I’ve always been a visual learner/storyteller. Whenever I read books, I was always able to imagine the action in my mind, and create (and recreate) action like it. For about the last eight or nine years, I’ve focused heavily on script writing, and had neglected my ability to create stories that necessarily wouldn’t be realized on a screen somewhere.
Reading will always be my first love, my first window, into the power of words on a young child’s imagination. If anything, I think I chose to take up writing because I wanted to so badly emulate the style of all those books I had read. I wanted to be able to create those same feelings, memories, and experiences. When I was in my early teens, I started to move away from reading novels, short stories, and the like. I still read, but aside from summer reading books, I began to focus more on scripts and film, perhaps fueled by the need to expand my imagination beyond my own mind.
The earlier ones were all over bloated and terrible (some would say they still are). Truth be told, they made me lazy as a writer. I was no longer writing for myself, or even my imagination. I was merely directing action and lines of dialogue. It all felt rather mechanical. I was moving characters from point A to B with very little anything–no emotion, no sense of thought, or even purpose. It all sounded like dull exposition, even when it wasn’t. I started leaving out entire details, that, if it had been a chapter in a book, would have littered the page. I had become too dependent upon the screen, and put my imagination on the back burner.
While listening to Paul Schrader’s commentary on Taxi Driver, he made a point that has forever stayed with me. Speaking of script writing, he insisted that when doing so, the script must read like a good novel first, before it can ever be looked upon as a screenplay, and to that extent, even a film. When I heard that, and took the opportunity to read the screenplay itself, it dawned on me that I was doing it wrong. I was merely taking action I saw on screen and transcribing it on paper. I was working my way backwards, and still getting lost. His script takes everything I love about reading (and writing) and turns it into a viable screenplay sure, but a viable novel too. There are character nuances, there are background descriptions, but most importantly, there is so much subtext–things that we may never even get to see on screen. It solidified in my mind that a script doesn’t have to lose its sense of literature just because the finished product will be nothing but a compilation of perfectly captured/edited shots.
This brings me to this post, which is probably my first sincere foray into the world of short story writing. I say “first,” because I think whenever I did it before, it was under the pretext of turning it into a screenplay. Ironically, I would love to make a script out of this, but I realized that my budget (green screen alone) would be through the roof.
Based on a recurring dream I seem to have every now and again, it’s been expanded upon to include some semblance of a story. It’s a first draft, but I thought I’d share it with you and get your thoughts. It was a nice return to the well of childhood imagination, now realized in dreams, and told through writing. I hope you enjoy it.
— Journeyman’s Kryptonite
What Dreams May Come
An oak tree in the distance stands alone, overlooking the park. Children roll down nearby hills, colliding into pets and empty strollers. Dandelions scatter onto an intersection of joggers and bicycles with colorful training wheels. Rachel sits on a bench, wearing a sundress, admiring the tree. It majestically towers over the rest of the park. She notices sudden movement. A man’s body stumbles out from behind the tree, before quickly hiding itself along its trunk. He appears bundled up in layered clothing and a jacket.
Jason peeks out from behind the tree, his face covered in shadows. His eyes meet her gaze. He turns away quickly. Concentrating hard, he closes his eyes. When he opens them, he’s disappointed to find himself staring at two children playing with a Frisbee. With his back against the tree, he closes his eyes and concentrates harder. When he opens them again, she’s standing in front of him.
“Jason? How—wha—where did you even come from? Even her smile seems surprised. “This is the last place I expected to see you. How are you?”
“Been doing a lot of traveling.” He straightens up, no longer using the tree for support. “Thought I’d drop in.”
“I haven’t seen you in years. You just disappeared after graduation.” He stumbles a bit, back up against the tree. Rachel hugs him. “You look exactly the same.”
“Guess I just lost track of time.” Jason attempts to rest his head on her shoulder, but pulls away.
“Aren’t you hot wearing all that?” She grabs a hold of his jacket’s sleeve.
“You never know with this weather.” He makes his way out from behind the tree. The sunlight touches his face for the first time. The two make their way to the park’s bench.
“What brings you back?”
“You’re getting married tomorrow.” He blurts out, and cringes.
“How did you—you’ve been stalking my Facebook? Checking my timeline?”
“Something like that.”
“How long are you staying?”
“I need to go back tonight.”
“You’re not even staying for the wedding?”
“It’ll turn out great. You looked beautiful.” Jason rests his hand on the chipped white paint of the bench. When she’s not looking, he closes his eyes tightly. Concentrating enough to make his eyes water, he experiences nothing but frustration. “I should really get going. It was nice to have met you again.”
“Aw, come on J, stay a few more days. I’m sure we’ve got a lot to catch up on.”
“I wish I could Rach, I really do. Seeing you again only makes leaving again that much harder.”
“Well, I’m not letting you go.” She sits on the bench and pouts, playing with her ring.
“You’re getting married tomorrow.” He takes a seat next to her. “Don’t think you should be staying stuff like that. I mean, what would Zach think?”
“You sneaky little shit.” She punches him in the arm lightly. “Now I know you’ve been snooping around. Tell me. Who have you been talking to?” She begins to tickle him. He pushes her hands away.
“It’s not important. I’m happy for you.”
“You’re such an enigma. Now tell me, why are you really here? Why now?”
“Do you trust me?” Jason begins to take off his jacket.
“I–I–of course I do, you know that.”
“Then put this on.” Jason puts the jacket on her.
“J, it’s like 80 degre—“
“Take my hand.” She puts her hand in his.
“Jason, what’s going—“
“Close your eyes.”
When she does, Jason closes his, and before long, gone are the birds chirping and the sound of kids playing the park. It’s almost instantly replaced by the sound of honking horns, drivers yelling about street signs, and pedestrians heckling with street vendors about hot dogs. When Rachel’s eyes open, light rain drops force them closed again. After blinking rapidly a few times, she notices large words and screens shining brightly on her face. She’s amazed to find herself standing in the middle of Times Square in New York.
“How are you doing this?” Rachel squeezes Jason’s hand tight.
Question: what dreams may come? Jason thinks, looking upon Rachel’s face. She holds onto his hand, but wanders in different directions, admiring and convincing herself that she’s really there. She splashes in nearby puddles, and waves at complete strangers. Answer: Half remembered ones.
“Ready to dry off?” He takes her hand, as they continue down the road.
“There’s more?” Even her smile seems surprised.
“You know what to do.” He closes his eyes and pulls her in close. She does the same. A taxi screeching is heard for the last time, now replaced by a distant accordion, and the scent of cigarettes mixed with cappuccinos. They find themselves overlooking Paris from the Eiffel Tower.
“J, this is incredible.” The city seems covered in nothing but lights.
Surpassing a reality long forgotten, but never lost, Jason ponders, taking Rachel’s hand. The two begin to dance. Constantly tormented by your smile, your eyes, and your distance. He twirls her. When bringing her back, he dips her. He stares into her eyes. She smiles at him. He closes his eyes. Puzzled, she does the same. When she comes back up, they’re standing in front of the Taj Mahal.
Rachel immediately begins running in and out of the giant white columns. She takes a look at her reflection in the pool.
It was worth it, to wake up with the slightest satisfaction that it happened, Jason joins her.
“You haven’t aged.” She studies his face hard in the pool. “You don’t just look the same. You are the same. I’m dreaming. You’re not really here.” She looks at his face now, running her hand through his hair, and gently tugging at his cheeks.
Because sometimes there’s nothing left to do but embrace what you see in front of you as the truth. Jason turns away from her. Of what happened, what happens, and what will happen.
“Jason, what the hell’s going on?” Rachel tries to catch up with him, only to have the surroundings change around her. She stops a few feet away from him. The magnificent white palace blurs out of existence, only to return as the ruins of the Colosseum.
Jason rests his hand upon the time damaged stone. Don’t tell yourself it couldn’t have happened, or that you could’ve prevented it. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know how it works every time. He turns to Rachel and smiles.
“I want to go home.” Making sure the area is real, Rachel kicks a piece of stone where the reflecting pool once shimmered. “I want to go back.”
“Last stop. Promise.” Jason takes Rachel’s hand, but she pulls away.
“No more stop Jason. I can’t do this anymore.” She begins to walk in the opposite direction. “Take us back to the park.”
“Don’t walk too far,” he concentrates and closes his eyes, “you’ll end up in the ocean.” She stops cold, and quickly looks back. Funny thing, time. Never seems to be enough of it, no matter which way you travel.
Jason’s standing below the crow’s nest. She can barely make him out on what appears to be a moonless night. She glances back in the direction she was walking previously and sees nothing but a railing and the ocean below. She peers over the side of the railing to read the words “Titanic,” and a little below it, “Liverpool.” She runs towards Jason.
“Told you you’d need that jacket.”
“Why did you bring me here? Why did you bring us here?” Rachel stares deeply into his eyes.
“Rachel, I—”Jason places his hands in his pocket and avoids eye contact. It’s staring you in the face. Say it.
“Say it Jason.” She brings herself closer.
Say it! Before it’s too late! You need to say it! Rachel leans in to give him a kiss. She closes her eyes. He does the same. Their lips are about to touch.
“Iceberg, right ahead!” A voice from the crow’s nest yells. Jason opens his eyes and pulls away, running to the railing on the deck. He squints his eyes to make out an iceberg inching closer to the ship.
“We should get back.” He runs back to Rachel. “It was a mistake to do this.”
“No, it wasn’t.” She stops him, holds him still, and kisses him.
Have a night to remember. He closes his eyes. For a while, the chaos from the ship is all that is heard, before going quiet. Almost immediately, the sound of birds chirping, children playing, and dogs barking can be heard. Jason opens his eyes. He’s still kissing Rachel, now in the park. The two pull apart.
“J, wait. Where are you going?”
“I told you, I’ve got to get back.” He makes his way towards the oak tree.
“Why can’t you stay?”
“Not this time.” Jason begins to run towards the oak tree. Rachel attempts to follow him, but her dress keeps lifting in the wind.
“What just happened?” She stops and zips up the jacket.
“Be happy. Always.”
“J,wait, your jacket!” When she looks up to call out to him, he is gone.
Rachel is in her wedding gown, staring at herself in the mirror. She walks up to her bed and sees a photo album. While flipping through it, she reaches a page where her wedding invitation acts as a bookmark. It reads “Rachel Sinclair weds Zachary Simpson. July 4, 2014.” She stares at it, and then back to the page. It’s a picture of Jason, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, holding onto his jacket, standing in front of a gate with the White House in the background. It’s dated April 14, 2012. She glances over at her computer chair. His jacket hangs on the arm.
Jason, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sits at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Washington Monument. Every so often, he glances back at the 16th President, and smiles. Leave nothing for tomorrow that can be done today. He proceeds to put on another two shirts, and a jacket, before heading towards the local cemetery. He stares at a tombstone. It reads “Here Lies Jason Smith. 1989 – 2012.” Jason lays down some flowers and walks away, closing his eyes, and smiling.
Rachel walks down the aisle, smiling.