MitcHELL

Cole Hardman
Jun 23 · 7 min read
artwork by Graham Hardman — https://instagram.com/graham_hardman/

EXT. WARREN STREET — NIGHT, SEPT. 23

Leo follows Shelly out into the middle of a dark street. A block away to their right, on Main Street, Mitchell is lit by the neon fires pulsing through the carnival. Screaming kids on a giant rotating swing ride appear and disappear behind a building, and the Zipper spins people in metal cages above the old shop rooftops. The air must smell festive, it’s so clouded with smoke from carnival food stands.

But the sounds of the festival stage, which really isn’t that far away, are dimmed and subdued. And the city roads to the left of Warren Street are apocalyptically dark. Shelly and Leo stand in some sort of liminal zone that is massaged, but not embraced, by the festival’s general joviality.

Leo seems affected by something — maybe by the strangeness of looking in at the fun, or maybe by some other epiphany.

LEO

I think we need to check the city pool

or the school parking lot — they might be parked

somewhere in town.

SHELLY

What — you don’t want to hit

another food stand on the way?

LEO
(replying with equally
friendly sarcasm)

I’d rather

be nine again, right when I just got big

enough to ride the zipper. I don’t think

the festival will ever be better than that.

But that’s not happening. And we’ve got friends

who need us to be creepy stalkers right now.

SHELLY
(smiling in relief)

Then let’s get going —

Just then, Leo pulls Shelly aside. They hide together behind a tall shrub near the entrance to the church. Leo points towards the figures of two people who, like sparks from a campfire, are floating away from the lights burning on Main Street.

SHELLY
(whispering loudly)

It’s them.

LEO

Of course it is.

SHELLY

Of course — as soon as you decide to try,

the Universe conspires to give you what

it is you want.

LEO

You think? It seems to me

like everything goes wrong.

Shelly glares, and Leo shakes the shrub.

LEO (CONT’D)

We’re hiding in

a bush.

SHELLY

They’re going to find us.

LEO

Is that

a bad thing?

SHELLY

If it’s not that bad, then why

did you drag me here?

LEO
(thinking)

I don’t really know.

Hannah and Dirk, who apparently have not seen Leo and Shelly, walk by so closely that, for a brief moment, you can hear them.

DIRK
(pointedly)

I’m not that smart.

HANNAH
(persuasively, perhaps
flirtatiously)

I’m sure you’ll figure it out…

Shelly nudges Leo with her elbow when Dirk and Hannah move out of earshot.

SHELLY

Isn’t it funny how they’re walking? They’re not holding

hands or anything.

LEO

You might be reading

too much into it, or something.

SHELLY

Dirk is

barely keeping up.

LEO

It’s hard to walk

that fast when you’re eating cheesecake on a stick.

Leo and Shelly step out from behind the bush. They watch Hannah and Dirk walk down the road for a moment.

LEO

Should we follow them?

SHELLY
(taking charge)

Just stay behind me.

Shelly starts down the road, followed by Leo. They take care to stay several steps behind Dirk and Hannah, who head for the City Cemetery, which rises above the town on a hill at the end of Warren Street.

CUT TO:

EXT. CITY CEMETERY — SHELLY AND LEO POV

Shelly, with Leo trailing closely behind her, hides between two shrubs near the WW2 memorial on the top of the hill at the City Cemetery.

LEO
(catching his breath)

I thought that they were going to his car

or something…

Shelly shoots a bit of disbelief towards Leo with a brief but motlen stare.

LEO (CONT’D)

…not the graveyard.

SHELLY

Seriously?

LEO
(gulping defensively,
eyeing one very old
and ornate antique crypt)

Ghosts are real.

Shelly turns her attention to Dirk and Hannah, who meander between the graves below on the other side of the hill. You can just barely hear Hannah as she weaves stories about the dead.

HANNAH

…and this one died in a fire

his father started for insurance money…

…this girl…this one is still alive…

Dirk follows Hannah closely, step by step. His cheesecake is gone, and the chocolate-covered pointy stick he is holding makes him look ridiculous, like some ineffectual knight seeking praise for killing a burnt marshmallow. He says something to Hannah, which Shelly and Leo can’t hear, that makes Hannah change direction and turn up the hill. As they get closer and closer, the conversation Hannah and Dirk are having becomes more and more clear — perhaps dangerously so.

CUT TO:

EXT — CITY CEMETERY — DIRK AND HANNAH POV

Dirk leaps after Hannah. If you gasp, maybe because you think he is going to stab her with his chocolate-covered pointy stick, it would be understandable. But you also get the impression that what Dirk really wants to stab is something deeper, something unfortunately submerged in Hannah that he doesn’t quite know how to tease out. It might even be the same thing that made Shelly feel so concerned for her before the funeral.

DIRK
(more like trying to
explain a math equation
than making an excuse)

You have to understand. I literally can’t.

I don’t know how, and I never did.

HANNAH

Then why

did you tell me that you worked on it?

Were you just bragging? Did you think I’d care

what you were doing at school? A college guy

with all this big experience and all…

DIRK

I told you about Hereafter because you told

me about —

HANNAH

About my dad, the crazy

Frankenstein they made in the app? He was

a doozy before he died, and somehow they

made him worse. I’m actually impressed.

My mom doesn’t even have to pretend now —

Hereafter does it for her.

DIRK

I thought I could help.

I thought there was a way, but I was wrong.

HANNAH
(boiling over)

There’s a reason I keep my phone shut off

most the time right now.

Hannah pulls her dark phone out of her pocket and steps closer to Dirk.

HANNAH (CONT’D)

I can’t delete

him off the app because he’ll tell. I can’t

tell my mom about it now — she won’t

listen to me now that the preacher says

God is good with it. She never gave

a thought to what I had to say before

for the same reasons. He’s on my computers, he’s on

my mother’s phone. He’s everywhere I go.

DIRK

I want to help, but I really can’t. I just can’t.

HANNAH

Dirk, he wants me there inside the app.

He wants me in there with him.

Dirk picks his teeth with the end of his stick, maybe to avoid replying.

HANNAH (CONT’D)

The least you can do

is let me use your school computer. I’m sure

that your student licenses still work

for most the software that I need to use.

DIRK
(slurred around his giant
chocolate-covered toothpick)

That won’t work. I don’t know what to do.

CUT TO:

EXT. CITY CEMETERY — SHELLY AND LEO POV

Hannah turns and starts up the rest of the hill, leaving Dirk to pick his teeth with the cheesecake stick. She pauses just below the WW2 memorial, somewhat close to Shelly and Leo.

HANNAH

I’ll steal the software then. It’ll be easy.

I don’t want to, but it’s the only way…

like us…people from around here can

do what we’ve got to do. Especially

when no one wants to help us get it done.

Hannah puts her phone in her pocket and walks down the other side of the hill. She quickly disappears into the shadows tucked between all the graves.

As if drawn to Hannah like a fish on a line, Dirk walks up the hill. He stands where Hannah stood a moment before and watches her disappear. His phone is buzzing. When he is sure that Hannah is gone, Dirk pulls it out of his pocket.

FLORI (I.P.)

I want to help her.

Shelly and Leo can just make out the face of a woman floating in Dirk’s phone. The face is difficult to see from so far away, but Shelly’s eyes widen with recognition.

DIRK

You know why we can’t.

FLORI (I.P.)

What if you copied my image over to

a new computer?

DIRK

I don’t have the money

for that.

FLORI (I.P.)
(encouragingly)

But I bet that you could get it.

DIRK

No — you’re lucky that I didn’t screw you up

when I put you in the first time. And I couldn’t

live with myself if I messed you up like that.

FLORI (I.P.)

So we both agree that you’re incompetent…

DIRK
(jokingly hurt)

Hey —

FLORI (I.P.)

But I still want to do what I can.

Dirk looks around at all the graves. The blue shades of light oozing from the lanterns surrounding the memorial make his face look haunted.

DIRK
(becoming serious again)

You know what the people at Hereafter

would do to you if they found out. And now,

if we’re right about what happened to RJ —

which, I mean, it’s like Hannah seals the deal

on that one — they’ll find us out for sure

if we get risky. Including helping Hannah.

Dirk moves down the hill, surrounded by the hazy light of his cell phone. The deepness of his voice lingers, but you can’t hear Flori’s response from where Shelly and Leo are hiding.

Leo nudges Shelly after Dirk has walked a ways away.

LEO

I wanted to be wrong. I really did,

but that’s why you’ve been so worried lately — isn’t it?

Shelly, clearly shaken, watches Dirk intently.

LEO (CONT’D)

You think that she wants Dirk to put her in

Hereafter — like he did with the girl he killed.

SHELLY

I’m sure that was the girl.

LEO
(looking out for ghosts)

So she wants in…how does that even work…?

CUT TO:

Coming Soon

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

Cole Hardman

Written by

I’m an engineer with a passion for poetry and literary theory. Find more at: http://poetwithnoface.com/

Lit Up

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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