SCENE 1 – SCRIPT: [EXT: BACK GARDEN OF ARUN & SAMNANG’S GROUND-FLOOR APARTMENT – AFTERNOON].
SAMNANG is perched upon the back of a child’s yellow, plastic garden chair. With veiled eyes she watches her brother’s breathless antics. Across from her taut frame, stumbling about on short and skinny legs, ARUN is chasing a butterfly about the interior of the garden. His childish gaiety is juxtaposed harshly with the dystopian reality surrounding them.
*emits a soft, grudging chuckle of amusement*
Keep it up, you almost caught it!
ARUN pauses, his diminutive hands slack by his sides as he catches his breath. Small, dark eyes track the motions of the speckled butterfly as it flutters towards SAMNANG before alighting upon her forehead.
*laughs loudly, pointing at his sister*
SAMNANG smiles as she gently shakes her head from side to side, causing the butterfly to take to the air again. With a start, ARUN continues his pursuit. His concentration elsewhere, ARUN does not notice the slew of conversation bouncing down the corridor leading to the ajar backdoor. The voices are unintelligible at first, yet as SAMNANG listens, her brow furrowed, the volume suddenly explodes.
(OFFSCREEN. In angry, panicked tones)
Why though?! Why must you do this..?!
Do you have no mind of your own?
(OFFSCREEN. Forceful tone)
You should be grateful we do not kill you all!
Now, get out of the way.
A commotion can clearly be heard inside the building, growing in volume as a throng of soldiers materialize out of the back door which is thrown violently open to rattle against the wall. SAMNANG turns to face oncoming crowd, pivoting in her chair before standing erect, her fists and jaw clenched. ARUN crosses the distance between him and his sister to hide behind her thin legs, clutching at a faded fold of her jeans.
(Calm yet wary tone)
W-Who are you and what do you want?
Ignoring her questions, one of the soldiers stood nestled in the sea of faded green uniforms raises an arm to signal an order. His attire is slightly different to those about him; upon his close-cropped hair rests a military issue cap, crested with some sort of metallic insignia.
With grim, set expressions the soldiers descend on the pair.
*yells in defiance*
SAMNANG spreads her arms out behind her in an attempt to protect her brother. After a brief struggle, the two are hauled bodily through the back door.
TRANSITION: SCENE SHIFTS TO FRONT-DOOR OF APARTMENT.
With the commanding OFFICER in the lead, the soldiers emerge in single file. A woman can be heard wailing hysterically from inside the building somewhere. Each of the children are held by a single soldier; they kick and fidget to no avail.
The FATHER engages the soldier holding ARUN – who is towards the back of the procession – attempting to free the boy. The three intermingled bodies struggle fretfully for a moment as the line of soldiers comes to a halt.
Bah, interfering fool!
The soldier levels his rifle, aiming at the father but the bullet issued forth misses the flailing target, instead hitting ARUN square in the forehead. The boy goes limp, caught between the two struggling adults and silently, softly, slides onto the ground. Not given a moment to absorb the death of his son, the FATHER is quickly knocked unconscious with the butt of a rifle.
(Angry and impatient)
Watch your aim, damn you!
Our orders were to bring them back alive!
My most fervent apologies! I-I,
*gulps, lost for an excuse*
I will take better care next time!
You’ll be lucky if there is another time.
Never-mind! The girl will have to do.
As SAMNANG’s eyes rest upon the frail figure of her brother, prone on the pavement, the fight gutters out within her. Limp of limb and hollow-eyed, the soldiers bundle her silently into the back of the military van before clambering aboard themselves. With a sputtering start, the ignition chokes into life and the vehicle begins to accelerate. The vehicle careers down the road towards the prison which is sat menacingly on the horizon, silhouetted by a bleeding, red sunset.
TRANSITION: FADE TO BLACK [GAMEPLAY BEGINS].
SCENE 2 – SCRIPT: [INT: VENTILATION SHAFT, PRISON WARDEN’S OFFICE, PRISON FACILITY – NIGHT].
Between the slats of the rusted grate, fragments of the WARDEN’s office flit in and out of view as ARUN shifts occasionally. The WARDEN is sat in a nonchalant state of repose on a stiff, wooden chair, his back to the grate so his features and current preoccupation obscured. In front of him lies a desk, on top of which something unseen holds his attention. The silence is broken by the sound of hurried activity outside the room, followed by a frantic cascade of raps upon the door. The WARDEN’s head tilts upward.
One of the many guards enters the room, quickly shutting the door flush with the walls. His eyes nervously flicker in the direction of the WARDEN before giving the perfunctory salute and speaking.
(Speaking quickly, with apprehension)
I must report that there has been an, err… Unaccountable disturbance in one of the lower sectors.
What? What do you mean?
I-I don’t know sir, I was only told to bring this to your attention.
My attention..? My attention..?! Well you have it now use it.
The GUARD blinks, nonplussed. His eyes scan the walls awkwardly, in an attempt to avoid the WARDEN’s face. The WARDEN suddenly slouches upright, clearly agitated, and stands beside the desk.
Witless grunts, the lot of you – show me exactly what you mean!
Go on, lead the way.
The GUARD, realizing his mouth is agape, promptly shuts it and hurriedly fumbles with the door-handle before disappearing through the opening. Grumbling indeterminately, the WARDEN follows, closing the door behind him. Revealed in the wake of his absence, upon the desk, is a glinting pile of keys next to a sheaf of yellowing paper.
CAMERA CENTRES ON KEYS.
TRANSITION: FADE TO BLACK [GAMEPLAY RESUMES]
SCENE 3 – SCRIPT: [INT: SAMNANG’S CELL, PRISON FACILITY – LATE NIGHT/ EARLY MORNING].
Initially the screen is completely black, leaving the player with just the sound of resonating sobs, echoing about a small space. The clamorous report of a key turning in a lock splits the soft noise and bringing forth the first visuals. SAMNANG is sat with her back to the wall opposite the cell door, her limbs brought in tight, head buried in the folds of her arms. From a first person perspective, upon hearing the key turn, SAMNANG raises her head tentatively and opens her eyes. In the hushed darkness of her brick and mortar cell, nothing is immediately apparent. Inch by inch, sliding her gaze upwards across the floor, ARUN’s translucent apparition comes into focus. The cell door behind him remains shut.
TRANSITION: CINEMATIC FLASHBACK [FINAL PIECE OF SCENE 1 INFORMING OF ARUN’S DEATH].
TRANSITION: FLASHBACK ENDS, CONCURRENT CINEMATIC CONTINUES.
(Still looking at her brother)
*begins to cry anew*
(After a moment)
With a snap, for a second time a key twists home in its mechanism and the stained metal door over ARUN’s shoulder swings inward. In the door’s absence, soft light cast from a pale sunrise through an adjacent window brushes shyly over the cold brick interior. Upon alighting on the spectre stood before SAMNANG, he disappears without a sound. An unknown figure appears in the frame of the door however, speaking with someone OFFSCREEN over his shoulder.
(With a raised voice)
Check down the second corridor, I think I heard voices.
Upon returning his attention to the cell, he spies SAMNANG huddled still motionless at the back wall. Despite clearly being a soldier, his attire is unusual; the colours are different and the insignia unrecognisable to SAMNANG. Sweat adorns his swarthy brow and his wide eyes seem to regard her with genuine concern. He does not speak but instead takes a few, steady steps inside the cell and offers a hand. SAMNANG recoils away, still wary and afraid. The VIETNAMESE SOLDIER remains silent and still, waiting. Given a moment’s respite, her thoughts turn to her brother and, unheard by the VIETNAMESE SOLDIER a single peal of ARUN’s laughter rings in SAMNANG’s ears. After a pause, SAMNANG straightens and without a word, grasps the outstretched hand.
TRANSITION: SNAP TO BLACK CANVAS.
Original Publication: 2014