// OPEN VISUAL :

QUEENS, EXT

A city bus rumbles through the suburbs. The view of the road alternates small apartments and single-family: Murray Hill or Auburndale, even as far out as Little Neck. As with any city bus, it drives roughly, throwing its passengers up and down from time to time without any warning.

This is the bus ALEXANDER GOTH takes home every day – it’s nearing 4 PM. He has a long commute. His attention is rapt, if non-chalant; he prepares to exit by standing a few streets before his stop.

ALEXANDER descends from the bus with a few other young people. They all scatter upon departure. No one knows each other. ALEX looks around and goes toward a gas station.

ALEX enters the gas station. He feels small and his posture indicates as much. His aim is to buy a simple pay-as-you-go cellphone. He puts a few snacks and a pack of gum with it.

CASHIER

(waving the container) Y’KNOW YOU NEED A CREDIT CARD FOR THESE.

ALEXANDER

IT’S FOR MY DAD. (pause)

HE DROPPED HIS IN THE TOILET. HE’S PRETTY PISSED.

With little pause, the cashier continues to ring up the purchase. He packs up the goodies in a plastic shopping bag, which ALEX takes and stuffs into his backpack. He reserves the bag of ‘Skittles’ and tears open the package.

ALEXANDER looks up toward an overcast sky and begins to walk home, eating his candy one piece at a time.

ALEXANDER doesn’t live far from the gas station and gets home in ~10 minutes, turning on some side streets to reach a relatively quiet neighborhood dotted with tall, mature trees.

GOTH TOWNHOME EXT

ALEX sits on the other side of the concrete wall, out of eyeshot of the windows of his home. He removes his backpack and places it on the ground to the right of him and proceeds to dig through it.

He removes a pair of child’s scissors from his bag and cuts the plastic of the burner cellphone package. With some difficulty, he pries the plastic apart. He glances over the documentation briefly before refolding it and placing it within his backpack’s front pocket. The cellphone soon follows.

ALEX sits for a few minutes, looking absently at the house next door. Then he takes his plastic waste and throws it in the outside waste bin for his house.

He then turns to walk up the stairs of the dark Tudor townhome. His key is kept as a singleton with keychain in his right pants pocket.

The key opens the lock easily and ALEXANDER steps inside.

GOTH TOWNHOME INT

The house is quiet, no different than when ALEX left this morning.

ALEXANDER

DAD I’M HOME!

But there is no response.

DAD?

ALEX scans the living room for lifesigns, but seeing none, he goes to the kitchen. The table is empty.

But ALEX doesn’t enter the kitchen, instead turns around to go upstairs toward his bedroom.

He’s on the second floor when he keels over in pain. He’s heard a sharp wail, the sort of high-pitched ringing to induce pain in children. After a few moments it stops.

ALEXANDER

WHAT THE… ?

ALEXANDER looks around the house, confused. He has no idea if the sound came from inside or outside the house.

ALEXANDER

DAD, ARE YOU HERE?

Silence.

ALEXANDER goes to the stairs to reach his room in the attic. Once there he casts off his backpack, tosses it on the floor, and goes back downstairs to the second floor.

THE NOISE pings again, but for only a split second, not enough for ALEXANDER to wince.

ALEXANDER disappears into the bathroom and the house is quiet for a few moments.

When he leaves, he hears a noise that surprises him and takes him a few minutes to figure out what it is. It sounds like a cellphone. But he hasn’t turned it on, or even used his fake credentials to register with his service provider…

But he follows the command and goes upstairs toward the sound.

ALEXANDER digs the cellphone from his backpack, where it beeps noisily with text messages. It seems to have been programmed for him. Perhaps it has copied settings from his now destroyed phone.

‘BZZZ BZZZ’ it continues to buzz as the messages flood in.

DAD//

MY SON, IT PAINS ME TO WRITE THIS

BUT I KNOW IT WILL PAIN YOU MORE TO READ IT

LIFE HASN'T BEEN THE SAME SINCE YOUR MOTHER,

MY BELOVED WIFE, PASSED AWAY

I HAVE TRIED TO KEEP ON BUT

At this point, ALEXANDER struggles to breathe; his heart sinks as he realizes what he’s reading.

DAD//

I WAS NEVER A GREAT FATHER

BUT YOU WERE ALWAYS A GOOD SON. A GREAT SON.

MY SHOOTING STAR.

I MUST LEAVE YOU

YOU ARE DESTINED FOR MORE THAN TO SUFFER

UNDERNEATH THE YOKE OF A MONSTER SUCH AS I

I HAVE SEEN TO YOUR CARE

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY WILL CALL FOR YOU

PLEASE KNOW I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOUR MOTHER

AND FOR YOU I ONLY WANT THE BEST --

ALEXANDER throws the cellphone against the side of his bed, where it bounces, face up.