunker.. we see the handful of people that were traversing the husks just obliterated in the melee, trunks applied to eye sockets and bodies dragged behind as they press on..
The film ends with a fleeing Tom getting back into one of the larger chambers of bunker in time to see a familiar dead kid at the feet of Taj & Corrina as they’re both opening cannisters of Black Rain.. Screaming for them not to drink, Tom turns to see the beasts flowing in behind him, Barney front and centre, destroying everything & everyone in their path, and as he looks back he sees Taj & Corrina taking a long drink of Black Rain before a close up of his face and a trunk being applied to an eye socket before the screen goes black.
Quick Note: I took Goodbye Tomorrow & incorporated listener Frank’s feedback into that pitch, to form the sequel. His change to that pitch was that the Black Rain only affected adults
I had the Pilgrim-settlers relationship with the indigenous peoples of north america in my mind when writing it, but ultimately it’s a sort of wider swipe at how living organisms exploit weaker or perceived lesser living organisms, to survive. In this case, the alien beasts are just the next stage of terraforming for this now industrial planet of alien meat. The humans thought they could live in harmony with the beasts, but eventually once the beasts realised they didn’t need them & they could exploit humans for their own ends, in this case food, then that’s what they did. The humans in the scheme of this story framework are so insignificant its laughable. Yet obviously, that’s who we’re following and none of them ever guess they’re just young bugs in a newly fertilised cow enclosure, albeit on a planetary scale.
Goodbye Tomorrow 2