Fall 2009, Volume 7

Screenplay by Rochelle Cocco

Excerpt from ORIGIN, EARTH

          In the year 2051 Earth's population has grown to over 9.5 billion people. To feed so many, nano-chaperoning technology has been harnessed to grow food quickly and efficiently. But more and more people, as well as animals and plants fall ill to a strange wasting illness caused by "mutating" nano particles. Within a year most life on Earth is dead or dying. But there are a few hundred humans—a diverse group of scientists, engineers and survivalist/fundamentalist cult members—who have managed to remain uninfected in a sealed mountain cave complex. They are led by a scientific genius turned religious leader, Harold(Hal) Zamish, known to the cultists as Brother Zamish. His childhood friend, fellow scientist and antagonist, Noah Lee, is head keeper of the biovault in which is stored germplasm from the last animal and plant species on earth. Robert James, a relative newcomer, is also a scientist and works with Noah in the biovault. Baby Hal is the orphan of one of Zamish's scientist friends.

INT. Zamish’s Meeting Chamber (a shadowy, RED-Lit Room Inside the Cavern Complex)

            In one corner sits the old woman, Rea, cradling baby Hal in her
arms and feeding him from a bottle. Zamish, in the loose cinched-waist robe of the cultists, sits at his wide, simple desk and manipulates a holographic display of a complex circuit schematic. Two men, Noah and Robert wearing the drab overalls of scientist/engineers, enter through the dilating portal. Zamish stands to meet them.

Zamish: Well?

NOAH: No way around it. We'll need environmental suits, a minimum hundred fifty years.

ZAMISH: That's not possible. The Hayflick limit was set at thirty five. The particle count HAS TO BE coming down.

NOAH: Why believe me? Do your own calculations. I think it's pretty obvious that whatever altered host specificity, changed other parameters, too.... But why am I telling you this? You're the expert. Why the hell ask me?

ZAMISH: I value your input. You know that.

NOAH: I don't know anything except that someone hid a randomizing element in the coding. Who could have done that, Hal?

            The baby begins crying loudly.

ZAMISH: Why single me out? I was the one sent to Psych Adjust.

NOAH: Yeah, after they found you screwing with the code.

ZAMISH: No, after I tried to warn ev....

          Zamish pauses to control his frustration. He steps over and whispers in the old woman’s ear. She  leaves with the wailing baby.

NOAH: This is a new side of you, Hal. The baby and all.

ZAMISH: Stop calling me Hal.

NOAH: OK.... Big Brother Zamish...Lord of the Last Damned Remnant of Humanity.

            Zamish and Noah stare coldly at each other.

ZAMISH: Noah!... give me something constructive or shut up.

NOAH: Let's see... we could bake the entire surface to four hundred fifty degrees or fog it with sterilant or lethally irradiate it by blowing every nuclear plant or blot out the sun for 10 years or...

ZAMISH: Blowing up the nuclear plants is doable.

NOAH: You're sick, Hal.

ZAMISH: Not as sick as you.

NOAH: Maybe.

ZAMISH: So you’ve conceived of nothing practical. Then we’ll have to wait it out in stasis.

NOAH: The hell we will. Remember the old space station? We can construct sections, push them out, move into them. In a few years we’ll have a thriving city.

ZAMISH: Yeah, if we want to live like ants.

NOAH: We’re not talking vacuum-of-space dangerous but a filterable particle. Besides, no one ever died on the space station from a breach.

ZAMISH: Yeah, they only went crazy from the isolation.

NOAH: That doesn't apply here.

ZAMISH: Doesn’t it?

NOAH: I’m not sleeping in a fish bowl for 200 years.

ZAMISH: You designed it.

NOAH: Yeah, for dogs.

ZAMISH: Don't you trust your own technology?

NOAH: What I don’t trust are those ENDERS, preaching the Apocalypse for sinners. Well, I’m a sinner, like the rest of humanity rotting out there. Are your followers going to decide I deserve death too? For all I know you've always been one of them.

ZAMISH: You know I haven’t.

NOAH: Do I? I knew someone named Hal, not this Brother Zamish. I don't know him.

ZAMISH: I won't argue with you, Noah. I’m ordering everyone into stasis. If you don’t go, you WILL starve.

NOAH: Then I’ll starve.

             Noah storms across the room and through the dilating portal.

ROBERT: I don’t know what to say. That's not him.

ZAMISH: Believe me Robert, I know. Darkness and isolation can make any man delusional, even think old friends would conspire against him.

ROBERT: But we work with him every day, we share meals, stories.

ZAMISH: Most of you have families. He doesn't.


             Robert catches up to Noah.

ROBERT: What are you doing, man?

NOAH: Just messing with him.

ROBERT: I don’t understand you.

NOAH: You don’t understand HIM. He thrives on manipulation. He’ll try to turn you against me. And now he’s got his little bald goombahs. They'll do whatever the hell he wants. His ego is only eclipsed by his genius. And for the record he never screws up. I keep thinking he decided the world was too broken to be fixed, so he trashed it.

ROBERT: The world was trashed way before Zamish. We'd be dust without him. I think you've got to let this go. Don't be paranoid.

            Noah laughs.

NOAH: I bet he told you I'm imagining conspiracies, too? Just like him to shoot first. So which of us are you gonna believe?

ROBERT: I don’t know yet.

NOAH: Open-minded is good.

ROBERT: Noah, I will be going into stasis.

NOAH: I figured. You got your wife, and a kid already under.... Yeah.

ROBERT: If I can...you can.

NOAH: I know.

            They continue down the dark passageway together.



BIO:  Rochelle is taking a break from poetry and trying her hand at screenplay writing.