Wednesday, June 17, 2009
THE STORY SO FAR: They just looked like harmless little nubs. Grey knotted lumps that began to sprout from the back of each and every living dog on the planet. So quick and unprecedented was the event that none were prepared when these same nubs gained consciousness; a collective hive-mind that willed the dogs into an Assault on the whole of humanity. And when man met his attackers, vicious and bloodthirsty as they were, he named them Dogriders. There are many tales of calamity and loss surrounding these frightening events, but this particular story is that of Josh, a 27-year-old data entry clerk from Long Island, witness to the eradication of each of his friends, having last been seen swimming into the stormy waters of the Long Island Sound...
CENTRE ISLAND: A grey shoreline. Waters lapping at pale sand. JOSH, 27, lies motionless near the high tide line. His hair is wet and flecked with sand. His clothes are tattered and soaked through. He stirs.
Dizzy from too many hours at sea, he rolls his head around. Sand, trees, and sea, as far as the eye can see. He sits up, regaining his senses. A low growl issues from behind him. He braces for the inevitable, slowly turning to face his fate. A LARGE BROWN DOGRIDER snarls at him.
The beast paces forward, crouching as if ready to pounce.
JOSH: No no NO!
DOGRIDER: BROUF! BROUF! BROUF!
The Dogrider leaps at Josh, ONLY TO BE SNAPPED ASUNDER BY RIFLESHOT.
The Dogrider, dead, lands merciful feet away from a stunned Josh.
SHELMAN (OS): You injured?
FRANK SHELMAN, 32, emerges from the brush, a sniper rifle slung behind his back. His gruff exterior belies a love of adventure and a sardonic outlook on life.
SHELMAN: Did that thing hurt you at all?
JOSH: No, I'm OK... thanks. thank you.
SHELMAN: What's your name?
JOSH: Josh... Josh Wibler.
SHELMAN: You able to walk, Josh?
JOSH: I think so.
SHELMAN: Then let's go. There'll be more where that came from.
FORESTED PATH, SHORTLY LATER: Shelman leads Josh along an otherwise unmarked woodland trail.
SHELMAN: What were you doing all alone out there?
JOSH: I was in the water. Trying to swim away from those... things.
SHELMAN: On your own?
JOSH: I was with my friends. We were trying to find a way off the island but they... they all...
SHELMAN: Alright, OK. It's OK.
They walk for a while in silence, the sounds of the forest murmuring around them.
JOSH: You're one of those paramilitaries aren't you?
SHELMAN: Used to be. Until all this.
JOSH: What about the others? The guys in your unit?
SHELMAN: Ran off, tried to fend for themselves. Most of 'em KIA. Those of us who did stick together, well, you'll see.
JOSH: Where are you taking me anyway?
SHELMAN: We'll head upriver in the airboat.
RIVERSIDE: A marshy stretch of river that feeds into the Sound. A large structure is hidden beneath an olive tarpaulin. Shelman pulls away the tarp to reveal an honest-to-goodness AIRBOAT complete with a giant airplane propellor at the aft.
LAZY RIVER: A winding labyrinth of streams and tributaries. Josh and Shelman whizz along on the airboat, Shelman expertly navigating the maze.
JOSH: Why head North from D.C.? I thought we got hit the worst?
SHELMAN: That's what the media said before lights out. Now it's twice as bad down south. Riders are forming bigger and bigger hunting parties, sometimes hundreds deep. Lucky for us they can't swim as well as when they were, you know, dogs.
JOSH: But why Long Island?
SHELMAN (sarcastic): Always wanted to summer up here.
The airboat cuts a sharp turn into a narrower stream marked by A DOG SKULL ON A PIKE.
MARSHY EXPANSE: The airboat drifts to a stop alongside a GRASSY MOUND. Shelman hops into the knee-deep water as Josh contemplates his disembarkation. Shelman gives him an "are you serious, pussy?" look and then addresses the mound:
SHELMAN: Dader, open up, I got a live one here!
DADER (OS): State the password.
SHELMAN: I told you, we can't have a password in a hi-act area. Strategically, it's bullshit.
DADER (OS): Password, Grunt!
SHELMAN: (exaggerated sigh) Happy Halloween.
A slab of moss opens mouthlike from the mound to reveal DADER, 30's, a lanky gentleman with a sharp face and spiky brown hair.
DADER: Shabat shalom.
SHELMAN: Yeah, OK, hi. Get this guy some water, he's been in the shit.
DADER: What do I look like, the Red Cross?
MAKESHIFT BUNKER: A musty earthen tunnel, peppered with small portholes to the outside world. Spots of sunlight and the orange glow of gas lanterns. Dader and Shelman lead Josh into what looks like a hastily-dug dwelling. 3 or 4 other men are posted along the walls, downtrodden.
DADER: You know I'm not too keen on sharing, rations being what they are.
SHELMAN: Sorry to break your back but he's the first survivor we've seen in a minute. Let's not forget why we signed up for this shit.
DADER: Please show me the part in our contract where wild dogs devour the planet.
SHELMAN: Whatever happened to the overeager piece of shit I followed out of Maryland?
DADER: Look, you wanna babysit Timothy Hutton's balloon sculpture? Be my guest. Matter of fact, put him to work.
Dader tosses A SMALL HATCHET to the ground, which Shelman ignores.
DADER (CONT.): We need more lumber for the south tunnel.
Dader storms off, pushing a clod of dirt off the wall.
JOSH: Who's Timothy Hutton?
SHELMAN: Forget it, kid. Drink this.
He hands Josh a military canteen, of which he drinks deeply.
SHELMAN: You'd think for once people could look beyond their own gripes and try to help each other out.
Josh is silent.
SHELMAN (CONT.): Maybe that's what got us into this. All that hate, greed, selfishness. Maybe it rubbed off on 'em. The dogs. Made 'em change into those things.
JOSH: My dad says it was radiation from space.
SHELMAN: Don't believe everything you hear, kid.
SOLDIER (O.S.): RIDERS!
Shelman snaps alert, approaching the soldier.
SHELMAN: Head count.
SOLDIER: Two of 'em. Scouts.
Shelman takes a furtive glance out one of the root-curtained portholes. Across a marshy stretch, two Dogriders dart over an embankment.
SHELMAN: We gotta take them out commission before they report to Momma. Where's Mills?
MILLS (O.S.): Here, sir!
MILLS, 28, a bespectacled schlub with messy facial hair, waddles up.
SHELMAN: How's your shooting eye?
Mills crosses and uncrosses his eyes, both grossly exaggerated by his lenses.
MILLS: Uhhh, good, sir!
SHELMAN: Alright. Stick your neck out there. If it's just those Scouts, put 'em on ice. Any more than that and you call for back up, understood?
MILLS: Sir, Yes, Sir!
Mills runs back down the corridor, dropping a mag of ammunition on his way.
JOSH: Are we safe in here?
SHELMAN: Until they learn how to dig tunnels.
Shelman grabs a rifle from the wall and aims at Mills. Mills makes his way to the entrance hatch and cautiously pushes it up. He stands halfway exposed at the mouth of the hatch, panning his gun over the landscape. He rests his aim on something neither Josh nor Shelman can see.
MILLS: ... shit.
A DOGRIDER SNAPS AT HIM FROM THE ROOF OF THE MOUND, PULLING ITS SCREAMING PREY OUT OF SIGHT.
He shoots at the entrance, but the bullet just dings the hatch as it snaps shut.
JOSH: Oh, no.
DOGRIDERS (O.S.): BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF!
Pawsteps pad the earthen roof like a violent hailstorm.
SHELMAN: Full auto! We got K9's incoming!
Soldiers hurry along the tunnels, scanning portholes with weaponry at the ready. Barking echoes from every direction. The men take potshots at fleeting shadows on the marsh. Somewhere down the tunnel a man screams. Josh backs against a wall, horrified.
SHELMAN: Where's Dader!? We need everything we've got! More than everything!
Shelman jams his rifle into one of the portholes, unloading round after round into the outside world. Outside, Dogriders swarm amidst the brush. Whatever horde was nearby is now directly upon them.
SOLDIER (O.S.): I'm out! Christ, there's too many!
SHELMAN: Don't let up! We gotta wear 'em down!
DOGRIDERS (O.S.): BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF! BROUF!
SHELMAN: Get some! Get some!
Josh becomes aware of a LOW GROWL emanating from within the tunnel. He looks down a narrow corridor which drops off into darkness. A SHINY SNOUT begins to emerge from the shadows, bearing VICIOUS PINK FANGS. A DOGRIDER IS INSIDE THE BUNKER.
DOGRIDER: GrrrrrrrrrrrBROUF! BROUF! BROUF!
Shelman spins around just as THE DOGRIDER LUNGES FOR HIM. He holds his rifle sideways as the Dogrider clamps its wicked maw around it, knocking them both to the ground. In the struggle, a gas lantern is knocked to the ground, spreading liquid fuel across the ground. FLAMES RISE UP AROUND THEM AS SHELMAN WRESTLES THE HELLISH CREATURE.
SHELMAN: Ack! God DAMN YOU!
The Dogrider's teeth remain fixed to the rifle as Shelman tries to jar it loose. Josh backs against the wall as flames further separate him from Shelman's struggle.
SHELMAN: Kid! Get outta here! Go!
The Dogrider leans in with the brunt of its strength, its dripping fangs mere inches from Shelman's face. Shelman stares right into its murderous eyes.
SHELMAN: I'll be waiting for you in hell, you son of a-
The rifle SNAPS IN TWINE as the Dogrider chomps through steel and oak. Shelman screams as HIS THROAT AND FACE ARE RIPPED APART. The fire, now somehow raging throughout the corridor, casts nightmarish shadows of the feasting monster. As the Dogrider claims the life of its latest victim, it turns to face Josh... ONLY TO RECEIVE A HATCHET-STRIKE DIRECTLY TO ITS NUB.
Josh withdraws the hatchet and STRIKES AGAIN, HIS FACE ALIGHT WITH NEWFOUND VIGOR AND RESILIENCE!
NUB: EEEEEH! EEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHH!!
The dog twitches as its nub bleeds viscuous black death. By the time he's finished chopping, Josh is splattered with the stuff, completely exasperated.
JOSH: Hahhh... huuhhhh.. hohh.
Shelman coughs through a gurgle of blood.
JOSH: Frank! Can you hear me!?
SHELMAN: Ruh... rock and roll, kid.
Shelman breathes his last and is still. Already separated from his newfound friend, Josh is awash with swirling emotion. All around him, the fire continues to grow, climbing dirt walls that are for some reason highly flammable.
DADER (O.S): You.
Josh whips around to see a bruised and battered Dader carrying A HIGH-CALIBER MACHINE GUN.
DADER (CONT.): You led them right to us.
DADER: We were safe here. We had a plan. Shelman. He wasn't supposed to die.
JOSH: I... I tried to save him.
DADER: You BROUGHT THIS UPON US!
He levels the gun at Josh.
DADER: Oh, but I'm not gonna let you fuck this over any more, no. You think you can waltz in here, kill my men, burn my base to the ground. You have the audacity to-
A GIANT WHITE DOGRIDER (eerily similar to the one that ate Nick in part 2) LEAPS FROM THE SHADOWS, POUNCING DADER.
DOGRIDER: BROUF! BROUF! BROUF!
Josh staggers backwards as Dader and the Dogrider tussle amidst the inferno.
DADER: Hagh! Aeeyagh!
Dader is SLAMMED into a dirt wall. The combined force of the impact and the hungry flames triggers a chain reaction. Massive columns of dirt begin to collapse around them. Dirt and mud fall in sheets along the corridor. Terrified, Josh backs into a corner of the room. As he crouches defensively, THE ENTIRE CEILING COLLAPSES IN A BLANKET OF SUFFOCATING DARKNESS.
(end part 3)
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I am not a man of great accomplishments. I have made modest steps forward in life and celebrated personal victories on a very respectful scale. I have not accomplished as much as others in similar shoes but I have filled my life with enough appreciable moments so as to achieve at least a balanced sense of self-worth. When it comes to recreational activities, this ideology remains. My victories are spread out among a sea of mediocrity. Today, however, was a day of victories. Recreational victories.
It being a weekend, and a nice one at that, a decision was made among friends to engage in recreational activities at a local park. Following the acquisition of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches and large half-n-halfs (lemonade & iced tea), a game of bocce was embarked upon. It was myself against Billy "The Kid" Marsalise, with the winner going on to face Greg "The General" Reihing. Each round was an exacting struggle, with the pallino being knocked about the court in strategic warfare. Rains had come through the night before, while Billy and I were still just a couple of bros dancing around at a Phish concert. As a result, the court was smoother than expected and ball friction and drag was greatly reduced. Thanks to a few key throws that posited my balls just inches closer than The Kid's, I was able to win the first match.
Next came The General, and with him a brutal new form of strategy. The "bocce-ing" of the opponent's balls away from the pallino with a well placed throw became the attack-du-jour of this match. Just when it seemed a victor had been decided, a new ball came smashing into play, upsetting the entire playing field and drastically reallocating points. Despite an almost insurmountable lead by The General, I was able to rally my bocce skills and smash his balls into next weekend, removing his skillfully placed throws from their intended targets. This second victory propelled us into the final round, in which I would once more take on Billy The Kid.
All the previous experiences of the past two matches came into play for this final showdown. The finesse of every shot, the manipulation of the pallino, and yes, the bocceing of the opponent's balls. It was another close match, but thanks to some unforeseen luck and an almost preternatural sense of the game, I was able to cement a 3-match victory over both my opponents.
This recreational domination carried over to J.T. Carrington's Bar in Huntington Village, where a game of Cricket (the darts game) raged amidst the 80's classics of possibly the best DJ on Long Island. This time I was teamed up with Billy The Kid, but old grudges were set aside in pursuit of new glories. And glories there were, as we steadily worked our way through each of the numbers magic-markered onto the whiteboard, finally cinching the victory with a few well-placed bullseyes from yours truly.
Even in the post-alcoholic return to the bocce courts, I tasted the sweet nectars of ball victory. Out of a humble track record I emerged with winning skills and visionary determination, winning two more highly competitive matches. It was perhaps the my finest showing at any recreational event. Even though I lost in an end-of-the-night showdown with Billy The Kid, my overall achievements for the day were more than enough to represent a personal goal, a victory among a sea of mediocrity. Even though I may never again enact so pristine a performance in a single day of recreational activities, I can always look back on this sunny June day and know that, for a magical handful of hours, I was the King of Recreation.