Lit Up
Published in

Lit Up

EXT. NEVERLAND

Dirk, tentatively following Jason, steps down the stairs leading off the plane. They walk onto an immaculate, empty tarmac, where Neverland employees dressed in sailor uniforms are standing at attention. All of the employees appear to be eerily calm, perhaps awaiting Jason’s orders. The pilots and crew members from the flight, who exited earlier, are nowhere to be seen.

A large array of buildings and swaying palm trees, framed by the tunnel of employees like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, shimmers in the tarmac’s distant heat-haze. Dirk sniffs, perhaps smelling the salt and fish in the air, but most likely breathing in the syrupy smell of burning plastic. He spins to see that the plane is on fire, and he turns back when an employee breaks the long pause by starting an old stereo speaker, which plays Hawaiian music.

JASON
(starting down the tunnel
of employees)

Welcome, Dirk, to paradise.

Dirk follows Jason into the haze, and some of the first employees drape flowers around his neck. Other employees hand Jason papers and prompt him for tasking. Jason replies to each with the no-nonsense quipping of a seasoned businessperson with better things to do.

A golf cart carrying more employees, these dressed business casual, pulls up to the end of the line when Jason and Dirk approach. One WORRIED-LOOKING EMPLOYEE steps out to speak with Jason as the cart is coming to a stop.

WORRIED-LOOKING EMPLOYEE

Mr. Justoaff, sir, it’s the

AfterPets. They’re malfunctioning.

The worried-looking employee hands Jason a report. Jason takes the folder and looks briefly through it before handing it back and turning to Dirk.

JASON
(bragging, emphasizing his
own importance)

Well,

that’s too bad. I was the one who

led that effort.

DIRK
(expertly parrying and
laughing at his own joke)

I guess you’re still the same

as ever, Jack, despite how clean you look.

CUT TO:

INT. MR. KIDDERMAN’S KITCHEN — MORNING, OCT 20

Mr. Kidderman, sitting at a plastic dining table with his untouched breakfast cooling in front of him, holds a cell phone to his ear with his shoulder, scoops eggs with one hand, and tosses a ball to his robotic dog, Buster, with another.

MR. KIDDERMAN
(only slightly distracted,
due mostly to the
multitasking skills
developed by any principal
or school teacher as
seasoned as he is)

Fetch boy!

Meanwhile, Mr. Kidderman’s coffee surrounds him in a fragrant haze of steam that might, if you squint the right way, remind you of a campfire so primitive it suggests that similar scenes have played out during all the eons of human existence, no matter how much things have changed. Then the person on the other end of the phone catches Mr. Kidderman’s attention just as the dog catches the ball, causing Mr. Kidderman to furrow his brow.

MR. KIDDERMAN (CONT’D)

Oh, I’m sorry. I was just

playing catch with Buster here.

Mr. Kidderman takes a bite of eggs and stretches to look at the paper folded across the other side of the table.

MR. KIDDERMAN (CONT’D)

Mmhhmmh…

Mr. Kidderman swallows, clears his throat, and falls back into his chair. Buster presents the ball to him, artificial slobber and all, but he barely notices.

MR. KIDDERMAN (CONT’D)

I thought that you and the boys were coming home

for Thanksgiving this year. Of course…that’s true.

You know that I can head up your way, too —

Mr. Kidderman suddenly stops. He drops the phone, spills his coffee, flips the fork across the room with a metallic clank, and bends down to pick up Buster from where he’s fallen on the floor. The dog, mechanically limp, doesn’t answer when Mr. Kidderman calls to it the way he always does — the way he is programmed to — and Mr. Kidderman looks as if he can feel his own heart start to break apart.

CUT TO:

INT — RICH’S BEDROOM — MORNING

Rich and Leo sit on bean bags in front of an old box TV. They’re both focused intently on the video game they are playing. When the game over screen flashes, Leo jumps in celebration.

LEO
(gloating over Rich)

Take that you no-good up-smashing cheater.

RICH
(laughing despite his
apparent annoyance)

Don’t get a big head, now.

Leo glances at the laptop open on Rich’s desk, which displays the website he came over to work on. He suddenly looks like he might get serious.

Then Rich gets a text. He picks up his phone, and his face shapes itself into a concerning frown.

RICH

Hey, check this out.

Rich hands the phone to Leo, who reads the text once, then twice.

RICH

It’s from Mr. Kidderman.

Leo hands the phone back to Rich.

LEO
(finally serious)

Let’s call the others.

CUT TO:

Coming Soon

Missed MitcHELL the first time around? Read or reread the first half of the story here:

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Cole Hardman

I’m an engineer with a passion for poetry and literary theory.