Episode 17: Nuckleavee Country
Host Jon's notes from his Episode 17 pitch - SEQUEL to Dave's Episode #4 pitch 'A Long Way From God':
We pan across a blood splattered stone floor, a child’s arm hints at a body out of shot. In the corner is a man in a tattered shirt and trousers. His arms are soaked with blood and gore but we cannot see his face. His body shakes with sobs that turn to growls as he lifts his head. His beard and mouth are caked in blood but the shadows hide his eyes, wet streaks of tears glint in a flickering candle light. He brings one of his wrists up to his mouth, and bits deeply in to it. Arterial blood visibly pumps in to his mouth and the excess further soaks his face. He raises his face further with his own wrist still clamped in his mouth. His eyes are empty sockets with unnatural pin pricks of light within them. He gluttonously feeds upon himself. We cut to a hulking blue cloaked figure shuffling from the property in to the dark night.
The year is 1847 and the potato blight is decimating the crops of the western highlands. We focus on a village on the River Shiel, where the inhabitants are struggling to feed their livestock. Wheezing and sickly animals wander aimlessly in their pens as the villagers try to make their meagre supplies stretch to feed themselves as well as their animals. We see most of this through the eyes of our protagonist Patrick who runs a sheep farm just on the edge of the village. He is in his late twenties and a widower. He is trusted by many including the head of the village, Kaden who is informal with the villagers but clearly the head authority. Kaden informs Patrick that a visitor passing through has told him that the British are marching through the area, forcing people out of their homes and towards the cities for relief. They discuss whether such a thing would be best for the people there even if it means the end of the village.
Act 1 ends with one of the older farmers tending the few animals he still has left. He is an elderly man, worryingly thin and is tearful as he cleans out the almost empty barn. In the fading light, we see the scattering of plants at his feet begin to wilt and a flat silence falls on the scene. Night falls unnatural fast as the farmer closes the door of the barn and move closer to the animals. He is unnerved but is not sure by what exactly. Darkness seems to creep in to the barn despite the closed door and numerous hanging lamps. The cows’ weakly turn their milky gaze to the barn door as it slowly opens. A large copper colour skeletal hand grips the inside of the barn at an unnatural height. A voice croaks from the doorway “FEAST, FEAST UNTIL NOTHING REMAINS”. The farmer grabs a shovel and calls out to whoever there to stop fucking around else he won’t be responsible for what he does. At this the barn door is torn open, revealing a bottomless darkness. The farmer steps forwards slowly as the cows begin to bray and shuffle in unrest. He stops a few feet from the doorway, a voice booms from the void “MINE” and a large shape smashes through the doorway and grabs the farmer. We cut to the milky eyes of the cows as the farmer’s screams turn to guttural roars.
Act 2 begins with a small platoon of red coated British soldiers arrive at the village. At their head is 2nd Lieutenant Spencer, who is barely 25 and tries to implore Kaden that they need to abandon their village else they will all starve. Most within the village are openly hostile to the soldiers as they know why they are there. The soldiers are mostly all very young men and wholly unsuited to the challenges of the Scottish Highlands. A few of the men already seem sick from the cold and the damp, this is a grim assignment for them. Patrick listens silently to Spencer’s pitch before asking him what will happen if they refuse. They are only too aware of the tactics being used in other towns across the highlands to move people. Spencer mutters that he would never do anything like that but cannot promise that someone else wouldn’t. Kaden respects his honesty and says that the best he can do is to allow the villagers to decide together.
Kaden asks Patrick to go to the outlying farms to tell everyone that they need to have a village meeting to hear Spencer out. Spencer sends his most senior man Corporal Poole (Pertwee) to accompany him as to show the seriousness of the situation. Kaden nods to Patrick that that would be fine. Poole seems a decent guy as him and Patrick soon become friendly enough as they do their rounds. It is during the afternoon that they come upon the homestead of the old farmer. Patrick says that Poole should step back for a minute as Mister Bara is a little isolated out here and not the friendliest sort. After a getting no answer at the house, Patrick goes to the barn to find Bara. Immediately he sees the ruined doorway as the wood is shattered and the doors have been removed. Inside he sees a few ruined carcasses, but no Mister Bara. He turns and shouts to Poole to come over, as he does one of the blooded cow bodies shifts and moves behind him. Patrick turns to see the old farmer, naked and streak with stains rise to standing. He giggles and drops a cow’s head to the floor. As the old man turns to face Patrick, Poole arrives and falls back in shock. Bara’s eyes have gone and have been replaced by blackened pits, with a glinting light just visible within them.
“Oh ye better be ready for what’s coming, boys!” Bara snickers through his broken and bloody mouth, “For when He returns, he is going to be famished. Oh boys, you cannot believe how tasty you look!”
Bara false starts at the two men, causing Poole to unshoulder his rifle, but before he can bring to bear, Bara scampers across the floor in to the shadows. His limps move unnaturally as he seems to collapse himself to squeeze below the boards and escapes the barn. Poole lets off one shot which thuds harmlessly in to a hunk of meat.
The two men, obviously shaken and confused, head back towards the village. Poole bombards Patrick with questions, but Patrick insists that he cannot understand what just happened any more than him. Bara was a quiet, salty old sort but a good farmer with a steady head. The famine isn’t the first hardship he has endured, so what just happened makes no sense.
We cut to a family who live on a farm a small distance from the village. They discuss the visit they had had that day from Patrick and some English soldier. They hurry down the rough paths as they do not what to miss the big meeting. The wife is carrying one small child and holding the hand of another. All three are distressed about the possibility of having to leave their home, but the children especially are thin and gaunt. The father strides off ahead talking to his eldest daughter Ailie about how they may not have much choice. He says that they are lucky to have held on to their home for this long, but with the blight maybe it is time to go. He is already painfully aware of the pale sickliness of his children and his wife. During this conversation the sky darkens, Ailie stops for a moment saying that it shouldn’t be this dark, not yet. Her father agrees and turns to hurry his wife and children along but they are no longer behind them. He and Ailie begin to call out in panic, questioning how far behind they can be. Out of the gloom, we see the silhouette of one of the children as it slowly moves towards them. Light glints from the child’s eyes as it gets closer. The father starts to move towards the child as something large moves off to the side of the path, shaking the trees and snapping branches. Ailie calls out to her father as huge blue cloaked shape smashes across the path, taking her father with it. Her young sibling continues to calmly walk towards her, its eyes shining in the darkness. Ailie sees that the child appears monstrous as its jaw swings uselessly from its ruined face. Thick blood pumps down the child’s skeletal bare chest and a soggy chuckle
emanates from its ruined throat. Ailie screams and runs towards the village as other shapes move in the darkness, their presence shown by their glinting eyes.
We cut back to Patrick with Poole arguing with Kaden that something happened at Bara’s farm, although they struggle to really describe what occurred. Kaden agrees that they should go and check it out together, despite the dwindling light. Patrick insists that Kaden and he arm themselves; Kaden reluctantly agrees to take pikes. Spencer also decides that he and a large portion of his men go with them to verify what Poole has said and to ensure everyone’s safety. The group sets off leaving the villagers to congregate around the central church with a handful of soldiers also present. The sky is already beginning to darken as dusk approaches.
The soldiers march as the two local men led the way; darkness has fallen remarkably fast now. All the men are increasingly tense as their visibility has almost totally gone. Their lanterns flick a useless glow over them. It is during this that Ailie crashes down the path, absolutely terrified. During her panicked telling of what happened to her family, musket shots ring out through the darkness. Spencer immediately orders his men to return back to the village. Kaden is confused and worried as Patrick and Poole discuss the possibility that Bara has returned to the village to cause harm. The shaken Ailie sticks close to Patrick as they return home.
They find an eerily silent village where all the front doors of the home swing open. Spencer tells a couple of troops to sweep the buildings as they advance towards the church. The centre of the village with the church lays ahead in complete darkness as all lanterns and candles seem to be extinguished. As they get closer one of the hanging lights bursts in to life, illuminating the large clocked figure of the Nuckelavee. The light dances over its blue cloak as it sits motionless, its hood pulled over so they cannot see its face. Kaden calls out for the villagers and moves ahead of the group. Spencer orders the soldiers to form up in to two lines.
The large shape begins to rise to a standing position, its huge size becoming clear, and the blue cloak retreats in to the night revealing its form. At first glance it appears to be a skinless rider atop a huge horse, but the man and horse are all one, with the skinless male body growing from the creature’s back. Ill-proportioned arms hang from the human torso where they end in skeletal almost elegant fingers. Taut uncovered muscles move on the horse body as it trots towards the amassed villagers and soldiers. The skinless beast has a coppery hue in the lantern light, and warm breathe hangs in the air around the eyeless horses skull. Across the human chest, an old leather satchel sways with the movement of the beast. The head of the rider is almost bisected by the mocking grin of its cavernous mouth. Bloodless cartilage tenses to hold its face in a rictus expression of cruel joy. A spitting fire flickers in the black pits of its eyes. As it moves, the glinting eyes of its creations twinkled around it like stars. Overhead, lanterns splutter in to life, revealing the ruined and blood-soaked doorway of the church, hinting at the horrors that just happened there.
Panic takes hold of the soldiers as they lower arms in terror. Only Poole lets off a shot which goes wide. This rouses Spencer who orders his men to fire a volley at the creature and its horde. As they fire a round, the horse creature rears upon its gigantic hind legs and the ruined human figures around it surge forward. The pellets tear chucks off the advancing horde and some fall broken to the floor. The first line of soldiers kneels and reloads whilst the second line release another volley, again ripping in to the creatures but to little success. As the monsters close distance to the soldiers, Kaden, Patrick and the villagers step forward with their weapons. As the grotesque creatures fall upon the
defenders, Ailie sees her father and screams angrily at his now corrupted form. The Nuckelavee’s creatures rush the survivors and bloody fighting ensues. The creatures’ skit and crawl across rooftops to gain advantage over the troops who with their bayonets and muskets put up a valiant defence. Kaden manages to face the Nucklelavee and swings at it with his pike; the creature catches the weapon with one of its pendulous arms and snatches the man with the other. It lifts Kaden to its grinning mouth and breathes out a wave of heat that strips the flesh from the man’s face. As it does this, Ailie grabs the discarded pike and swipes at the torso, cutting the strap of the leather satchel. Scores of eyes tumbled from the bag as the Nuckelavee rears back in surprise, dropping Kaden’s body. In its shock, it tramples and burst many of the eyes that have fallen to ground. It turns to Ailie, its mouth now a mask of fury. Patrick moves alongside the creature and with his sabre he scores a gash along its flank. This causes it to flail its gigantic arms which smash Patrick aside. It rears up and slams both legs down towards Ailie, who tries to move out of the way but her arm is brutally ruined in the process. The Nuckelavee roars in frustration and the surviving soldiers advance on it. Most of the glinting eye figures have retreated away from the fight. Some lay lifeless on the ground amongst the bodies of dead villagers and soldiers. Musket shot slams in to its skinless body as it tries to scoop up the eyes from the floor, but so many of them run through its bony fingers like raw egg.
“MINE! MINE! HOW DARE YOU TAKE MINE AWAY FROM ME! HOW DARE YOU”, it screams. But it is already retreating as the defenders push it back with their weapons. Soon it gallops off in to the dark and the last glinting eye winks out in its wake.
We end on the couple of surviving soldiers helping the wounded and piling the dead. Patrick is wounded but alright. He tells Spencer that this is their country and they have bled too much for it to just leave it behind for that creature to return. It is a blight that must be stopped as no one else cares about this land but them. He does ask that the platoon burn this accursed place to the ground, while he buries the dead. Poole sits by the badly injured Ailie and tells her that they probably will not be able to save the arm. Ailie can barely hear him as she stares in to the darkness after the Nuckelavee, her other hand clutching a sabre with white knuckles.