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12/04/00: Welcome to the Fold (Part two)
by The Gline

INT. ELIASíS STUDY -- EARLY MORNING

High-ceilinged and elegant, like everything else in this world. And cold.

One wall is dominated by a huge, beautiful PORTRAIT of what must be Eliasís creation, VALIS. He's dressed in the same manner as the costume player who was portraying him, but Valis's face is of course totally different: a strikingly handsome man with oddly haunted EYES.

Elias sits in front of the TV, half watching news coverage of the three deaths. His expression is weird and distant.


LATER

Elias, on the phone to Haldeman (filtered).

ELIAS
L ook, it's not a done deal yet. I said I'd take home the paperwork to look it over, give them a decision later. Having three people blow their brains out right when you're eating sort of spoils the mood.

HALDEMAN
I can see that. I'd definitely like to see what they gave you when youíve got some time.
(beat)
I wish there was more I could do for you. I mean, Iím just a book dealer, but...

ELIAS
Well, you know how it is.
Imaginationís not a tap you can turn on and off. If my mind gets a limp dick on me, thereís not a lot I can do about it, right?

HALDEMAN
I hate to beat the metaphor, but youíll get back in the saddle eventually.

ELIAS
Whatís funny is that the idea of her paying me even if I donít produce only makes me wonder if Iím just going to get worse, you know?

HALDEMAN
You think itís possible?

ELIAS
Iím wondering if it already happened.


LATER

Elias alone, drinking.


OVERLAPPING DISSOLVES

As he paces... pushes feebly through papers on his desk... watches TV... slumps on the bed. Heís blocked.

He stands, heads for the closet. Opens it and feels around inside his jacket. He draws out a BOOK, the same one he stuffed in his coat and forgot about. He sits down at the desk and pours himself a drink.


THE BOOK

It is a graphic novel; a comic book.
On the first two-page spread:


A YOUNG WOMAN

Dressed in a uniform thatís suggestive of a Marines dress uniform crossed with the garb of a viceroy of the British Empire. Long yellowish hair and a LOOK of strength and self- assurance. Sheís got a SWORD leveled right at our face.


WIDER -- ELIAS READING

Heís caught up in it. Turns pages.
INSERT various FLASHES of the comic: the woman at the prow of a ship cutting through the water... in the court of a GRAVE OLD MAN, a king possibly...


WIDER -- ELIASíS STUDY

Elias in the f.g., turning pages. Absorbed.

From somewhere: BOOT-STEPS.

The far door opens and the GIRL weíve just seen walks in, dressed exactly as weíve seen her. She stands out so blatantly -- her buttons so shiny, the SWORD POMMEL at her belt so brilliant -- that SHE CANNOT BE ANYTHING BUT WHAT HE IS IMAGINING.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Her name was Haruna and she was the crown jewel of the royal family.

Haruna snaps out her SWORD.
Executes a mathematically exact series of drills.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Sheíd been groomed from birth to rise to the throne. Taught from the age of ten to lead an army. Schooled from the age of thirteen to avoid the wiles of the opposite sex.

Her sword FLASHES out and almost spears a similarly attired YOUNG MAN -- handsome, princely. He reaches forward to take the sword from her hand, and when she steps closer to surrender it, sheís now wearing a BALL GOWN.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Not like it did her much good...

They dance around the study. Elias is no longer visible.

ELIAS (V.O.)
He was the son of a duke friendly with her father... but neither father was particularly fond of him.

They swirl through the double doors and into


INT. BALLROOM -- NIGHT

A gigantic ballroom full of dancing couples, their movements underscored by a bombastic WALTZ.

ELIAS (V.O.)
He was a risk taker. A rakehell. He loved to shove a poker into the fire and watch the coals twirl up.


CLOSER

The Prince and Haruna, clearly enjoying themselves. And then Haruna changes partners on him, dancing with another, older man.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Well... So did she.

The Prince stands there, watching, and letting a slow smile spread across his face.

ELIAS (V.O.)
They were either perfect for each other... or the worst thing in the world.

The Prince reaches over to cut in -


INT. DIMLY LIT MANSION -- NIGHT

-- and is suddenly pressing a GUN to the head of a SWEATING NOBLEMAN. Haruna is trussing the fellow up with a big grin.

ELIAS (V.O.)
And so when they broke into the estate of a man who had cheated her father out of thousands of crowns, they figured out their true calling.

Haruna gags the nobleman and knocks him unconscious.

She and the Prince go rocketing out the room and down the hallway, whooping with laughter...

ELIAS (V.O.)
Thievery.


EXT. ALLEY -- NIGHT

SMASH! Haruna, dressed in a mutant version of her previous garb, dives out a high window and uses a DRAPERY to break her fall...

ELIAS (V.O.)
Piracy.


EXT. ALLEYWAY -- NIGHT

Haruna paints graffiti: WHY NOT CUT CLASS SOCIETY?
PAN from the graffiti: an apple seller with a growing smile.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Revolution.


EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- DAY

Haruna, on motorcycle, rides right up to the side of an ARMORED CAR and shoves a pistol into the side of the GUARD near it. The Prince and several COHORTS land on the roof, burst from the shrubs, take a bolt cutter to the lock...

ELIAS (V.O.)
Freedom.


EXT. OCEAN -- DAY

The prow of a ship cutting through the water. Hanging off the figurehead, laughing, swinging her sword, is Haruna. And as we go WIDER, we see the Prince above her, grinning.

ELIAS (V.O.)
For a while, anyway.


ECU -- A GUN BARREL BLAM!! BLAM!! Two shots in SLOW MOTION, right at us.


INT. GAMBLING DEN -- NIGHT

A swarthy GUNMAN has shot The Prince in the face.

Still in SLOW MOTION, as Haruna leaps in shock from her side of the table, upsetting chair and spilling cards and chips everywhere. She lunges at the weapon...

BLAM! A shot across her SHOULDER, spinning her like a top. Smashes down on the table, flipping it like a poker chip. Tears on her face as she claws for her dying lover.


EXT. BEACH -- EVENING

Haruna stands ramrod straight, shoulder bandaged, as The Prince is burned on the beach in a funeral pyre. Her comrades in attendance.

ELIAS (V.O.)
His killer hadnít just been some rival thief -- heíd been a liaison for her fatherís regime, helping him keep tabs on the criminal underground.


CLOSER

Haruna and comrades do a sword salute over the pyre. Tears wet her face.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Now they were outlaws, even to the outlaws themselves. More alone than she had ever imagined possible... but alive with more purpose and fire than sheíd ever dreamed.


INT. WEAPONS SHOP -- NIGHT

Haruna and a WEAPONS CRAFTER huddle over a bench, on which lies a SABER with an exaggerated looking hand guard.

ELIAS (V.O.)
So with the help of a friend, she armed herself for the battles to come...

Haruna reaches down and detaches the hand guard, presses a stud on it -- and it expands into a KNIFE-PISTOL, a cross between a razor-sharp stiletto, brass knuckles, and a double- barreled, double-action revolver.


VARIOUS SHOTS

Haruna dueling with the knifepistol as a kind of main gauche; blasting out windows; firing off part of the knife- pistol as a GRAPPLING LINE; slinging it like a THROWING STAR; etc...
Itís the coolest-looking weapon weíve ever seen. Period.

ELIAS (V.O.)
...and plunged into the world she was determined to free at any cost.

Image FREEZES on an action pose of Haruna... and DISSOLVES to a BLACK-AND-WHITE LINE DRAWING -- a panel from the comic in the book. And with that weíre back to...


ELIAS

Sitting with the book in his lap, his finger in the pages. He is absolutely staggered.

ELIAS
Son of a bitch.

The book falls to the floor.


INT. OFFICE -- DAY

Haldemanís office. A pleasant mess of papers and books, with a window open out onto the city sprawl.

Haldeman has the first volume of the box set in his hands. Heís going back and fort from one book to another, checking and cross-referencing.

HALDEMAN
Even if there was anyone alive who has rights to the book... finding them is going to be tough.

ELIAS
I just want to make sure Iím not screwing myself, thatís all.

Elias is fidgeting. Haldeman puts a hand on his shoulder to steady him.

ELIAS
I hope itís not just me; I hope Iím not looking at this with rose-colored glasses or anything. I want to do this. I want to bring this to todayís audiences. I just want to make sure nothingís in my way.

HALDEMAN
No, no. Itís a good story. And you want to bring that story to a new audience. I can understand that.
(pause)
May I ask a stupid question?

Elias makes a "go ahead" gesture.

HALDEMAN
Why not just republish the book itself, as it is, instead of retelling it? Do a kind of "Elias Marlowe Presents" sort of thing?

Elias talks fast.

ELIAS
Well -- I was thinking, you know, it might be better to try and take inspiration from this story and re-cast it in a way that people are going to -- to be able to access a little better, you know? I mean, the only reason I got anything out of this myself was because Iím accustomed to reading
older stuff. Not everyone is. So instead of drowning them with explanations and footnotes, why not rewrite it? It just seems... simpler.

Haldeman nods, slowly. Heís looking right at Elias and seeing through his lie.

HALDEMAN
Itís your baby. Iím just the gatekeeper to the boneyard.

He tosses the book back onto the pile on his desk.

CUT TO:


INT./EXT. ELIASíS CAR -- MOVING

Gliding through the city. Elias is fuming to himself. Ranting into a POCKET RECORDING DEVICE.

ELIAS
That was such a limp-dick dodge. If Haldeman doesnít call me tomorrow and say, "Hey, man, if youíre stuck, youíre stuck, but at least have the nerve to come out and say it!" -- if he doesnít say that to me, Iím gonna wonder whatís been happening to his brain. I might as well have written I HAVE WRITERíS BLOCK on my shirt.

Exasperated sigh.

ELIAS
What bullshit. Anyway. I figure Iíll take the next week or so to dope out the first couple of chapters and wave it under Sashaís nose. That should shut her up.

He clicks off the recorder.

ELIAS
In a world where everyone has everything they want shoved down their throat, I have to be the one who wants something I canít have.
(beat)
Fucking typical.

He looks up at the city.


AN ORNATE BUILDING

Which looks entirely out of place from the rest of the surrounding architecture. It looks like something out of the graphic novel.

IT IS.

And hanging from a cupola near the top is a small female figure: HARUNA.


CLOSER -- HARUNA

Haruna scampers down the side of the building and disappears into an ALLEY.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Where are you going tonight?


INT. ALLEYWAY

Haruna presses herself against a darkened doorway and knocks out a CODE on the door. The door opens a crack -- and ELIAS stands there, decked out in a similar outfit.

They embrace. Kiss fiercely. The door SLAMS in our face.

OVER BLACK we hear VOICES ON THE PHONE:

HALDEMAN (V.O.)
Elias. This is interesting.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Whatís interesting?

HALDEMAN (V.O.)
That book. Thereís no official notice of copyright anywhere. Authorís not in any of the publishing profiles; Whoís Who came up empty. Bibliography and periodical indexes all negative. Ten to one this is was privately printed.


INT. ELIASíS STUDY -- DAY


SERIES OF SHOTS:

-- Elias has photocopied many panels from the graphic novel and pinned them up over his desk. Post-It notes, scrawled annotations, arrows, lists, all overlapping each other in a paper mosaic.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Privately printed.

HALDEMAN (V.O.)
Meaning that all bets are off as far as copyright.
(beat)
Elias... do the right thing and give the author proper credit, okay?

Beat.

ELIAS (V.O.)
Sure.

-- Elias at his computer. On screen: HARUNA THE PRINCE, BY ELIAS MARLOWE. Then, with the clicking of keys: FROM A STORY BY RAVANNA FRANCOEUR.


INT. HALDEMANíS OFFICE -- DAY

MUSIC playing. Haldeman is on a high stepladder, shelving books in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Humming along to the tune.

He pushes one of the books to the back of the shelf. His HAND freezes in place... trembles. His FACE is bloated and shaking.

He is having a heart attack.

HALDEMAN (WHISPERING)
At least let me climb the fuck down first...!

His eyes go wide. And then close. His fingers go slack.

FROM ABOVE we watch as he slowly tilts backwards off the ladder and plummets to his death on the desk below. Papers, books, pens, all scatter in SLOW MOTION as the desk breaks in half like a salt cracker when he lands on it.

A MARBLE rolls to his cheek and STOPS there. INSIDE it is a reflected, distorted SHAPE... and as we draw CLOSER...


INT. FUNERAL HOME -- DAY

...we see itís HALDEMANíS BODY IN A CASKET, in state. Elias is one of the very few mourners here in this somber-looking room. He sits with another man, a BOOKSELLER, about Haldemanís age.

BOOKSELLER
Heíd had one already before, a milder one, but still... One attack by itself is kind of a hint.

ELIAS
A hint from God.

BOOKSELLER Or at least a hint from his hardening arteries to lay off the god-damned pork rinds and cognac!

The bookseller laughs roughly.

BOOKSELLER
Iím sorry. But... when you get down to it, none of us were really expecting it any differently. And maybe even a little overdue at this point.

ELIAS
Right...

He looks over past Haldemanís body and sees a FIGURE out of focus. Itís HARUNA. We can tell even from here.

ELIAS
Could you excuse me a moment?...

Elias stands and walks, following Haruna, who remains just out of range. He follows her back through the building and into:


INT. RESTROOM

Haruna stands in the middle of the room, reflected by mirrors all around. Smiling.

ELIAS
Whatíre you doing here?

Heís not unfriendly, just curious.

HARUNA
You brought me with you, remember?

Elias opens his pocket. The Haruna book is in there. Did he put it there? Thereís confusion on his face.

HARUNA
And even if you didnít have the book, youídíve brought me with you anyway.

She steps up to him and caresses his face.

HARUNA
I know what you want to do. Bring me back to life as your own...

FLASH SHOT of the other authorís name, RAVANNA FRANCOEUR, being deleted from the screen...

HARUNA
Nothingís stopping you now, is it?

ELIAS
Just... the possibility that someone would catch me red-handed. You can understand that, canít you?

She puts her arms around his neck. She is seductive, assured.

HARUNA
Of course I do. But donít be afraid of someone seeing through you. Youíre not what really matters here.

ELIAS
What?

HARUNA
Admit it. The fame and the attention... thatís just what you like to think is the real reason. The real reason is you canít bear the thought of a world that doesnít have me in it for real. For real!

He grabs her face and presses his mouth to hers.

STROBE FLASH SHOTS of each letter of Ravanna Francoeurís name as it is DELETED from the screen...


INT. ELIASíS OFFICE -- DAY

Elias dictating to his computer, which transcribes his words flawlessly. His dictating voice is quiet and measured.

ELIAS (V.O.)
I asked myself this question before: Do I even want to know how the story ends?

-- Elias contemplates the other volumes in the series, as yet unread, then take several large GUMMED LABELS and tapes them shut.

ELIAS (V.O.)
And then I decided I wanted to be as surprised by what happens as any of my readers. I liked the idea.

The books sit on the shelf like little BOMBS, all in a row.

Join us again next month, faithful readers, for part three!