I got the idea for this… whatever you want to call it… after reading about the seven-year-old son of a woman who was threatened after — I forget how, and really it doesn't matter — arousing the indignation of an animal rights group. The story goes that he reached the point where he was hiding by the door with a kitchen knife in case the "animal people" showed up to hurt his mommy.

The first thing that popped into my mind was what an exciting moment in your day it would be to knock on someone's door, have them open it, then glance down and see a tiny tot holding twelve inches of serrated death at what for you is groin height. ("Hi. We're from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-DAAAAAAHH!!!") But then my thoughts went down a darker path, and I couldn't rest until I had committed them to this form. (You can tell it's a bit dated by the reference to "Butterfly Kisses.")

Anyway, here it is, the darkest and most twisted thing I've ever written. If the ending seems like an imperfect and ambiguous sort of redemption, that's the general idea. (If you don't feel like reading through the whole thing, just imagine a version of this that goes on for 15 to 20 minutes. With dialogue.)



By Paul Briggs



A second-grade classroom in a public school, seen from the front of the room at a height of about four feet. Sunlight is streaming through the windows on the right-hand side. On the left, one row of fluorescent lights overhead is lit, but flickering unpleasantly.

Students are sitting quietly, working on a series of math problems. There is a BOY sitting near the back, in the row next to the windows, concentrating particularly hard on his work. Like everyone else in the class, he is about seven, and there appears to be nothing remarkable about him, except for two things: the only four unoccupied seats in the room are the ones immediately in front of and behind him and the two nearest him in the next row over, and there is a TALL, BLACK-CLAD WOMAN looming over his desk. She is wearing a black turtleneck, black denim trousers, black rubber gloves, and black socks with no shoes, as if she were a cat burglar. Her back is partly turned to us. The sound of a man pacing is coming from somewhere behind the camera.

A SMALL BLOND GIRL, sitting near the front in the second row from the windows, eyes the boy near the back nervously. (Note: she looks directly at the boy, not at the woman standing over him.)



     Ms. Waters?


The girl looks up nervously. From her POV we see the MATH TEACHER, an authoritative-looking man in his forties, looking down on her.


          MATH TEACHER

     If you don't stop flirting with that boy I'm going to make you marry him.


The girl looks distinctly embarrassed. The other students chuckle, but not too loudly -- this is a teacher they respect and fear.



     I wasn't -- I mean -- sorry.


          MATH TEACHER

     Get back to work.


She does. The math teacher begins pacing down between the rows, surveying his domain.

The boy near the back completes the last problem and puts down his pencil. The name "Tyler Fade" is written in the top right hand corner. He reaches into his backpack for another textbook, then realizes the teacher is now nearly standing over him. (At this point, the black-clad woman is no longer there.)



Mr. Sadler? Sir?


                        MR. SADLER




I finished the assignment. Can I, uh, may I… uh… I have this thing I have to get done before English class…


                        MR. SADLER

You did all the problems?





                        MR. SADLER

Well, first of all, look over them again. Make sure you got the right answers.





Mr. Sadler moves along. Tyler looks over the work. As he does so, the FLICKERING FLUORESCENT LIGHT plays over the left side of his face, slowly turning into FLASHING RED AND WHITE LIGHTS, such as those of an ambulance. Tyler concentrates harder, then, when he is satisfied, takes out his English textbook, which has a sheet of notebook paper in it like a bookmark.

He hears a cough, and looks up. Mr. Sadler has gone down his row and partway up the next row, and is looking expectantly at him.


                        MR. SADLER

Did you check the answers?



Yeah. (tears math assignment out of his notebook, hands it to the teacher)


                        MR. SADLER

Go ahead. (pause) These better be right.


Mr. Sadler continues his survey of his domain. Down another row, he finds a CREW-CUT BOY scrambling to cover up something on his desk. (In the background, the black-clad woman is standing over Tyler's desk again, but the camera doesn't focus on her.) The teacher strides over, pulls it out from under a book and looks at it. It is a half-finished, rather bad drawing of somebody grinning, holding a knife.


     MR. SADLER (crumpling up drawing)

Mr. Gilbert, would you like a little more time to finish your assignment?

(GILBERT thinks for a moment - is this a trick? - then nods nervously.)

Well, I would like a $500,000-dollar-a-year salary, but neither one of us is gonna get what we would like.

            (in a commanding tone)

Now get to work.


He marches up to the front of the room and throws away the crumpled-up drawing.

At his desk, Tyler pores over the English assignment (it's one of those short stories with the annoying questions at the end) and tries to think of something to write. He deliberately does not look up at the black-clad woman, and all we can see of her is her legs.



Very similar to the first. Tyler, looking guilty as all hell, is hurriedly scribbling the last few words of the last answer on that English assignment. He gets up, walks to the front of the class and shamefacedly puts it on the teacher's desk, on top of a pile of other students' assignments. When we CUT TO the ENGLISH TEACHER, an older woman, she looks at him with kindness and, possibly, pity. When we CUT BACK TO Tyler, the black-clad woman is standing behind him again.



The other tables are a bit more crowded than usual, but Tyler has almost a whole table to himself. He sips at his milk and stares disconsolately at his lunch tray.

There is little to recommend it. The main course is a brown and white lump of something, splashed with brown liquid, that was probably offered up as "shepherd's pie with gravy." It is accompanied by canned succotash, baked beans with ketchup, and a brownie.

Tyler stares at the baked beans. The splash of ketchup, vividly red, fills the screen. For an instant -- not more than a few frames -- the image of linoleum covered in blood flashes on the screen.

Tyler looks up from his food. The black-clad woman is sitting across from him, and now, first the first time, we can see her face. She is perhaps twenty, and quite pretty, but the expression on her face as she stares at Tyler is one of utter, indescribable horror. We only see her for about a second before--


            BOY'S VOICE (OC)

            Hey, guys, look at this.


Tyler, glad of something else to occupy his attention, gets up from the table, leaving his lunch behind.

Several students are standing around the trash can in the middle of the cafeteria. One of them is holding his tray upside down over the trash.


          BOY WITH TRAY

     See, they both stick.


And, indeed, the baked beans and the shepherd's pie are both holding firmly to what is now the underside of the tray. As Tyler approaches, they look at him nervously and start to edge away.



Neat. (awkward pause) Does anything fall off if you shake it?


No longer enjoying this so much, the boy with the tray shakes it a little. A glob of shepherd's pie falls off. Tyler walks to the exit, the black-clad woman only a step behind him all the way.



It's recess. All the kids are outside, playing. We see from Tyler's POV as he walks toward the slide, his shadow before him. (Another, longer shadow accompanies his. No prizes for guessing who it belongs to.)

The other students around the slide run away at his approach, except for the girl already on the steps, who hurriedly goes up the steps, slides down, and then leaves.

Tyler climbs the steps, reaches the top and looks around. He sees several students staring at him, but they hurriedly look away. He also sees a rabbit in the verge between the grass and the street. For maybe half a second, the image appears on the screen of a few photographs of rabbits and other animals being cruelly treated in experiments of some sort. These photos are lying on a linoleum floor, and are swallowed in an expanding pool of blood that covers the floor.

He slides down the slide, lands on his feet and drops forward onto his hands and knees, bringing himself face to face with the black-clad woman, who is lying on the ground face up. The expression on her face is still the same -- however, it is not completely frozen. She blinks once or twice, her lips tremble and she seems to be breathing. Tyler isn't afraid to see her, but he is unhappy.



     Why couldn't you just leave us alone?



A GIRL is standing at the front of the classroom.



My dad's name is Donald Abramowitz. He's the manager of a restaurant just outside of town. And my mom works at a drugstore.


CUT TO a SECOND GIRL standing where the first girl stood.


          SECOND GIRL

My mom's name is Maureen Bass. Right now she's… between jobs, but she used to work at Big Al's Pizza before the health people came and closed it.


CUT TO a BOY WITH GLASSES standing there.



My dad is Professor Theodore Buber. He teaches art history at the college. Sometimes he goes around the country lecturing people. He's really good at that. And my mom is the assistant head of the county library.


CUT TO a SECOND BOY standing there.


          SECOND BOY

My dad's name is Jeff Cianfrani. He works downtown at Simmons' Tire & Auto. He gets new tires for people when their old ones wear out.


CUT TO Tyler standing there. The black-clad woman is standing next to him, but we can't see much of her.



Dr. Janice Fade is my mom. She's a scientist. She looks at diseases and tries to find the cure. Um… yeah?


In the classroom, a boy has raised his hand. It's young Mr. Gilbert, our artistic friend from Mr. Sadler's math class.



Does she ever, like, take guinea pigs and put electrodes and stuff on them?





          GILBERT (eagerly)

I heard they take monkeys and guinea pigs and put electrodes on them, and then stick them with needles full of poison and stuff, and then they chop them up into little pieces and--



     Mom doesn't do that! She's trying to help people!


          GILBERT (suddenly nervous)

     I didn't mean it like that, I just meant--


          TEACHER (getting up from her desk)

That'll be enough of that. You can sit down now, Tyler. Jason, it's your turn.


As Tyler Fade goes back to his seat (the black-clad woman is temporarily absent) Jason Gilbert gets up from his. Soon he is standing at the front of the room. Tyler gives him a dirty look.


          GILBERT (very nervous)

My name is Travis Gilbert-- I mean my dad is Travis Gilbert, and he's a public lawyer with-- I mean he's a lawyer with the public-- I-- I--



Tyler is washing his hands, and doing a remarkably thorough job of it, especially since they don't look dirty.

He reaches to his face and touches it. We see his face as he touches it -- it is covered, and I mean covered, with blood. CUT TO his face in the mirror, clean and unbloodied.

Tyler takes some paper towels, wets them and scrubs at his face with them. For a split second we flash on a WOMAN IN A BATHROOM scrubbing frantically at his face, seen from his POV. He looks at the paper towels, wet but without a trace of blood on them. He touches his face again. As he does so, we see his face covered with blood again -- his fingers move over his face, as if feeling for the warm stickiness his skin is telling him is there -- but when we CUT TO the mirror, we see his face is clean again. Unfortunately, we also see that Guess Who is standing behind him, looking as aghast as ever.




Tyler is walking to class, alongside a BLOND BOY. Behind him is the black-clad woman, but we don't see her face.


          VOICE O.C.

     Hey! Tyler!


A TEN-YEAR-OLD BOY (probably someone who's been held back a year) is coming up to him.


          TYLER (less than thrilled)

     Hey, Luther.


Tyler keeps walking. Luther keeps up with him.


          LUTHER (eager)

     Hey! What was it like?



Oh, no.



I heard there was like blood all over the kitchen floor.


                        TYLER (reluctantly)




Was there guts all over everything?






How about brains?


                        MR. SADLER O.C.

Speaking of brains…


Luther looks up guiltily.


          MR. SADLER

Aren't you supposed to be headed for my class… right now?


Luther accompanies Mr. Sadler off.


                        TYLER (to the blond boy)

I think I liked him better when he was taking my lunch money.



This is an art class. The light is very bright -- maybe a little too bright -- and the students are all grouped around little tables. Tyler and the blond boy are occupying one table. This is shot from a very low vantage point -- in fact, from about the level of the table, so that we can't see what the two kids are drawing.

The ART TEACHER, a woman not much older than our black-clad friend (who isn't here right at the moment) approaches their table.


          ART TEACHER

     So, Brian, what have you got?


Brian (the blond boy) shows her his completed picture.


          ART TEACHER

     Good job.


She looks at what Tyler is drawing, winces and turns away. CLOSEUPS on Tyler's intent face, and on his right hand, which is gripping a red crayon and working feverishly. We still don't see what he's drawing, but just behind him, out of focus, are a familiar pair of legs in black denim.



The bell rings. The room fills with the hubbub of kids only too happy to get out of school.

Tyler picks up his bookbag, puts his book and notebook into it, and zips it closed. As he zips it, there is a sudden flash on a black body bag being zipped closed, with a lifeless, staring eye visible for a split second.

Tyler is walking past Mr. Sadler's desk on his way out of the room when-


          MR. SADLER

     Mr. Fade… Tyler.


          TYLER (stopping)



Tyler moves forward, letting the other kids walk past. He's worried that he's in trouble, of course.


          MR. SADLER (more informal)

     How're you feeling, kid?





Tyler is less worried, but still uneasy -- he's never seen Mr. Sadler try to be anyone's friend before.


          MR. SADLER

     You know you're not alone.


And at this point the black-clad woman is standing behind him again, close enough for her knees to brush against him.



     I know. (pause) I gotta catch the bus.


Mr. Sadler nods, gives a little gesture of dismissal.



An establishing shot of a school bus going a road through the countryside.



Elementary school students are occupying the first eight rows, while high school students take the rest of the bus. Tyler, not at all to our surprise, has a seat to himself.

Something truly appalling is playing on the radio -- "Butterfly Kisses," perhaps -- and the high school students react in disgust.



Hey! Mr. Johnson! Sir!


MR. JOHNSON, the bus driver, turns his head a bit.



          (trying very hard to be polite)

Could… you… pleasechange… the station?


General assent from the others. Mr. Johnson starts fiddling with the radio, and the music is replaced by static as he searches for another station.

Tyler is no longer sitting alone. Unfortunately, the person sitting next to him is, you guessed it, She-Who-Has-Not-Been-Named. There are nice loud blasts of static as we see her face (yes, she still looks like she has her own private window on Hell) from his point of view. These fade into the strident voice of a TALK RADIO HOST, some Limbaugh wanna-be with a minor slot at this hour. (The camera stays on her all through this.)



-isten, caller, as far as I'm concerned, they shoulda let him cut off her head and mount it on his bedroom wall. Oh, I'm sorry -- was that too controvers-


At this point the rather-slow-in-the-uptake bus driver realizes this isn't a Top 40 station and goes back to changing the channel again. More static, then some music that teenagers might plausibly sit still for. Speaking of sitting still, the camera is still on her -- this is one uncomfortably long shot -- until…


          BRIAN O.C.

     Hey. Tyler.


Tyler looks ahead. Brian is sitting on the seat in front of him, looking back.



     You… uh… you want to come on over?


When we CUT back to him, the woman is gone.


          TYLER (surprised)




This is probably in a small town. If it's a suburb, it's one with walkable streets. There is the sound of a video game being played which continues into the next shot.



Through a half-open doorway we see a couple of boys, older than Tyler and Brian, playing a video game. Brian and Tyler are in the hall, watching through the doorway. Brian looks at Tyler apologetically.



     They're gonna be hogging the game for a while yet.


Tyler looks at the game. It is quite violent. He winces and looks away.



     Want to surf the Internet?



     I'm thirsty. What have you got to drink?



     There's some limeade in the fridge.



Tyler pours himself a glass of limeade. As he looks at the linoleum, we again see little flashes of the linoleum of a different kitchen, sprayed, splattered and covered with blood. As he puts the pitcher of limeade back in the fridge, closes the door and turns to leave, there is the sound of someone entering the kitchen from the outside, struggling with an armload of something.

Tyler is about to go back into the hall when there is a WOMAN'S SCREAM and a CRASH O.C. Shocked, he turns to see a fortyish woman (BRIAN'S MOM, presumably) standing by the doorway. She has just dropped a full bag of groceries on the floor and is staring at Tyler with a look of terror on her face.

Her scream brings the other kids running -- Brian, the two video-game-playing boys and a GIRL of about thirteen. For just a second everyone just stands there -- Brian's mom recoiling in horror at one end of the kitchen, the four kids in a little knot at the other end, Tyler standing uncomfortably between them.



     Mom… you are so embarrassing.



You said I could bring my friends over.


Brian's mom starts to realize she has overreacted, but this doesn't lessen Tyler's embarrassment.



     I… gotta go.



     Don't go yet!



     I'm sorry, my mom's gonna be mad at me. (pause) See you later.



Tyler leaves, backpack on his back and embarrassment on his face.


          BRIAN (from inside)

     Aw, Mom, you see what you did?



Tyler walks down the street, walking quickly and occasionally looking behind him. A car driving down the street slows nearly to a stop. When Tyler looks, he sees the people in the car staring at him. The car accelerates away.

Around the corner, the same thing happens with a different car. This time Tyler, who is now quite annoyed, gives the driver the finger.

Halfway down the block, Tyler stops. In front of him is a stretch of white picket fence, decorated with flowers, cards and photographs. Some teddy bears (now rather weather-beaten) and candle-ends in little dishes are at the bottom. Standing in front of him at the other end of the fence is the black-clad woman.

Tyler stops just short of a cardboard poster on the fence that says "WE Y U BROOK," is signed by many people and has a photograph of a young woman on it. It's the same woman Tyler's been seeing everywhere, but in this one she is dressed normally and looks much happier. He turns around, goes up the driveway and climbs over the fence.



Tyler opens the front door, comes in.


          WOMAN'S VOICE O.C.

     You're late.


Tyler turns. Sitting in a comfortable chair is a concerned-looking woman in her mid-thirties. A lab coat lies across a nearby sofa. This is Tyler's mother, DR. JANICE FADE.


                        DR. FADE

     I was worried.



Sorry, Mom.


                        DR. FADE

     I was about to call the police.



            I was at Brian's.


          DR. FADE

Well, that's all right… but when you get off the bus, I want you to stop here first before you go anywhere else.


     TYLER (muttering a little)

I hate walking past the fence. I hate looking at all that stuff.


                        DR. FADE

I know… but they only put it there because they miss her. They're not angry at you.



I know.


She gets up, goes over to where he is and hunkers down to look him straight in the eye.


                        DR. FADE

Nobody's angry at you. Do you understand me? Nobody blames you.



I know.


She goes into the kitchen, motions for him to follow.


                        DR. FADE

You must be hungry.



I'm not.


They're in the kitchen at this point. It's a perfectly normal kitchen, except for one thing -- there is a knife rack mounted to the wall with no knives in it. (It will come as no surprise to learn that this is the same kitchen whose floor has been seen covered in blood in various flashbacks.)


                        DR. FADE

The school called. They said you didn't eat anything at lunch.



Gee, is everybody watching me?


                        DR. FADE

Yes. Everyone's watching you, because everyone cares about you. (pause)

Now then, dinner won't be ready for another hour or so. How about a snack?


            TYLER (looking away)

I… I had… something at Brian's.


She hunkers down again, and gently grasps his head to make him look her straight in the eye.


                        DR. FADE

You've never lied to me before. Don't you start now.



Sorry, Mom.


She nods, gets up and reaches into the fruit basket.


                        DR. FADE

Have an apple.


She hands him one. It's a Red Delicious. He takes it, but as he looks at its vivid red color, there is split-second flash of his own hand covered in equally red blood.



Can I have one of the green ones instead?


She gets a suit-yourself look on her face, takes the apple, replaces it with a Golden Delicious and takes a bite out of the red apple herself, as if to say that as far as she's concerned, there's nothing wrong with it.



The only remarkable thing about this room is that the upper pane of the window has been replaced with clear plastic, held in place with duct tape. Tyler sits on the bed, eating his apple. The black-clad woman, whom we now know as Brook, is sitting next to him on the bed, but we can't make out her face in any of these shots.

He finishes the apple and tosses it at the wastebasket. It hits the rim and lands on the floor. Tyler goes over there, reaches down to pick it up and suddenly pulls his hand away as if it has been stung. He reaches over again, very carefully, and pulls up a tiny shard of glass. He looks at his hand and sees a little drop of blood on the tip of his middle finger.



Tyler is awakened by the sound of shattering glass. He looks up. The upper pane of his window has just been broken. There is broken glass on his blanket, and on the floor.

CUT TO his mother, in her nightgown, sweeping up the glass with a broom and dustpan. The light in the room is now on, so she can see what she's doing.


                        DR. FADE

Just hold still, honey… let Mommy finish… don't try to get out of bed until all the little bits have been swept up…


CUT TO his mother emptying the dustpan in the trash. A COP is examining a brick with a note tied to it.


                        DR. FADE

We've been getting a few phone calls at work, but I think this is the first time they've started going after us at home.


CUT TO Dr. Fade looking down at Tyler in bed. The cop is gone.


                        DR. FADE

I'm sorry. Some people were mad at Mommy and they threw a brick through the window. I don't even think they knew you were in here.



Tyler is rinsing his finger under the sink. For a couple of seconds we hear the sound of running water and see, from his point of view, his mother scrubbing at him with paper towels, removing great quantities of blood.


                        DR. FADE (VOICE-OVER - her lips aren't moving)

Please… please… I have to clean up my son… I have to clean him up…



Tyler leaves the bathroom, a Band-Aid (the little round kind) on his fingertip. He can hear his mother in the kitchen, talking on the phone.


                        DR. FADE (O.C.)

For a minute there I thought you were one of those crazies…

(2-second pause)

No, they haven't. That's the strange thing--nobody's heard a peep out of them since it happened… Maybe they're just embarrassed…



We see this from Tyler's POV -- he's standing in the doorway. Dr. Fade is on the phone, but the tone of this conversation could not be more different.


                        DR. FADE (screaming)




The same as above, but now Dr. Fade has put down the phone and is sitting on the kitchen floor, weeping. We still see her from Tyler's POV, but now he's standing a lot closer. He reaches out and touches her shoulder.



Don't worry, Mommy. I'll protect you.


She smiles at him.



Tyler, restless, walks down the hallway and into the living room.


                        DR. FADE (O.C.)

I mean, first the police go after them, now they've got the FBI on their case…



Tyler enters the room. Red and blue police lights, and red and white ambulance lights, shine through the window and play over his face.


DR. FADE (O.C., sounding very distant and echoey)

Even the newspapers can't make them look good after what happened…



Tyler looks at the front door.



                        DR. FADE (O.C., back to normal)

And meanwhile, the girl's father is threatening to sue them for everything they've got…



We see the front door from Tyler's POV as he crouches beside it, holding a kitchen knife. Someone is at the door, knocking.


                        DR. FADE (O.C.)



She comes running.


          DR. FADE

     Put down the knife, honey.



     But, Mommy-


          DR. FADE

     Do it!


Tyler obeys, reluctantly. Dr. Fade picks up the knife and tucks it into her belt.



Dr. Fade puts the knife on the countertop. Again, we see her from Tyler's POV.


          DR. FADE

You could have hurt yourself, honey. From now on, you let me protect you. Understand?



Tyler looks at the living room window.


                        DR. FADE (O.C.)

They just keep putting stuff on the fence -- which is technically my property, but I don't have the heart to try and stop them…



Same as above, but now the window has been forced open. Tyler turns to see his mother, in the kitchen, apparently fighting with a taller, black-clad figure. When we hear their voices, they are not in sync with the action--


          DR. FADE



                        BLACK-CLAD WOMAN



It appears that the black-clad woman is trying to shove some photographs in Dr. Fade's face. The doctor pushes the woman backward, and her elbow knocks the knife off the kitchen counter. The black-clad woman pushes back, and Dr. Fade lands on her behind. Her head hits something -- the cupboard or refrigerator -- and she is momentarily dazed. The pictures scatter over the kitchen floor.





Suddenly, the black-clad woman is looking down at Tyler. From where she is standing, she is nearly silhouetted by the kitchen light. She is also wearing black pantyhose over her head, so that her face cannot be seen. From his POV, she's just this giant faceless dark shape looming over him.

Meanwhile, Tyler is holding the knife again. She steps forward, he rushes forward… and suddenly the WHOLE SCREEN GOES RED.



Tyler looks at his mother in the kitchen.


          DR. FADE

     And maybe they're just scared of him…



- The black-clad woman collapses on the floor.

- Dr. Fade recovers, sees Tyler.


DR. FADE (O.C., distant and echoey)

Tyler! Tyler, honey, are you all right?


- Again, we see the expanding pool of blood cover the photos on the floor.

- Tyler's blood-covered fingers press 9-1-1 on the phone.

- Dr. Fade has taken off her belt, wrapped it around the woman's upper thigh, stuck the handle of a ladle under it, and is now turning the ladle, using the belt as a tourniquet in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Tyler is holding the phone up to her.


DR. FADE (O.C., distant and echoey)

I think it's her femoral artery -- there's so much blood… no, I can't see her face -- Tyler, honey, take her mask off…


Tyler pulls her mask off, revealing the beautiful, horrified young woman we've been seeing so much of.

- Police cars and ambulances are seen parked on the street through the living room windows.

- The black-clad woman is surrounded by paramedics. One of them shakes his head sadly.

- A black body bag is zipped shut. We see her eye staring sightlessly out before it closes over her.



Tyler makes a beeline for the front door.



CLOSEUP on the front door as it opens. Tyler comes running out, a certain pair of long legs in black denim right behind him.

CUT TO Tyler's POV as he runs down the path, out the gate, turns right, and immediately has to put on the brakes to keep from running smack into a black-clad woman crouching by the fence.

But this is not the woman. This is a different woman, in her fifties. She is placing flowers beneath a poster that has "R.I.P. BROOK LAURENTIDE" written across the top and a number of pictures of Brook at various stages of her life. The center is dominated by a picture of her in her prom dress, looking radiant.

There is a very long pause as Tyler and this new woman size each other up. Tyler looks at one of the photos on the poster, which shows a ten-year-old Brook and a somewhat younger version of this woman on some happy occasion. The family resemblance is unmistakable. Suddenly Tyler realizes, to his horror, who this must be.

Meanwhile, she, standing up and glancing from Tyler to the front door and back again, comes to a realization of her own. The pause grows longer and more awkward second by second, until Tyler breaks the ice.



You know who I am, don't you?

(MRS. LAURENTIDE nods grimly. There is a pause, not quite as long as the first.)

You must be really mad at me.


                        MRS. LAURENTIDE

The truth is… I don't really know how to feel about you.


It would be one thing if you were… a serial killer… or a thief or a rapist… or a jealous boyfriend… or even a drunk driver.


My husband thinks you're some kind of child psychopath… that you're the sort of person who can't ever feel sad or sorry, no matter what you do.


I think if you were, we'd both be happier.



She was gonna hurt my mom.


                        MRS. LAURENTIDE

I don't believe that.



It's true!


                        MRS. LAURENTIDE

I didn't say it wasn't true -- I said I didn't believe it.

(pause, looking at the fence)

There's a lot of things right now that I can't believe, even though I know they're true…


I think I must still be in denial -- somebody gave me a book on stages of mourning…


I know how this is going to sound, but I keep feeling like… like this is just a phase she's going through -- like her Goth phase and her peace-and-love phase and her Ayn-Rand-objectionivarian-whatever phase that lasted maybe two weeks in high school…


As if all I have to do is be patient and get through this, and before I know it I'll hear her car pulling up in the driveway, and there she'll be with a new hairstyle and a new T-shirt and a new pet cause that everybody in the world has to drop everything and listen to her about, and she'll have completely forgotten… all of this…


You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you? I'm sorry, but I've got to talk to somebody, and my husband just wants to go on and on about all the people he's going to sue and all the… so-and-sos… who are going to pay for this, and I'd rather talk to you than that damn grief counselor…


And I'm not crazy, I know she's… I know there's no way to stop being dead and move on to something else, but what I know and what I feel are two different things…



     Is there a way to stop being a killer?


                        MRS. LAURENTIDE

I don't know.


I know that's not what I should say. I should come up with something like "Shut your eyes and count to a hundred while patting your head and rubbing your tummy, and then…" but you'd know I was just making it up, wouldn't you?

(TYLER nods.)

I still say she wouldn't have hurt anyone. All the changes she put herself through, the one thing she never did was hurt anybody… but then… up until that day, you had never hurt anybody either, had you?

(TYLER shakes his head.)

That's what scares me. I can't imagine her hurting anybody, but… how do I know what could have happened?


Sometimes I ask myself if it would be any easier if… she were in jail and someone else's picture were on this fence… and… I just don't know.


I'd better go.


She walks off. Tyler makes no attempt to follow her. Instead, he turns to go back inside.

Halfway down the path to his front door, he finds Brook blocking his way. He forces himself to look her in the face.



     You're not gonna go away, are you?


She does not respond in any way.



     Okay, then.


He shuts his eyes, grits his teeth… and extends his right hand forwards and upwards. Her hand encloses it… but it is no longer gloved, and there is no sign of the black sweater.

Tyler opens his eyes. Brook is still standing there, but now she is in her prom dress, smiling affectionately down on him. He smiles back. She musses his hair playfully.

He continues on his way into his house, her hand on his shoulder. For just a second, a black glove and sleeve flicker into being on her bare hand and arm.