The day job has been keeping me far too busy lately. I have a bit of breather today, but no time to write a substantial post, so I thought I’d dip into the archives and post an excerpt from a sci-fi screen play I wrote years ago called Unexplained Phenomenon.
I wrote the first draft back in 1996 and a agent shopped it unsuccessfully for a year before letting it drop. I’ve revised it a few times over the years, the last time in 2008.
Below is a quick description of the story and the first few teaser scenes. If it seems like something you might want to read, you can download a PDF of the full Unexplained Phenomenon screenplay.
Unexplained Phenomenon Synopsis:
Science reporter Ian Banks is assigned to investigate the strange formations that have been appearing around the world: Complex geometric patterns that appear everywhere from freshly fallen snow and living forests to polished rock on the face of mountains to a strange monument that people have spontaneously begun to build in the fields of Iowa.
A mysterious admirer sends him information proving that the U.S. government is not only communicating with whoever is responsible for the formations, but that a secret agency has initiated a series of events it cannot control and which will climax with a world altering impact within days.
Soon, Ian and a professor of modern mythology he inadvertently involves, Elizabeth Carson, set out to find the meaning of the formations while eluding the government agents who desperately want to silence him before he can reveal what is really happening.
Unexplained Phenomenon Excerpt:
EXT. FIELD IN KANSAS- DAY
TITLES: “KANSAS, THE UNITED STATES”
The noonday sun beats down as a large John Deere tractor pulls a plow through the field, turning over rows of earth.
A small, wiry FARMER in his fifties sits in the cab of the tractor singing along with a Johnny Cash song on the radio. The tractor suddenly stops and the Farmer lurches forward, his foot sliding off the accelerator.
The tires of the tractor spin in place for a moment and then come to a halt as the Farmer pulls the hand break and steps down from the cab. Cursing under his breath, the Farmer walks back to examine the plow, finding it bent and twisted where it has made contact with a large piece of rock.
The Farmer looks closer and sees that the large slab of rock that has damaged his plow has been pulled away from a wide opening in the earth. He bends down and peers into the hole.
INT. CAVERN BENEATH THE FIELDS- DAY
Light streams into the large cavern from a hole above a sloping set of crude stairs. The beam of a flashlight sweeps through the darkness as the Farmer descends into the cavern, slowly navigating his way down the dust-laden stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs the Farmer pauses, aiming his flashlight around the interior of the cavern. There are several solid stone support beams at regular intervals throughout the space, each covered with a series of strange symbols and pictograms. He walks forward carefully, the beam of the flashlight moving back and forth. The beam of light stops as the Farmer freezes and gasps.
What the hell…?
There in the glow of the Farmer’s flashlight stands a large metal disk some ten feet wide and two feet thick, its smooth polished surface reflecting shards of light throughout the cavern. The surface of the disk is covered in strange symbols that spiral around its edges and in toward the center where there is single pictogram-like image engraved.
Well, I’ll be damned.
The Farmer steps forward and examines the disk more closely. Licking his lips he reaches out a hand and places it on the surface of the metal disk. He jumps and suddenly snaps his hand back, as though receiving an electric shock.
What the… Jesus!
As the farmer watches the symbols on the metal disk begin to move, and to change, and to glow from within. The glow from the shifting symbols on the disk grows in intensity blasting a blazing light over the Farmer and the cavern, suffusing everything in a brilliant white radiance.
FADE TO WHITE:
FADE IN FROM WHITE:
EXT. WHEAT FIELD IN KANSAS- SUNRISE
The rising sun lends a deep golden glow to the large wheat field.
TITLES: “Two Years Later”
A farmer comes striding through the wheat toward a barn that sits in the middle of the field. He is an older, heavyset man who is beginning to bald and his walk from the farmhouse in the distance has caused a sheen of sweat to bead on his forehead. His name is ROBERT BLOCK. He pulls out a red bandanna and wipes his brow as he reaches the barn.
INT. BARN- MORNING
Robert opens the door to the barn and steps inside. The barn looks like most barns; dusty, dirty and filled with farming equipment. A ten feet into the barn there is a wall with another door. Robert walks to the second door leaning to peer into a knothole in the wallboard. A thin line of blue light scans his retina and the second door swings open slightly.
INT. RESEARCH BARN- MORNING
Robert steps into a brightly lit barn filled with computers, desks, tables, scientific equipment, and a staff of researchers. The barn had been built over the underground cavern. The stone roof of the cavern has been removed and covered with glass. Beneath the glass the large metal disk can be seen, the symbols on it glowing faintly, shifting and changing slowly in a constant inward spiral.
In front of the disk a dark haired young woman named GINA sits cross-legged on the ground in a meditative pose, her eyes open as she stares at the shifting symbols; especially the one in the center. Though it is different than the symbol that was in the center when the Farmer found it, it is the only one that does not change.
The symbols are pictographic-geometric forms of an exceedingly complex yet fluid and beautiful nature. They seem to emerge from some ancient and long forgotten region of the collective unconscious; immediately alien, but somehow intimately familiar.
Robert walks through the room to a bank of computers where a woman and man sit. They are RESEARCHER ONE and RESEARCHER TWO respectively. The screens in front of them are filled with different views and readings of the disk and Gina.
What do you have for me?
I’m down loading the satellite pics of this morning’s symbols right now.
I have several satellite pics of occurrences from today in England, China, and the West Coast.
Let’s see them.
Researcher Two taps his keypad and several screens are filled with identical symbol formations all seen from satellite photos taken 150 miles above the Earth. The first symbol formation is outlined with ripe golden stalks in a field of young, green wheat. The second is created from a large swath of green algae on the China Sea. And the final symbol formation is composed of some sixty humpbacked whales lazily floating in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Gina’s been fixed on this one for the last eight hours.
Researcher One gestures to her screen indicating that all three symbol formations from around the world are identical to the symbol in the center of the metal disk.
How is she doing?
She’s been up all night, but her numbers are all in the green.
Tell her to take a break. Give her a day or two off. Tell Richard he’s up next.
His symbols are always so much less interesting. More masculine. Hard.
I don’t care what they look like, I just want to know what the hell we’re saying to each other.
I think who we’re speaking with may be more important that what we say. This hasn’t turned out to be the cosmic Rosetta Stone we had hoped it would be.
RESEARCHER THREE, seated nearby and staring at a screen suddenly speaks up.
Oh my God! Come look at this.
Robert walks over to Researcher Three and so do several other people.
It just came up on recon satellite two.
Where is that?
More people have gathered around the screen. The image is of hundreds of native Peruvians creating the same symbol formation as in the center of the metal disk by clearing away the thin layer of rocks that cover the desert ground to create long lines in the mountain plains.
Now how the hell do you explain that?
I need a report on the Nazca lines ASAP. Everything you can find.
Researcher Two runs off to do as Robert asks.
That would take weeks to create, maybe months.
How could they have known? Robert turns to one of the researchers.
Get the general on the phone. He needs to see this.
Robert turns back to the screen and stares in amazement.