EXT. CARNEGIE LIBRARY STEPS — SOMETIME
In the absence of the festival, which was packed up and carted off to emblazon another midwestern town weeks ago, Main Street looks more than deserted. What once felt like a cathedral full of dancing light now feels like a crypt full of medicinally condensed fog that is sparked by the inquisitively tinted street lamps. The whole of what is left of Mitchell seems to peer into the darkness for something that it knows is gone.
There are no cars on the road this late at night, only a cat that pauses to look at the library before pursuing whatever shadows wait to tempt it away. While the cat looks at the mold-splotched limestone steps, a brisk wind stirs the leaves and scraps of dried persimmon pulp into a whirlwind that mixes into something more.
The unmoving spiritual forms of Flori and RJ appear. They lay stretched side-by-side across the small stone porch situated in front of the entrance to the library. A jack-o-lantern’s sickening glare disturbs the shadows that have settled on their faces, which don’t move. If they were breathing, you could almost assume that they were sleeping.
The cat, sensing but unable to precisely map their presence, hisses and skips away as more ghosts make themselves visible. DOC HAMILTON, a town doctor of lore for whom Hamilton Boulevard is named, GRANNY WHITE, an old pioneer who has been known as the resident haunt of Spring Mill ever since the state of Indiana relocated her house from Bedford to the pioneer village, and Betty Bewitched attend to Flori and RJ
Meanwhile, Rod steps away from the library to meet astronaut GUS GRISSOM, who struggles to haul a large black rock towards the steps. The ghost of Mr. Kidderman’s dog, BUSTER, follows Rod to the sidewalk and pauses, whining and scratching at the earth, before he gets too far from the library.
(reaching towards Gus)
I’ll help with that. I can’t imagine how
you managed it this far.
…oh well…you know,
Betty always said…
my only gift was mindless
determination in the face
Gus hands the stone to Rod. Rod takes it, grunting painfully, and sets it on the sidewalk. Gus looks past Rod towards the ghosts on the steps and waves at Betty Bewitched.
gigantic boulder from
the dark side of the moon
for you, Bethany.
Betty Bewitched barely seems to notice, she is so engrossed by the incantation she utters over Flori and RJ. Gus, unfazed, slaps the lunar dust off his hands while Rod pulls out his pack of cigarettes and unholsters two with a gentle tap. Rod offers one cigarette to Gus and dangles the other from the corner of his mouth with the care of an experienced smoker.
Gus flicks his thumb as if he is tossing a coin, and the tip of it catches fire. It burns blue, and the stirring wind does not disturb it. Gus lights his cigarette with his thumb before offering the light to Rod. Rod puckers his lips, extending the cigarette, and accepts the light. Both ghosts stand silently smoking, letting the vapors swirl and extinguish when it slips past the edge of their ectoplasm.
(looking up from his work)
You know, you’ll kill yourselves, you dumbasses.
Begging your pardon, sir,
but we’re already well
beyond your helping us.
The silence between Rod and Gus grows again, until Rod leans in to break it.
(using his most privately
quiet voice and kicking
the ghostly space rock)
Thanks for bringing back the specimen,
really. For more than that. For all of it.
Something previously unnoticeable glints in Gus’s eye, and he runs a hand calmly across his buzz-cut hair.
I’m not so dumb. I know
this mission might be futile,
considering the state
of things, but still, with this storm
and all. I’ve got to try.
Gus pauses, taking a large drag on his cigarette and eyeing Rod in a curiously taunting way.
You take care of the town when I’m gone.
I will —
I’ve got a story to tell.
Rod glances back at Flori and RJ with mysterious significance.
(breaking the spell)
I guess I haven’t been
so nervous since the last
Apollo mission. It’s strange.
Rod turns back to Gus, erasing the narrative hunger from his face a second too late.
Gus, perhaps to hide his shock, takes another drag.
I always was a big
fan of yours and all.
I loved the show, is what
I’m trying to say.
It wasn’t mine —
it was yours, in the end. And we’re all fans.
(eyes sharpening, tossing
his cigarette away)
Without another word, Gus defies gravity and soars across town to the stone rocket monument commemorating his life that sits outside of City Hall. Rod follows his flight with a curious stare, and as he grinds his cigarette butt into the concrete, a ghostly rendition of Gus’s Saturn V rocket launches into the night, briefly lighting Mitchell with its scientific glory.
Doc Hamilton and Granny White pause to watch the rocket disappear. Gus is gone, and the town seems even darker than before. Rod turns back to everyone on the library steps.
Let’s get to work.
Buster perks his ears and wags his tail when Rod approaches, and he runs up the library steps to circle Flori and RJ after accepting a scratch behind the ear.
(motioning to the
unmoving forms of Flori
We’ve got to carry them inside
before the storm picks up.
Rod picks up the moonstone and, lumbering under its bulk, climbs the stone steps.
(brushing Buster aside to
pick up RJ)
You know, it’d be
a hell-a-lot more easy if this dog,
damn it all, would take off on its own.
(mocking, grabbing RJ by
the ankles and helping Doc
Hamilton lift him up)
it’d be a hell
if all the lazy men
would take off all alone.
Let’s not fight.
And old Doc, do your best with the dog.
It’s what God has seen fit to yoke us with,
and God help all us poor old sinners
Thanks for all the help, Mrs. White.
God, I knew it was bad when all the folks
in the village…
Granny White pauses under the weight of a memory she refuses to recall.
(motioning to Flori and RJ)
…but when they appeared
there, so suddenly, on the east tracks…
It was difficult just to get them off the tracks
before the late train came on through…
Granny White convulses, as if thinking about what could have happened hurts her dearly. She comes apart at the seams and comes back together as COACH JACK.
Coach Jack shivers in an oversized letter jacket, perhaps his own jacket from a time before old age set in, a time when he was an athlete himself.
(looking thoughtfully at
RJ as he passes)
I only hope I wasn’t the one that hurt the boy.
He doesn’t deserve more pain than what he got
Don’t…worry, Jack. And here, take…this.
Rod hands Coach Jack the moonstone. Coach Jack can barely hold it, but he does his best to make it look easy while the other ghosts, who stand waiting at the door, try not to laugh.
Rod skips past all the others and opens the door. He holds the door open while Doc Hamilton and Betty Bewitched walk through with RJ Coach Jack, smiling painfully, also lumbers through with the moonstone. After a moment, Doc Hamilton and Coach Jack return to carry Flori in.
(poking fun at Coach Jack)
You think that you can lift her up? Look now,
Coach, don’t hurt yourself.
(already hurt, carefully
lifting Flori by her
You try to lift
that stone. It’s awful heavy. I’ll be fine.
Doc Hamilton and Coach Jack cart Flori into the library, where they disappear inside a maze of books. Rod holds the door as he watches them go, and when they’re gone, he turns your way.
I’d take to shelter too, if I were you.
This unnatural weather worsens by
the hour — a storied storm is quickly brewing
in the shadows of the dying year. You can hear
the rising winds whistling in the trees,
but in a day or two they’ll sweep you clean
off your feet. It’s about to be a doozy,
that’s why us ghosts have congregated in
the library, as sacred to us as all
archives of our past lives are, to outlast
the pull of stories stronger than our own.
I guess you could say that Flori and RJ
picked the worst of times to get acquainted,
but they’re safe inside these limestone walls,
and most importantly, they’re warm and dry.
Rod slams the door shut, and another whirl of wind, perhaps smelling damply like the last lingering scent of old books, or maybe like the afterthought of a thunderstorm, extinguishes the jack-o-lantern on the library porch.
The entrance to the library soaks in the deepening darkness as clouds gather overhead. It starts to rain slowly, and a mist that can’t stop itself curls up on the ground and falls asleep. A streetlamp on down Main Street flickers, and Mitchell itself appears to fall into a restless, agitated slumber.
Missed MitcHELL the first time around? Read or reread the first half of the story here: