Still using Pitchstorm as my writing prompt. (See the first writing prompt post for an explanation.) And in case you’re keeping track, yes, there is no “Writing Prompt Session 3” post. Because my third attempt was a total freakin’ disaster. Mostly because it gave me a “character” I just couldn’t work with (a country singer determined to make it big in Nashville) in a completely untenable position (on a deadly white-water rafting trip, with the superpower of being able to talk to cats, which meant that somehow there had to be a cat on the rafting trip) and it just sort of fell apart and after I failed to finish it in the first sitting, I just couldn’t force myself to go back to it. And since the point of all this is to help me get back into the habit of writing, trying to stick to something I just couldn’t deal with seemed counter-productive.
So, anyhow, wrote this one yesterday morning before work. As always, no edits other than spelling.
Character: A medical student in desperate need of fresh cadavers
Plot: crashes their plane in the Canadian wilderness.
Notes: You know what’s hot right now? Found footage! Let’s do that.
The couple stumbled into the cabin, glad to be out of the storm. “Is anyone home?” called Lucille, as Sally slammed the door shut again, bolting it against the crashing wind outside.
When no answer came from the little cabin, they shone their lights across the room. The cabin looked like it had been furnished sometime in the 1970s, and probably hadn’t seen use in almost as long. Everything was covered in dust. The only reason there weren’t any cobwebs, they were sure, was because it was much too cold in that part of the world for spiders.
“Let’s start a fire,” Sally suggested, turning a light onto the fireplace, beside which a pile of dusty firewood rested. “Before we freeze solid.”
Lucille agreed, and they quickly transferred some of the wood into the fireplace and lit a nice, cheery fire. The warmth from the fire was slow to spread, though, so they decided to keep moving about to prevent the ravages of the cold. Splitting up, they explored the cabin. Lucille took the upper floor, and Sally the rest of the ground floor. When they reconvened, Sally reported that there was no food in the kitchen that hadn’t rotted away years ago. Lucille hadn’t found any signs of current occupants, but presented a different kind of find.
“What is it?” Sally asked, looking at the device. It was large and clunky, but definitely some kind of camera.
“I’ve seen these in old movies,” Lucille said. “It’s a video camera. It records onto these big, awkward things called video cassettes.”
A little further investigation of the device revealed that there was a cassette in the camera. As there was somehow still working electricity (they felt sure it must have been connected to a solar-powered battery), and a television rested not far from the fireplace, they decided to have a look at the cassette, if they could. On the bottom of the small television was a rectangular hole just the right size for the cassette, so Lucille gently inserted the object. It didn’t want to go in the first time, but after experimenting with direction a bit, it finally clicked into place.
Turning on the television allowed them to rewind the cassette to the beginning. Once it was rewound, it began to play back its footage on the television’s screen…
A party. People in brightly colored shirts and tight denim trousers, shirts with wide lapels and flaring trousers, dancing to music with a fast, suggestive beat. The camera homes in on one of them, a young man. “Woooo!” a woman’s voice shouts from beside the camera. “Shake it, Lenny!”
The young man turns his back to the camera and wiggles his posterior in its direction, causing the woman to let out another whoop.
The camera shakes and wobbles, and turns briefly towards a banner that reads “Graduation!” before cutting to static.
The young man, Lenny, stands before the camera, reaching towards it with both hands. As he steps away, we see he is wearing a white lab coat, buttoned closed. He stands in a sterile room, and behind him lies a corpse on a slab.
“Dissection Exam One,” he says sternly into the camera. “For Dr. Morgenstern’s class. Date April 12, 1987.” He turns away from the camera, and approaches the corpse. “Subject is a John Doe, found in a ditch outside town. Found naked, with no apparent sign of injury. Believed by the police to be a homeless wino.” He picks up a clipboard from the table, and reads the text written on it. “My assignment is to determine his cause of death.”
He sets down the clipboard and picks up a scalpel. “Initial examination has revealed nothing. Preparing to make first incision.”
As he reaches the scalpel towards the man’s chest, a burst of static interrupts, and suddenly he is standing in front of the camera again, looking concerned. The corpse behind him has been covered again. “Cause of death appears to be disease, but an unknown disease. His inner organs have turned translucent, almost transparent.” Lenny bites his lip. “Is it a genetic disease? Is it contagious? Am I contaminated?”
The static returns.
The camera resolves on a row of corpses in a morgue, all covered over with sheets. “June 7, 1988,” Lenny’s voice states. “The disease is spreading more rapidly now. They all died from it. None of my professors believe me. I can’t do anything about it without more information. I need more test subjects.”
A flash of light precedes the image of a small airplane appearing out of the static. It looks as though the static remained, but it turns out to be only the rain. “The disease doesn’t seem to claim any victims in the winter,” Lenny’s voice announces as the plane grows closer. “I’m taking samples with me to Alaska. See what the cold will do to them.”
As he tries to open the door of the airplane, the camera is dropped, and turns off.
The image of the airplane, smashed in a clearing, resolves on screen, shaking badly. “The storm came out of nowhere.” Lenny’s voice trembles. “I’ve never been hit by lightning before. I better get out of here before the plane can catch fire or explode. If it would do that. I don’t know. I don’t know where I am…”
The image swings around to show nothing but acres of trees, hard to distinguish between the low light and poor video resolution. “I think I’m somewhere in the Yukon…”
As Lenny begins to walk towards the trees, the picture shakes and fades to more static.
A town, quiet and serene. No sign of human life.
“Where is everyone?” Lenny’s voice asks. “It’s like a ghost town…”
The camera approaches the open door of a wooden building, a general store. Inside, a man lies on the ground. Lenny runs over to him, and turns the man over onto his back. Dead eyes stare up at the ceiling. The camera is set aside, and soon Lenny can be seen examining the man.
“Dead,” he says, looking at the camera. “Probably has been for weeks. But why hasn’t he decomposed? There isn’t even a smell. I need to perform an autopsy…”
Lenny is turning on the camera. “Everyone in town was dead. More than three dozen. All ages. No sign of cause of death visible on any of them.”
He turns and walks away from the camera, revealing that he stands in a long, well-lit room. It appears to have once been a restaurant, but all the tables have now been moved to the center of the room, and a row of naked corpses laid out upon them. “I have to see what killed them…”
Lenny approaches the first corpse, but the camera shudders and falls from its stand as he does so.
The corpses behind Lenny are covered up now, and his face is pale and crazed. “All of them. Every single one. They all had that disease. It’s spreading at epidemic rates. I have to get away. I have to hide until I can develop a cure.”
“I can’t let it get me, too.”
The picture turns to static and stays that way.
“How eerie!” Sally exclaimed, with a slight shudder.
“Is it?” Lucille asked, with a delicate shake. “It was just the first wave, yes?”
“But what killed them all?! Will we be next?”
Lucille sighed. “Just the cold probably.” Lucille extended a gentle tentacle, and strokes Sally’s face. “Occupying those human forms was dangerous, you know. We’re much safer now.”
“Maybe so.” Sally’s upper appendage shook. “There’s always the worry that we’ll encounter some poison left behind by the humans, though…”
“Don’t worry so much! The humans took their poisons with them when they went extinct. The planet is ours now. And it’s safe. Come now, cheer up. We’ll always protect us.”
Sally nodded, with a gentle spreading of tentacles and facial organs. “Yes, of course.” Sally pressed up against Lucille, their slime melding together. “It’s so lucky those horrible humans killed themselves. They were such revolting creatures…”
“That they were,” Lucille agreed, turning the television off again. “Come, let’s move closer to the fire and keep warm.”
Sally agreed, and they were soon warming themselves by the gentle sparkling light.
Okay, so…yeah, I sort of cheated. The reveal was weird and forced and doesn’t quite match the set-up at the beginning or the early details about the deaths (it is unedited, please remember) and it makes no sense for the alien whatever-they-ares to have normal human names. (The strikethrough bit of text, btw, was me remembering that the footage was from the 1980s, not the 1970s, when the cabin was decorated.)
About these cards, though! The character card was the first one I’ve had come up from the “Creature Feature” expansion, and I obviously ran in a totally different direction with it than they were expecting. (Though that is, after all, kind of the point of the actual game.) My first thought with it was to do something much more akin to what they might have expected, with a 19th century student of medicine out robbing fresh graves. Only then we get to the plot involving airplanes, and that’s right out the window.
But the plot and notes cards! How unlikely is it that two of them could be drawn at the same time that sync up so perfectly? Found footage thrives off things like plane crashes. Eerie.
Found footage in text form is both surprisingly easy and irritatingly difficult.