First-Place Winner, May – October 2004 Screenplay Contest – Teleplay/Short Series
Written by Ian F. Day
A recently separated young man embarks on an after hours chase through foggy San Francisco, hot on the trail of his elusive estranged wife. After a series of bizarre encounters, he ultimately catches up with his own mortality.
Thirty-something Bill Keller, depressed over his recent separation, declines an invitation to join a group of single young co-workers after hours. Instead, he drives home through heavy fog, anxiously taking note of hazardous traffic conditions reported on the radio. He pulls into his garage suspecting that his wife, who had previously moved out, might be somewhere on the premises. Searching frantically, he thinks he hears her making a hasty exit.
In desperation, Bill takes off on foot through the increasingly foggy streets of his neighborhood, encountering a number of questionable characters as he pursues his estranged wife. After an exhausting chase, he finds himself in a hallucinatory state that culminates in a serious car accident. Badly hurt, Bill nevertheless manages to muster the strength to make his way back home where he discovers an unexpected denouement.
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA – AFTERNOON
A series of foggy vistas: Fog rolling in, obscuring the Golden Gate Bridge; fog creeping over the coastal mountains; an otherworldly, fog-enveloped beach; fog encroaching rush hour freeways.
EXT. BUSINESS PARK – AFTERNOON
Flashes of PEOPLE exiting a suburban office building, herding towards parking lots. It's the end of a long day. Small groups break up. "GOOD NIGHTS" called out, SLAMMING car doors, engines STARTING, SQUEALING tires, HONKING horn.
BILL KELLER,a tall man in his thirties, bolts out the front doors, wearing a nondescript sport coat and carrying a beat-up brown briefcase bulging with papers. He heads for the parking lot, avoiding contact with fellow employees.
A small GROUP of TWO MEN and THREE WOMEN walk together, LAUGHING and carrying on. The YOUNGEST WOMAN eyes Bill with interest as he approaches. She turns to her friends.
Hey, what do you say we ask
Bill to come along for
Bill? You're not serious -
Yeah, I don't know. He and
his wife just called it
Maybe we can help him forget
about it -
You mean, maybe you can make
your move now that he's
Oh, please - !
He's such a workaholic –
could be why the wife
The woman, LAURIE, brushes them off, rushes toward Bill as he passes.
Hi, Bill! Want to join us
Bill stops in his tracks, looks back at her, bemused.
What? Oh, uh - thanks - uh,
Laurie, but I don't think
She moves toward him nervously.
Nothing special. Just the
usual gang getting together
for a few laughs.
No, really. I'm not up to
it. I guess I need more
He drops his head, searching for more to say.
Sure. That's okay.
Laurie runs back to her friends. Bill stands there lost in thought, not noticing.
I mean, I say I need more
time. But you know, the
funny thing is - I keep
feeling like I'm running out
of time -
He looks up, sees that Laurie's disappeared.
EXT. CAR - FREEWAY ON RAMP -- LATER
Bill edges out onto the freeway in his new model Japanese car. A dense fog bank extends its fingers over the nearby headlands.
INT. CAR -- CONTINUOUS
The interior windows start to fog up. Bill switches on the defroster, wipes some moisture off the windshield with his bare hand.
The local station KFOG plays on the car radio. An ANNOUNCER cuts short the end of a POP SONG with an updated traffic report. Bill listens intently.
For all you rush hour
commuters, our Eye in the
Sky reports a big rig spill
over on 280, causing a real
bottle-neck. Watch out for
that one! Traffic backing
up on both bridges - and
there's no letup in the
heavy fog -
Here's another one just in –
a serious two car accident
has been reported in the
city - let's see, it's in
the vicinity of -
Several bursts of STATIC interrupt the bulletin. Bill tries desperately to retrieve the signal. Nothing. He pounds his palm on the rim of the steering wheel.
Bill cracks his window and turns up the defroster. He loosens his tie and reaches for a cigarette from his briefcase. While rummaging for the pack, Bill's eyes dart to the cars ahead of him. Suddenly he yanks his hand out.
His finger bleeds from a paper cut. Bill sucks on it for a moment, then shakes it and blows on it.
Finally - he reaches in again and finds an almost empty pack, struggles to get out the last cigarette.
EXT. CAR -- CONTINUOUS
The car heads into a tunnel.
The sudden darkness disorients Bill, causing him to tap the brakes. A car from behind HONKS loudly several times.
Startled by the noise, Bill drops the cigarette pack.
Shit. You asshole -
He glares into the rear view mirror. Leaning down, Bill rescues the pack and tears it open. He lights up and inhales deeply. Approaching the end of the tunnel, Bill is almost blinded by the light pouring in. He squints and continues on.
An exit sign looms ahead- CESAR CHAVEZ STREET.
Bill forces his way into the right lane. Several horns HONK. He makes a hasty exit.
Heavy fog blankets this residential neighborhood making it seem later than it actually is. Bill's car moves up a steep side street.
Bill enjoys a smoke. He boosts the volume on the radio. Again, the MUSIC is interrupted by an ANNOUNCER. Bill leans forward.
so if at all possible, DO
avoid the Cesar Chavez and Guerrero Street intersection. At
least one serious injury has been reported,
and with this fog, there's no telling how many more –
Bill considers the report. He slows down and stubs out his cigarette. He checks his seat belt.
Looking up, he is blinded by the sudden flash of bright lights in his rear view mirror. A car speeds out of nowhere and aggressively tailgates Bill.
Bill swerves quickly to the right and slams on his brakes. He jerks his head to the left to catch a glimpse of the driver, flips him off. The car races past him, BEEPING its horn loudly.
Bill pulls over to the left, leaves the engine running. He reaches for another cigarette - the pack is empty. He crumples it up and tosses it back into his briefcase.
Glancing out the passenger side window, Bill spots a small neighborhood store, ANGEL'S MARKET. SIGHING heavily, he grips the top of the steering wheel and rests his head against the back of his hands.
It is now completely dark. Bill shuts off the engine and hops out of the car. He heads directly for the corner grocery store.
INT. MARKET - NIGHT -- CONTINUOUS
Bill enters, finds the store virtually empty, save for a diminutive, elderly Asian WOMAN sitting behind the counter. Her eyes are closed - she doesn't acknowledge him.
The harsh fluorescent lights and CRACKLING of the short-circuiting neon sign give the space an eerie effect, causing Bill to shudder.
He pulls a few bills out of his wallet and throws them down on the counter, then points to the cigarette rack.
I'll take a pack of those –
the menthols -
The woman's eyes open with a flash. She glares at Bill but continues to sit statue-like. Bill stands there, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
Excuse me. I said - uh - I'd
like to buy a pack of cigarettes.
The immobile woman continues her gaze. More awkward silence. Bill finally reaches over and grabs a pack off the rack.
(pointing to the bills on the
that should cover it. I have
to get going. Keep the change -
He scrambles nervously to the exit. The woman turns and watches him, smiling. She reaches over and scoops the money off the counter.
INT. CAR -- CONTINUOUS
Bill strides away from the store, hops back in with a lit cigarette. He quickly pulls away from the curb.
EXT. RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD -- SHORT TIME LATER
Bill pulls into a driveway outside a small two-story house. The garage door opens automatically in the beams of his headlights.
As the door rises, the headlights illuminate a typical, cluttered garage. Suddenly, a fleeting glimpse of a WOMAN'S fashionable boots racing through a side door.
SCREECH of brakes.
Bill shuts off the engine, jumps out of the car - CRACKING his knee on the edge of the door.
AAAAAOWWWWW - shit!!!
He grabs his knee, grits his teeth for a moment, then charges into the garage.
INT. HOUSE -- MOMENTS LATER
Bill tears through the side garage door and heads for the stairs to the second floor.
Susan - HEY - SUSAN!?
He takes the steps, still limping a bit from the pain.
is that you??!! Hey -
Bill reaches the bedroom at the top of the stairs. He stops for a beat to catch his breath, rubs his knee.
Bill lumbers through all the rooms on the top floor - opening doors - flicking on lights - and moving on. He goes back into the bedroom and listens, frozen. His shoulders sag.
The house is QUIET. Off in the distance, a foghorn BLOWS. Drifting over to the picture window, Bill gazes out at the fog-bound panoramic view of the city.
EXT. LOWER DECK -- SHORT TIME LATER
Bill leans over the railing, staring off in the distance. He holds another cigarette but doesn't light it, completely lost in thought.
OFFSCREEN, the sound of a phone RINGING in the house.
After two RINGS, Bill shakes off his reverie, heads into the house. The phone continues to RING.
Bill hobbles down the hallway into the first floor kitchen. The telephone/answering machine sits on the kitchen counter. The phone RINGS once more.
Bill reaches for it. The RINGING stops. He CURSES under his breath.
The machine BEEPS and the taped phone message starts to play:
This is NOT Bill -
This is NOT Susan –
So don't GROAN
Wait for the tone -
Then silence. Bill grabs the phone.
Hello - hello? Is anyone there?
Hello - who is this?
He carefully replaces the receiver and SIGHS. The machine BEEPS again and resets itself.
Lifting his head, Bill looks out the bank of windows opposite the kitchen. He watches the phantom lights blink through the heavy fog.
He pours a glass of red wine, takes a couple of stiff drinks. A foghorn again BLOWS mournfully in the distance.
Suddenly ROCK MUSIC blares from upstairs.
Bill jerks his head around, slams the wine glass down on the counter, and races out of the dark kitchen.
The wine glass teeters close to the counter's edge - then falls over, splashing dark red wine on the light-colored rug. As Bill's FOOTSTEPS thunder up the stairs, the wine stain spreads.
Bill bolts through the door and throws on the overhead light. He advances toward the dresser. MUSIC booms from the digital clock radio, blinking at 7:00 PM. (The alarm has gone off at 7 PM rather than 7 AM. Bill shuts off the radio, accidentally knocks over a framed photograph. He carefully picks it up, places it back on the dresser.
Photograph of Bill and Susan in an outdoor setting, having fun, mugging for the camera.
Bill turns and strips off his suit. His newfound bachelorhood is in evidence. The queen-size bed rumpled and unmade, the sheets all twisted.
The laundry hamper spills over with dirty laundry. The open closet reveals only men's clothes and lots of empty hangers.
Bill notices a book lying on the floor next to a small, half empty bookcase. He reaches down to pick it up, a hardbound volume titled "Spirit Communication". After a quick glance, he hurls it across the room.
INT. BATHROOM - SHORT TIME LATER
Bill showers behind a translucent shower curtain. Dense steam fills the room.
As the water hits his face, he closes his eyes. His soapy hands move across his face and down his body. As the hands move back up, they suddenly appear to be a woman's.
Bill continues soaping with a washcloth, across, up and down. INTERCUT his hands with a woman's hands.
OUTSIDE SHOWER CURTAIN
Through the steam, TWO BODIES appear to be in the shower - BILL and a WOMAN. They stroke each other gently. Bill makes ANIMAL NOISES. The woman LAUGHS. OFFSCREEN the faint sound of a RINGING PHONE.
Bill cocks his head, listening. He pokes his head out from behind the shower curtain, still giddy with lust. He sees that he's alone. The faint RINGING continues. Bill strains to listen.
Reaching down, Bill quickly turns off the water. He notices blood on the bottom of the tub and GASPS. The phone RINGS louder.
Bill grabs a towel, blots his bloody knee, and rushes toward the door. The message kicks in:
This is NOT Bill - This is NOT
Susan, ETC -----
He remains motionless in the doorway as the message plays out and the machine BEEPS. The caller has hung up.
INT. BEDROOM - LATER
Bill lies in the darkness wearing T-shirt and sweat pants. His eyelids flutter - he's lost in a dream.
INT. BEDROOM - FLASHBACK - SAME SHOT
Bill lies in bed, his eyelids half-open. The room glows with morning light and looks much neater. A WOMAN'S VOICE murmurs off to the side.
We see SUSAN in silhouette, getting dressed.
Bill turns his head, smiling.
SUSAN: a petite, attractive woman with honey-blonde hair. She moves toward Bill – the rustle of silk, the clicking of high heels on the wooden floor.
Bill's eyes open fully.
Wait - where are you going?
He paws at her playfully as she walks by the bed.
I told you about my meeting -
Bill WHINES like a wounded puppy.
Why are you like this only when I
have to go somewhere?
So - don't go. I mean -
She leans down and gives him a tentative kiss on the forehead, then rushes off.
Seems like one of us is always
leaving, doesn't it?
Papers RUSTLE and keys JINGLE in the other room.
SUSAN (CONT'D) (OS)
Like the rabbit -
"I'm late, I'm late - for a very
important date. No time to say
hello, good-bye - I'm late, I'm
late, I'm late- " Bye!
The sound of HIGH HEELS recedes down the hallway. Bill starts to say something, but stops. An insistent car horn HONKS outside. A door SLAMS shut.