Lies the Snake


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Scene Title Lies the Snake
Synopsis In my eyes, indisposed, in disguises no one knows, hides the face…
Date May 17, 2015

There is a brown two-level house in St. Joseph, Missouri.

It has a fenced in backyard, neighbors on either side of the street, neighbors across the street. It is an unremarkable residence, decorated with furnishings and styles that went out of vogue in the Reagan administration. This home has carpeted stairs, faux wood paneling on the walls, and pictures hanging. There’s a family here, pressed into a two-dimensional expression of faded color. A mother, a father, a son. In some of the photos, there’s even the family dog. But there’s noise in the kitchen, down past the stairs, past the slowly spinning ceiling fan with the light that no longer works. Down in the kitchen, there is music coming from a small radio with faux wood paneling on its face.

This home is an unremarkable time capsule, save for the remarkable fact that it weathered a Civil War without so much as the lawn being disturbed. St. Jackson is a rural town on the eastern edge of Missouri, nearly on the border of Illinois, so far removed from the worst of the violence and civil unrest that the locals have started calling their home "The Town That Said Yes to Peace," though no one really believes that. Or says it in mixed company. But in spite of the misguided pride in keeping out of a moral conflict, the people of St. Joseph remain insulated from the horrors of a second civil war. For most it was nothing but coincidence, though for one family in a brown, two-level house with furnishings that went out of vogue in the Reagan administration…

…it was anything but coincidence.

Porter Residence
St. Joseph

May 17th

5:45 pm

"I can feed myself," is the cantankerous reply of a woman sitting at a breakfast nook in a small bay window overlooking a fenced in back yard. Louise Porter is a proud woman, but one struggling with the deterioration of her memory. She defiantly snatches a spoon from her caretaker, dipping it down into her soup while giving him a sour look. "When's Tommy coming back?" Louise asks, angrily eating her soup.

"Soon," her caretaker says, smiling tiredly and with a hint of heartbreak every time she asks that question. Her caretaker, "Duncan Idaho" sits down across from her and folds his hands on the table. He knows the answer isn't really soon. He knows that Tom Porter was in a head-on automobile accident with his father, one that killed Scott Porter and left Tom in a coma, where he spent the war, trapped in a maze of nightmares and dreamscapes. Tom Porter never fully knew how his mother survived without him as early-onset Alzheimer's claimed her memory and function, because she was an unreliable narrator in her own story. Mr. Idaho wonders if her caretaker was someone else that he replaced through happenstance, or if it was always him.

"Is this Fleetwood Mac?" Louise asks, glancing in the direction of the radio on the kitchen counter. Idaho nods and smiles, happy she's still able to—without fail—remember music. It's been the one thing she's been able to hold on to without fail. There's certificates on the wall of her office upstairs, a Diploma for a Master of Fine Arts, a well-loved cello, photographs of her at Carnegie Hall when she was in her twenties. All of it flickers through Idaho's mind as he sits here with her. "Your father loved this album," she says in a way that Idaho nearly misses, only to double-take and look back at her.


"Scott." Louise says, stirring her soup. "Tommy's father. He loved this album."

Idaho looks away and nods, a shaky smile ghosting across his lips briefly. "I—I thought you said—"

The sound of a knock at the door has Idaho sitting up straight and tense. "Stay here," he says to Louise, rising up and swiftly moving out of the kitchen. On his way down the hall, Idaho retrieves a shotgun from the hall closet and a handful shells from the liquor cabinet, loading them one at a time. He steps to the door and there's a knock again. Idaho looks at the gun in his hands, imagines a terrified neighbor staring down the barrel, and shakes his head, leaning it against the wall by the door. He tries to calm down, it's been over a decade. It's safe here.

The man on the other side of the door is unfamiliar to him. Clean cut, smiling with dimples, eyepatch. "Thomas Porter?" He asks with an expectant look, and Idaho quickly shakes his head.

"Uh, no. No he's—" Idaho glances back at the kitchen, then lowers his voice. "He doesn't live here. Can I—is there something I can do to help you?"

"Don't lie." Comes a voice from out of sight on the far right side of the front porch. Idaho doesn't remember it, but the old man he sees Agent Duvall standing there Idaho lunges for the shotgun, only for the man in the eyepatch to grab him by the collar and shove him inside the house. Idaho staggers back and Marcus raised one gloved finger to his lips, shaking his head from side to side as Duvall follows him into the house, slowly shutting the door. Duvall takes his hat off once inside, keeping it in his hands as he looks around the living room.

The man in the eyepatch holds his gloved palms up to Idaho. "I'm sorry for the rough entrance, but I know you and Agent Duvall have history. My name is Marcus Raith, I'm here with the Department of the Exterior."

"Who was at the door?" Louise calls from the kitchen.

"Just some solicitors!" Idaho calls back, giving a stern look at Marcus and Duvall. "I'll go without a fight, but please—she can't take care of herself." He says with a motion back to the kitchen.

"I'm not here to take you in," Marcus explains, glancing around the house. "She doesn't recognize you?" He asks, voice low. Idaho's guts sink at Marcus' recognition of him, and shakes his head. "I suppose that is easier to explain. Parents can complicate things." He notes with a difficult to read expression. "I'd really like to talk. But you should…" He nods to the kitchen.

Idaho hesitates, looking at Duvall who shrugs and sits down in an armchair by the window, setting his hat on the coffee table. Marcus remains standing, making another encouraging nod toward the kitchen. Idaho takes a tentative step back, then briskly returns to his mother. "Hey, everything's fine," he says quietly. "Just stay and finish dinner, okay? I gotta talk to those people, but it'll be fine."

Louise looks up at Idaho with a momentarily vacant expression. "Who?"

Idaho's stomach sinks and he shakes his head. "Just some—just some people from the—the power company. It'll be fine."

"Tell them we paid our bill. Tommy always pays our bills, he's a good boy." Louise says, lucidity slipping. Idaho's heart sinks and he leans over, wrapping his arms around her in a brief hug that she shimmies out of defensively. That, too, hits him in the gut. "Just—just finish your dinner." He whispers, turning up the radio as he departs, then returns to the living room.

On Idaho's return, Marcus looks up at him. "How's your mother holding up? Can't be easy with what happened to your father. And, well, you."

"What is this?" Idaho hisses through his teeth, rapidly closing the distance to Marcus. "Are you—are you trying to intimidate me? I don't have a lot left you can take from me if that's what you're trying to do." Marcus shakes his head, once more holding up his hands in mock surrender.

"It's not a shakedown, kid." Duvall says with a side-long look to Idaho. "It's a screening meeting." That opaque answer elicits a sharp look from Idaho back to Marcus.

"Department of the Exterior." Marcus reiterates from his introduction. "We're a part of the new United States government. Investigating anomalies temporal and otherwise. We're not here to investigate you, though. Agent Duvall here remembers you from a different administration, and it's thanks to his help that we tracked you down."

Idaho tenses, watching Marcus intently. "Did—did you find the others?" He suddenly asks, glancing at Duvall. The old man looks over at Marcus who directs Idaho's attention back to him with a snap of gloved fingers.

"One." Marcus says with a pointed look at Idaho, who stares wide-eyed at him. "And they're fine. Like I said, this is a business opportunity. We want someone with your knowledge of events that have yet to come to pass to help chart a safe course for the future, and you want…" Marcus raises his brows. "What?"

For a moment Idaho is about to snap back, but when he realizes Marcus' question isn't a rhetorical one but an open ended one he hesitates. Department of the Exterior. United States government. His attention briefly drifts to Duvall and back. He could only run for so long. "I need her taken care of," Idaho says without needing to specify who. "Before she—I want her happy for however long she's got left. Happy."

Marcus nods, making a small motion with one hand as if to indicate the ease at which this request is done. "So long as you're under our umbrella your mother will be cared for and, if we find a way, healed. Easier said than done, but bigger miracles have happened."

Shoulders slacking, Idaho looks at Duvall again who sits there like a judgmental grandparent. Marcus, though, is more tightly wound and expectant.

"What do you say?" Marcus asks, one brow raised. This isn't something he wants to wait for an answer on. Idaho looks back at the hallway to the kitchen, where the soft sounds of Fleetwood Mac's album Rumors lilts into the rest of the house. As if it were a sign, the radio just shuts off as the acoustic guitar intro of the seventh track starts. Idaho looks down, staring at his feet, then finally looks up to Marcus with a nod of agreement, hesitantly offering out a hand to shake.

Marcus' expression shifts into an imperceptible smile, taking the offered hand in his gloved one.

"Welcome to the Department of the Exterior."

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