To get my writing back on track, I signed up for NYC Midnight’s Screenwriting challenge. Unlike fiction, if the camera can’t see it, you don’t write it. I find it a nice change of pace to participate. As always with NYC Midnight, they provide the genre, etc. This time my draw was ghost story/maternal/mortician.
When Nina brings a memorial diamond into the Death Museum, Percy knows she needs to investigate the mysterious happenings that are tied to the jewel.
EXT. DEATH MUSEUM – DAY
NINA DAVIS stands outside an old Victorian home with faded shutters and paint that is starting to peel. A large black sign with white lettering rests atop the door announcing Death Museum – Open Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Nina opens her purse and pulls out a black velvet bag. She clutches it tightly before opening the door to the museum. A small bell jangles as the door opens and closes.
INT. DEATH MUSEUM – CONTINUOUS
PERSEPHONE “PERCY” ALLEN, owner and operator of the museum sits behind an antique desk reading Medieval Funeral Practices. She looks up as Nina enters.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the one and only Death Museum, home to the commonplace, the bizarre, and the eclectic. We have artifacts related to death and funerals with an occasional nod to Spiritualism thrown in for good measure. Tickets are ten dollars and tours are self- guided. Ticket for one?
Nina looks around furtively. No one else is in the museum.
Are you Persephone Allen? I need your help.
Certainly. We strive for excellent customer service here at the Death-
Listen, I’m not here about the museum. I need your professional expertise. A friend told me Persephone Allen is the closest thing to an expert on the supernatural and occult in the area. Is that you?
Percy straightens up at the compliment and looks pleased.
An expert, huh? Yeah. I know things. Growing up in a funeral home fostered an unhealthy preoccupation with things that might go bump in the night. I go by Percy, by the way, not Persephone. The whole goddess of the underworld moniker tends to scare off prospective boyfriends. And you are?
Nina thrusts the velvet bag at Percy.
Nina Davis. Here. I picked this up at a flea market. Even though it isn’t exactly my taste, I felt oddly compelled to buy it. Ever since…well, strange things have been happening at my house.
Percy takes the bag from Nina. She opens it and a diamond solitaire necklace in a dramatic white gold setting drops into her hand. She picks up the diamond and holds it up to the light.
Hold on. I need to grab something.
Percy opens a drawer and pulls out a jeweler’s loupe. She picks up the necklace and looks at it closely with the loupe.
Hmmm…just what I thought. (Percy removes the loupe and looks at Nina)
The diamond in this necklace is made from cremains.
Nina steps back from the desk, a look of revulsion on her face.
Are you kidding me? I’ve had a dead person’s ashes hanging from my neck? I think I’m going to be sick!
Nina makes a small gagging noise. Percy, looking amused, nudges the trash can next to her desk closer to Nina.
It’s really not a dead person anymore. It’s a manufactured diamond. The difference between memorial diamonds and other manufactured gems is the carbon for this one comes from a loved one’s ashes.
But why? Why would someone turn their loved one into a necklace? Why not just bury them like a normal person?
Percy chuckles and walks out from behind the desk to stand next to Nina.
Why? Personally, I think it’s sweet and smart. You have grandma made into a necklace, then you don’t feel obligated to place flowers at her grave every holiday. No worries about vandals on Halloween, or concerns about the cemetery being relocated for a new strip mall.
I guess. It seems weird to me, but now that you put it like that, I can see why it might appeal to someone. Can I ask you a question? Why a death museum? It seems an odd choice for a…for a…
For a girl? Well, this used to be our funeral home business. We lived upstairs. I went to school to be a mortician and was all set to take over when one of those chain funeral homes opened up a few miles from here. Fancy coffins, fancy hearses, we couldn’t compete. Dad died a few years ago, and mom decided to pack up and move to Florida. Gave the business over to me, and I decided a death museum would be more profitable and fun.
Interesting lateral career move.
Anyway,enough about me. You said strange things have been happening since you bought this necklace?
Doors opening and closing on their own. Whispering. My mother keeps staring at the corner of her bed and carrying on a conversation with someone who isn’t there. She’s only sixty-five and until now, I thought she still had all her faculties even after her stroke. Now, I’m not so sure. It all started the night I brought the necklace home.
Are you doing anything this evening? I’d like to bring some equipment with me and observe what’s going on in your home if that’s okay with you? I can come by right after the museum closes.
No charge. I’m dying to see if you have an actual artifact haunting.
Sorry. No pun intended.
Okay, but haunted or not, I definitely want to rid myself of this necklace now that I know it’s a dead person.
INT. NINA’S LIVING ROOM – EVENING
Percy, Nina, and Nina’s mother, GLADYS, sit in the living room. It is filled with chintz-covered chairs and an overstuffed sofa in a hideous pattern of red and green plaid. Victorian-style lamps do little to light the room. Several china statues of English Springer Spaniels dot the room on various small tables. It looks dark and oppressive.
The velvet bag containing the diamond necklace is in the center of a large coffee table that dominates the space between the chairs and sofa.
Percy looks around and spots a stuffed fox with a duck in its mouth. A mounted elk head stares down at the assembled women. Percy shudders. Nina notices and gives a small smile of understanding.
Thanks for coming. As you can see, my dad was quite the enthusiastic hunter. He would hunt anything as long as it moved.
Yes, Everett loved hunting things. Why I remember back when we were first married, he took me hunting for small prey. Like scared rabbits. It was quite the honeymoon.
Nina rolls her eyes at Percy.
Daddy was always a romantic. Are you okay to get yourself ready for bed or do you need my help?
Nina touches her mother’s arm.
(slaps Nina’s hand away) Don’t fuss.
Gladys stands up and wobbles a little. Nina leaps to her feet and pulls a walker from the corner. She makes sure her mother has a tight grip on it. Gladys slowly makes her way out of the living room and down the darkened hallway.
Your mother doesn’t seem like she’s suffering from dementia, but I’m not a doctor. You say that she talks to someone at night?
Yes. At 8:42 every evening, everything starts going crazy here in the house.
Nina picks up the velvet bag and pulls the necklace out. She lays it in the center of the table.
If it’s okay with you, I want to get my recorder and cameras out and ready to go before the witching hour of 8:42.
Percy pulls out a digital recorder and a video camera from a bag she has at her feet. Percy starts the digital recorder and sets it in the middle of the table by the necklace.
The door on the far side of the living room slowly creaks open. Percy’s eyes widen and she whips the camera up to start recording.
(checks her watch)
8:42 exactly. If nothing else, our ghost is punctual.
Yeah. I hate a haunting that starts late.
Percy leans down to make sure the recorder is on.
Is anyone here with us tonight? (Waits a moment)
Anyone here who wishes to speak to us? Someone who is tied to this necklace?
The door slams shut so hard that one of the china spaniels falls to the ground and shatters.
(frightened) It’s here.
Percy gives her a wide smile and a thumb’s up. She aims her camera at the closed door and walks towards it.
You’ve got my attention. Why are you here?
Air ruffles Percy’s hair. She reaches out to smooth it down, but jerks her hand back.
Nina’s breath comes out in smoky puffs because the temperature has dropped rapidly.
Nothing. I just thought I felt someone touching me.
A murmur of voices comes from the hallway. It is clearly two voices. One of them is Gladys’s. The other voice is clearly masculine.
Nina scurries up from her seat and dashes down the hallway towards her mother’s room. Percy is close behind her with the camera in her hand.
INT. HALLWAY OUTSIDE OF GLADYS’S BEDROOM – MOMENTS LATER
Nina grabs the doorknob to open the door. She screams and pulls her hand back. An angry red blister in the shape of the handle is branded on her palm. She bangs on the door.
Mama! Let me in!
Percy comes up behind her. She puts the camera down.
Let me try.
Percy knocks on the door then grabs the doorknob. It doesn’t turn. She slams her shoulder against the door. It crashes open as if it was never closed. Percy tumbles to the ground.
INT. GLADYS’S BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS
Gladys sits in her bed under the covers. She turns and gives Percy a ghastly smile.
Hello, dear. Are you one of Everett’s girls? He does like them young and pretty.
Gladys turns back to look at the end of the bed. Her eyes roll back in her head then turn a milky white.
Everett, I told you not to bring them to the house.
Home and play should always be separate. You promised. Think of Nina.
A horrifying man’s laugh echoes loudly across the room. The lights flicker. An unseen hand pushes Percy backwards. She tumbles out of the door into Nina. The door slams shut. Nina and Percy stand up, but despite repeated efforts, they are unable to reopen the door.
I don’t know how to say this, but your mom seemed to be talking to the ghost of your father. He didn’t seem like a friendly ghost at all. Are you sure that everything started when you brought the necklace home?
Definitely. My father died six months ago. I moved back home to take care of my mom two months ago after her stroke. As far as I know, nothing weird happened until I bought the necklace. If it had, I honestly wouldn’t know. I haven’t been home in a long time. Things between my parents and me were…well, strained.
The door at the end of the hallway opens. A set of stairs is visible.
(whispering) Follow me.
Percy picks up her discarded video camera and walks down the hallway to the open door. She turns back to look at Nina.
What’s up here?
It’s the attic. I wasn’t allowed up there. It’s where my dad kept his guns. He whipped me with a belt the one time I disobeyed him. I haven’t been up in the attic since I was eight.
Percy slowly walks through the door and starts up the stairs. Nina reluctantly follows.
Nina reaches up and pulls a chain. A single bulb illuminates the space. The attic is dusty and filled with boxes, old furniture, and several gun safes. A mouse scurries out from a box overflowing with papers.
A breeze ripples the papers and scatters them across the attic. Several newspaper clippings now litter the floor.
Find who? Who do you want us to find?
This is freaking me out. I’m getting Mom and taking her to a hotel room for the night. Take the necklace. I don’t need to know what’s going on. I just want it to stop.
Nina turns to leave, but a dark mass forms in the air and flies across the room. It enters Nina’s body through her mouth and nose. Nina, no longer in control of her body, turns stiffly and points to one of the newspaper clippings that has landed at Percy’s feet.
Percy leans down and picks it up. She reads the clipping.
Oh, shit! You need to see this.
Nina’s eyes are wide and unblinking. She opens her mouth to speak, but instead emits a gut-wrenching scream. The black mass flies out of her body. For a moment, it becomes the shape of an older woman with a kind face. Tears run down her cheeks. She points to the corner.
Nina goes silent and collapses to the ground. She begins to sob.
Percy runs over to Nina and drops to the ground next to her.
Nina? What’s wrong? What’s going on?
Nina doesn’t speak. Instead, she crawls over to a large green military footlocker in the corner where the ghost had pointed. The name Davis is stenciled on the outside. She fumbles to open it, but it’s padlocked.
Nina drags herself up and grabs a golf club from a set laying nearby. She hammers at the lock with the club.
You son of a bitch. You sorry worthless son of a bitch. I knew it. I knew you were evil.
Percy grabs the club from Nina. Percy lifts it and gives the lock a hard whack. The lock breaks. Percy slowly opens the lid.
EXT. NINA’S HOUSE – LATER
Two police cars are parked outside on the street with their blue lights flashing. A coroner’s van is in the yard. An ambulance is parked in the driveway. Crime scene tape is strung across the yard preventing nosy, pajama-clad neighbors from moving in for a closer look.
Two EMTs roll a gurney out the front door with the sheet pulled up over the body. They load it into the ambulance.
Nina sees the gurney and lets out a small sob. Percy huddles by Nina.
DETECTIVE JON STABLE stands next to the women, a notepad in his hand.
The three of them watch as a second gurney is trundled out of the house with a black body bag on top.
Miss Davis, you had no idea there was a dead body in your attic all these years?
Nina shudders and Percy gives her a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
No. I left home the day I graduated from high school. To be honest, I didn’t have the best relationship with my parents.
When I lived at home, I wasn’t allowed in the attic because my father stored his guns there.
He jots a few words.
And what made you want to open the trunk on a Saturday night after all these years? Any reason you went snooping around?
Nina opens her mouth then shuts it.
Actually, it was my idea. I run the Death Museum here in town. You’ve heard of it, right?
The detective curls his lip in distaste. He nods.
Nina thought her dad might have collected a few artifacts when he was stationed overseas with the military. She invited me to come over and go through stuff.
The detective raises a brow in skepticism. He snaps his notepad shut.
I guess that’s all I need to know for now. I’ll need you both down at the station tomorrow morning at eight sharp to make a formal statement. Miss Davis, my condolences. The shock of a corpse in the house must have been too much for her heart.
INT. DEATH MUSEUM – SEVERAL DAYS LATER
Nina walks in and drops the black velvet bag onto Percy’s desk.
You keep it. I never want to see it again.
Percy opens up the bag and pulls the necklace out. She lays it on top of her desk.
I saw everything. It was like a movie inside of my mind. My father. The girl. The horrible things he did to her. The worst thing is my mother knew. She knew and let it happen.
Nina covers her face with her hands.
You need to see something.
Percy opens the desk drawer and pulls out a yellow scrap of newspaper and hands it to Nina.
Twenty-five-year-old Amber Whitaker went missing Saturday night after finishing her shift as a bartender at Faster Pussycat at eight o’clock. Reported missing by her roommate when she failed to return to their apartment after three days, Miss Whitaker was last seen wearing blue jean shorts, a cropped red top, and white cowboy boots.
Her father said, “Amber wears a piece of her mama around her neck. It’s her good luck charm. I’m hoping her mama’s spirit will help bring my little girl home.”
Nina looks at the photograph that accompanies the article.
Oh my god! It’s the necklace! How in the world did it end up at a flea market?
Percy picks up the necklace and lets it spin in the sunlight shining through the front window.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Nina.