A short film script
© Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern
A distant military snare drum beats a march.
A shrill WHISTLE pierces the air. A RUMBLE of a train engine draws nearer, GASPING and HEAVING steam as it approaches. Brakes begin to SQUEAL.
EXT. TRAIN STATION PLATFORM -- NIGHT
The year is 1942. A man in his early thirties, ALFRED GRAVES, is standing alone next to a bench on a train station platform. He is wearing a slightly worn topcoat and a fedora.
The SQUEAL of brakes becomes sharper, painful, more piercing. Alfred is staring intently ahead into the LIGHT of the oncoming train.
QUICK FLASH: A WOMAN (AURORA) speaks to him in a busy nightclub.AURORAI guess that means you have to... choose every thing very carefully--
Back to the platform. The train is nearer, the beam of light on Alfred grows brighter.
QUICK FLASH: Aurora extends her hand to him in a dressing room.AURORA (cont'd)My first name's Aurora.
Back to the platform. The train is still nearer, the light brighter, the sounds more overwhelming.
QUICK FLASH: Aurora stands near Alfred on the platform.AURORA (cont'd)Think it over.
Back to the platform: the train light dazzles his eyes, the sounds of brakes and hissing steam thunder around him. He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes. The station sounds vanish except for the final SQUEAL of brakes--
--which becomes the sound of CHALK SQUEAKING on a blackboard.
INT. SMALL THEATRE -- EVENING
Alfred is standing onstage with a blinding spotlight on his face, wearing a show jacket and bowtie. A voice from the dark audience calls out:UNSEEN MANAquamarine.
Sound of chalk writing on blackboard.UNSEEN WOMANMultitudinous.
Sound of chalk again.UNSEEN OTHER MANHumdinger!
Sound of the audience chuckling, and chalk on blackboard again.
Alfred opens his eyes. He is facing the audience, with his back to a blackboard, on which an obviously pregnant FEMALE VOLUNTEER from the audience has just finished writing "humdinger"; it's the last of a long list of unrelated words. He takes a deep breath and recites:ALFREDGoatee. Moccasin snake. Parliament. Haddock. Eutrophication. Ipso facto. Artie Shaw. Pussycat. Vivisection. Sarcophagus. Nitty gritty. Silver Dollar. Appuntamento. Measles. Joie de vivre. Ezekiel. Marshmallow. Pusillanimity. Sforzando...
We now have a fuller view of the room, as Alfred continues the list. Though the spotlight on him is nearly blinding, we can make out a SCATTERED AUDIENCE silhouetted in the dark. Most are WOMEN, though there are two SERVICEMEN in uniform near the front row, and a few MEN over 50 with their wives.
Behind him on stage are several large blackboards on wheels. One is filled with random numbers in neat rows, another is covered with wildly complicated algebra and the closest one, still behind his back, has all the words on the list written by the VOLUNTEER. She stands by, astonished, ticking the words off as ALFRED remembers them.ALFRED (cont'd)...Aquamarine. Multitudinous. Humdinger.
Applause and smiles break out all over the audience. AURORA ISAACS, the fair-haired woman in her late twenties from the earlier flashes, is among them.PRIVATEMr Graves! Backwards. Could you do it backwards?
A few laughs of good-humoured skepticism from the audience. Alfred shakes his head slightly. There's a hush.ALFREDBackwards.
He takes a breath and begins. As he recites, an excited chatter spreads through the audience ("How does he do that?" etc.).ALFRED (cont'd)Rungidmuh Sunid-ooytih-itlum Neeruh-maw-ka Oo-udna-strofs Eetim-in-allis-ooyp Wollum-shram Leh-eek-eezee Rveev-euhd-oh-ajz Zlzeem Otnem-atnupa Rullawd-rivlis eetirg-eetin Suh-guf-awk-raws Nush-kes-iviv Tak-eesup Awsh-Eetraw Otcaf-Ospih Nush-ee-ehk-if-fur-tooi Kuddah Tnum-uhl-rawp Kee-ehns-Nissuc-awm Eetoag.
The chatter dissolves into laughter and enthusiastic applause. Aurora glances a few rows back to MAJOR STEPHENSON, a middle-aged man. Their eyes lock for a moment, STEPHENSON nods and prepares to leave. Aurora turns her attention back towards Alfred.ALFRED (cont'd)Thank you, that concludes my demonstration. Thank you all for coming.
He turns to the volunteer still standing behind him with her piece of chalk.ALFRED (cont'd)Thank you, Charlotte Greevey.
He bends down to address her pregnant belly.ALFRED (cont'd)Thank you, little Greevey.
The audience laughs. Charlotte smiles, gives a little curtsey to the audience, and returns to her seat. He faces the audience and addresses each of them in turn to their obvious delight, picking up speed with each name.ALFRED (cont'd)Thank you, Roy Winters... goodnight Janine Blake... Mr and Mrs Charles Doherty, Amelia Dorfman, Pino Goldoni, Virginia Miller, Roberta Madison, Theresa Lowry, Mrs Rafael Horn, Private Donovan & Private Lovell--Queen's Own Rifles, Andre Tetrault...
Aurora is paying close attention as he approaches her name. Alfred hesitates when he gets to her--ALFRED (cont'd)Aur-... Miss Isaacs... Ann Underwood, Eugenia Hoskins, Gabriella Martini...
Aurora is puzzled. Struggling, Alfred continues...ALFRED (cont'd)Victoria Barker... James Everton...
INT. SMALL THEATRE DRESSING ROOM -- EVENING (LATER)
ALFRED is packing his things: the show posters, programmes and performance suit. The room is strikingly barren: there are no flowers, souvenirs, good-luck cards or decorations of any kind.
There's a KNOCK on the door.ALFREDYes, I'm almost ready!
AURORA (O.S.)Mr Graves?
He looks up, startled, then recovers slightly.ALFREDOh, Miss... Yes... Miss Isaacs... I'm sorry. Come in.
The door opens and AURORA enters with a nervous laugh. She is holding the evening's programme.AURORAYou even remember voices! I've... I've already forgotten what I had for lunch.
AURORAWhat's your secret?
There's a confused pause.ALFRED (cont'd)I'm Alfred Graves.
AURORAYes... I know. And my first name's Aurora.
She extends her hand. Alfred doesn't take it. He is spellbound for a moment, and makes a flustered reply.ALFREDYes. I know... I knew.
AURORAOh, you did?
He tentatively takes her hand and shakes it. She's sure she's missing something, but continues awkwardly.AURORAOh. I just wanted to say I enjoyed your performance.
They withdraw hands. Alfred holds his hands together. There's a pause.AURORAYou were... unbelievable.
AURORAI was... It... I gather this isn't your home town, so, I don't know if you know people around, or... if you don't I was wondering if maybe you'd have time to join me for a drink?... Unless you have to be somewhere.
(indicating the program)
AURORAI understand. That's fine. I was just-ALFREDI mean just a 12:20 train. Yes... I'd like that.
INT. DANCE HALL -- EVENING
A red curtain is swept aside. A thick confusion of SOUND -- lively jazz, laughter, chatter and clinks of glasses -- floods out.
Inside, on stage, a FEMALE SINGER with a rich, husky voice is accompanied by a PIANIST, A DRUMMER and a BASSIST. The dance floor is alive with motion. People are clustered at tables, laughing, drinking, and flirting. Almost all the young men are in uniform.
Alfred is distracted by the motion of the dancers--
--by a MAN's loud laugh--
--the CLINK of ice in a cocktail glass--
--a WOMAN's sparkling earring--
--the singer's VOICE in particular seems to unnerve him.
An imposing WAITER appears.WAITERWho do you know?
Aurora takes off her coat and hands it to the Waiter.AURORARoy and Ginger.
WAITERTable by the dance floor?
(taking off Alfred's coat)
The clutter of SOUND and MOVEMENT is too much for Alfred. He'd rather be anywhere else.ALFREDActually...
Alfred changes his mind. He spies a quieter corner, at a distance from the stage.ALFRED (cont'd)...perhaps we could sit over there.
The waiter disposes of their coats and hats and leads them over to the more private table. Alfred braces himself and walks through the overwhelming barrage of noise and activity.
On the way to the table he is confronted by a CORPORAL, who glares at him. Alfred returns the look without malice or fear and continues.
They reach the table. The waiter pulls out a chair for Aurora and they sit.ALFREDI hope you don't mind...AURORANot at all.
(a bemused smile)
ALFREDIt's just the music, it's a bit ... rich.
The waiter interrupts.WAITERWhat can I get you?
AURORAWhat's your barkeep good at?
WAITERRoy and ginger. Roy and Coke. Roy Mist. Roy and Lemon. Pink Squirrel. Fluffy Duck.
WAITERRoy and Peach.
AURORAAnyone here besides Roy?
(not getting any of this)
WAITERShh. I can do you a beer.
AURORAI'll have the Duck.
ALFREDI'll have the beer--the glass of beer.
AURORAAre you alright?
ALFREDI'm sorry. It's just... the music already tastes like blue paint. The waiter's voice is splintered wood. "Roy" is the man from the fourth row tonight. And Pink Squirrel... well...
AURORAI'm... not sure I follow you.
ALFREDI can't see something without also tasting it. I can't hear something without seeing it. All my... senses are...
He makes a very frustrated gesture of a messy tangling.AURORAThat's why you'd rather sit here. Where there's less... going on. Where it's quiet.
ALFREDIt's hardly quiet. That lady's wearing a very loud dress.
He gestures towards a LADY IN A LOUD DRESS sitting nearby in a vibrantly coloured dress. Aurora laughs. Alfred doesn't seem aware he's made a joke, but then catches on and joins her in a smile.
The waiter reappears with their drinks.ALFRED (cont'd)You haven't told me too much about yourself, Miss Isaacs.
AURORAYou can call me Aurora.
ALFREDWhat do you do?
AURORAMy story's pretty ordinary, I'm afraid. But I believe in doing what I can. For the cause. I work near Whitby. You know, secretarial work. Some translation.
Something doesn't seem right to Alfred. He looks at her mouth with intense concentration, listening. Aurora, flustered, changes the subject.AURORA (cont'd)If I had your skills I wouldn't need shorthand! So all your senses... are actually a single sense? That's -- Is that how you remember things so sharply?
ALFREDIt's how I remember everything. I remember... everything.
ALFREDSince the very first day.
Aurora is stunned.AURORAI... can't imagine.
ALFREDI can't imagine forgetting. I've tried everything. How do you... how do you stop knowing something you know?
She has no answer--she's never thought of it that way.AURORAI guess that would mean... you have to choose...everything... very carefully because...
ALFRED...because there are some things you'd rather not always remember. You see? It's dangerous sometimes and it makes me... afraid...
Aurora follows his eyes toward the servicemen at the nearby table, who are now laughing over a drink.ALFREDSometimes you need to forget and I can't. Ever happen to you?
Aurora is very moved by his simple, defenceless honesty. She gives him an equally honest answer.AURORAOnce or twice. Yes.
They have locked eyes.
All sounds seem to fade, the voices, the music, and an unexpected warmth fills the spreading silence. All motion seems to cease. The moment is still, pure and uncluttered--peaceful for the first time. Alfred holds his breath.
Then sounds spill back in, and the room becomes normal again. They both smile shyly and Alfred takes his first sip of beer -- more like a big gulp.AURORA (cont'd)How's the beer... sound?
ALFREDA purring clarinet. How's the Duck?
Aurora takes a sip.AURORAA rusty squeezebox.
They laugh. The song has ended; there's a scattering of applause. The band begins a slow song. There's a pause; they look away from each other.AURORA (cont'd)Do you dance?
The singer begins a lazy, sensuous melody.SINGEROne word and you've melted my defences / This isn't like me / One glance and I damn the consequences / This isn't like me ...
Alfred and Aurora are now standing on the dance floor, facing each other. She holds out her arms to him. He steps into them.
They are both very aware of their touching palms, the warm nearness of their bodies, his hand on her waist, her hand at his shoulder, the sound of their breath.
The distractions of the outer world fade for both of them. Their eyes close as they are both drawn into the sensuality of the moment. They feel the nearness of each other's lips and the warmth of each other's breath. Each aches to complete the moment with a kiss.
EXT. TRAIN STATION PLATFORM -- NIGHT
ALFRED, eyes closed, is still standing in the swirl of steam as we last saw him in the train station. The train is heaving its last HISS as it stops.
We hear voices at a distance; Alfred opens his eyes, turns and "sees" himself and Aurora, as if at the very same moment. The station is quiet. Alfred is carrying his suitcase and finishing a story.ALFREDSo I said to him... If you don't let go of that pig you'll be reading about this in every column in the country.
They laugh.AURORAWhy'd you stop?
ALFREDIt got too hard.
AURORAThe writing part or the reporting part?
ALFREDI had a hard time thinking of things I could write about.
AURORAPlenty to write about now.
ALFREDYes. I guess that was the trouble.
She stops. He stops beside her.AURORA (cont'd)It's a shame.
AURORAYou leaving tonight.
A pause.ALFREDYes it is.
AURORAI shouldn't... Alfred... I know it's not good to rush things like this. It's not 'done.'
She searches his face. He looks at her more directly and tenderly than he has all night.AURORA (cont'd)But I feel sometimes you have to... just...
Her gesture says "spill it out;" they both laugh.AURORA (cont'd)There're two things I can say here. One I want to say. The other I have to say. Alfred, I need to know I can trust you.
ALFREDYou can trust me.
She hesitates.AURORAAlfred... I'm working for a branch of the intelligence service... for the war.
She decides to spill everything at once.AURORA (cont'd)There's a training camp close to here, near Whitby. It's new and it's run by the best minds of the Allied countries. There's something that's come up. And every day that goes by is... They need someone like you.
Alfred is stunned by this unexpected turn.ALFREDI... I don't understand.
AURORAThey need you but... they had to know if you... well, if you were the real thing.
Distant sound of the train beginning to approach.ALFREDThe real thing... I see. And on that... subject. What exactly do you do?
AURORAWell, I'm not a secretary.
ALFREDI knew that. I could hear that.
Aurora changes the subject.AURORAI understand why you might hesitate. Given... everything...
As she keeps speaking, Alfred remembers seeing a man (STEPHENSON) exchanging glances with her towards the end of his show...AURORA (cont'd, O.S.)But you wouldn't be exposed to -- well, I don't think you'd have to... work in the field.
He turns to her.ALFREDThey sent you...
AURORAI wish I could explain. This thing that's come up. They think only you... only someone like you...
ALFREDThey sent you to convince me.
He rises and takes a few steps away, towards the tracks. She hesitates, then rises to stand hear him, speaking softly.AURORA (cont'd)I'm sorry. I mean, I wish... I know what this looks like, believe me, and I don't blame you for thinking -- if... if that's what you're thinking. Not that I...
She can't finish. Alfred turns to her after a moment.ALFREDAnd... what was the thing you wanted to say?
The train's approach grows louder. She takes a breath, looks for a moment as if she might speak, then stops herself, as if her conscience won't let her.
The train whistle blows -- it's approaching the station.AURORAYou're going to have to forget we had this conversation.
Alfred looks up at her. Aurora catches her mistake.AURORA (cont'd)Or at least... think it over. I'm staying at the Winchester tonight... in case you should reconsider and want to... talk. Goodnight, Alfred.
She gives him a quick kiss on the cheek and walks away. The sound of her high heels grow more distant as she nears the corner and are covered gradually by the sound of the approaching train. The train's light grows brighter on him, echoing the film's opening scene.
He closes his eyes and inhales deeply, holding his breath. The jazz singer's sultry song fades in.
INT. DANCE HALL -- EVENING (EARLIER)
Aurora and Alfred are dancing to the song that began earlier. They are still surrounded by the same warmth and sensuality, pleasantly lost.AURORAAlfred... what does my name taste like?
Alfred opens his eyes. The question touches him deeply. He draws her slightly closer to him. He closes his eyes again. The DANCE MUSIC is invaded by a railway conductor's PEA WHISTLE.
EXT. TRAIN STATION PLATFORM -- NIGHT
Alfred stands alone, eyes closed, still holding his breath. The steam of the arriving train is still swirling around him. The DANCE MUSIC SWELLS.
He exhales, opens his eyes. The train has stopped.
Alfred has made his choice. Leaving his suitcase behind, he turns to follow Aurora. Scattered PASSENGERS begin to cross the platform to the train. A weary, solitary SOLDIER, just disembarked and carrying a duffel bag, crosses paths with Alfred. Alfred's silhouette is enveloped by the steam of the train and vanishes.
CREDITS -- accompanied by the final verse of the Dance Hall Singer's song.
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