NUL in Void


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Scene Title NUL in Void
Synopsis “It's weird when you wake up from a bad dream and everything is still bad.” — Todd Strasser, Blood on My Hands
Date December 19, 2011

The 0bservation Room

Elliot is sitting alone in FBI interrogation Room 0000.1. He is afraid. Head resting on the table, he knows Wright is standing on the other side of the room’s two-way mirror. Watching. Waiting for help. Writing in fingerprints of blood on the floor words he can’t read.

The door is locked from top to bottom: chain slide locks, latches, padlocks, deadbolts, knob locks, strips of tamper-evident tape. The lock he makes by touching the door knob, then letting go; by touching the door knob, then letting go; by touching the door knob, then letting go. The lock he makes by turning all the stove burners to Off even though he can see that they’re already off. The lock he makes by turning on the closet light before he opens the closet door. The lock he makes by interrupting his eyeline with the brim of his hat when he rides the bus and someone is sitting next to him.

What can he tell the feds that will let him be uncuffed and released, without giving them what they really want? He knows he’s running out of time. The feds aren’t going to believe he doesn’t know what they’re asking for.

The agent sitting between him and the mirror is inscrutable. There are pictures laid out across the desk, pictures of the faces of people but he can’t bring himself to look at them again. “Who am I?” the agent asks, tapping his fingers on the table, flicking photos from a manila folder toward Elliot.

His hands are sweating. It’s suffocating in here. He can’t tell the agent what he wants to know because the agent doesn’t want to know anything. He looks around the room, trying to put it into words. “Did you forget again?” he asks.

The agent lays his palms flat against the folder, slides it across the table toward Elliot. He taps on the left photo which has been overexposed to pure black, the photo of the boy with small hands who went into storage and couldn’t cry for help as Elliot left him to die. “Am I him?” the agent asks. He moves his hand to tap the photo to the right of it without stopping, the photo of the man with fast hands who held Elliot’s hand as he died. “Am I him?” the agent asks. He again moves his hand to repeatedly tap on the photo of the woman with calloused hands who held Elliot’s hand as she died. “Am I her?” the agent asks. He taps the last photo forcefully, the photo of the man with bloody hands who held their hands as they died, “Am I you?” It’s the voice that never goes away, even when he is sleeping.

This is pointless. “Less than zero,” Elliot says, “Greater than the sum of my parts.”

The officer just stares in his face with his hands on the table. Stares and stares. Slow blinks and stares. He stands and sweeps all of the photos from the table into the folder like dust, the blessed relief of not having to see them anymore.

“I want my phone call.” He is trapped, he needs to leave. He looks to Wright on the other side of the mirror, wishing he could just smash it open and take her out of there.

The agent’s seat spins but slows like a top. The phone is ringing. Every burst of trilling bells one tap shorter. Has the room always been this small? He holds out his arm and places his hand against the first lock. The lock on the door labelled SWITCHBOARD and the ringing phone behind it.

He unlocks the lock he makes by interrupting his eyeline with the brim of his hat when he rides the bus and someone is sitting next to him—three.

He unlocks the lock he makes by turning on the closet light before he opens the closet door—two.

He unlocks the lock he makes by turning all the stove burners to Off even though he can see that they’re already off—one.

He unlocks the lock he makes by touching the door knob, then letting go; by touching the door knob, then letting go; by touching the door knob, then letting go—


Pollepel Island, Bannerman's Castle, Infirmary

Elliot suddenly lurches up and cries out in pain. He clutches his leg and groans, rocking forward and staggering to his feet. He nearly vomits from the pain, from the sudden lurch of the room as though it’s being spun like a globe. He grasps the wall to steady himself. “Oh god,” he shouts, hyperventilating. “Help! I’m bleeding. He’s coming.” The man who isn’t in the room.

A red-haired woman stands over him, startled at his sudden lurch into consciousness. Megan, he remembers, though not on his own. Her hands are stuffing first aid supplies into the pockets of his jacket. Somebody has put beaten tan work boots on his feet. Sick children and injured refugees are being herded out of the room. Frigid air whistles through the infirmary’s open door. The voice of Benjamin Ryans echoes through the halls, urging people out and away.

Elliot pulls his hand away from his leg only to find no wound, no blood. Not his wound. Not his blood. He stumbles toward the door, grabbing the handful of bandages that Megan was attempting to stuff into his pockets before charging out of the infirmary. The pain feels like it should be debilitating, but he’s perfectly mobile. He ignores it, breaking into a sprint, staggering into walls as rooms and hallways seem to rotate around him, overlay each other. Not these rooms. Not where he is.

Explosions echo down the hallways, chased by the ratchet of automatic gunfire and the scream of winter winds. Elliot slides to a stop to pick up a pistol from the body of a dead Brian, checking to see if it’s loaded before scrabbling back up to run through the chaos of war. Four bullets. Every step forward makes the world spin less, makes the distant sounds of her panicked cries become nearly as loud as they are right now in his presence.

As he reaches the end of the hall his gun is raised. He slides past the corner and immediately fires a round into the heart of the man standing over Wright—three—and another through his sternum—two. He collides with the opposite wall as the assailant loses his grip on his rifle. The man has barely begun to drop to his knees before Elliot jogs up and puts a bullet through his cheekbone—one—and another through his eyebrow—


—the world shatters into an abyss of scintillating black.—Elliot is sitting alone in FBI interr—Elliot is sitt—Wright is sitting alone in poli—Elliot is—knows Wright is standing on—room 0.—room 000—Wright is standing on the other—They shout and clutch their heads, cringing, dropping her pistol/his pistol. Elliot leaves/Wright leaves her face wet with a handprint of her own blood.

Elliot panics, and in the darkness his hands mime repeatedly touching something in the air, turning something not here, flipping a switch far away, adjusting a hat now lost. Color returns and the hallways spin around them. He slows his breath as their hallways start to realign, taking Elliot’s bloody hand/Wright's bloody hand and squeezing. She looks up to him/down at herself and heaves with a wracking sob.

“You’re back,” Wright cries, fingers pressed against her leg wound. Her voice echoes through the hallways, through her ears/his ears. She’s as happy as she’s ever been in her life; embarrassed to watch her/watch herself cry, to see herself vulnerable in a trail of blood where she crawled away in fear. Relieved to have made it to her in time. Terrified of what it would have done to him if she hadn’t/he hadn’t.

“I’m back. You brought me back and I’ve got you,” he says anxiously as he pulls her hand away and packs the wound with gauze, tying it firmly in place with a long strip of the cloth, feeling the jolt of pain as she does/he does so. “I’m getting you out of here.” He slings the dead man’s rifle over his back, retrieves a clip from his belt, and scoops Wright up from the floors, resting her right hand/his right hand over her left above the wound to maintain pressure.

Another sob of broken relief mixed with the pain of his injury/her injury as she lifts/he lifts her from the floors. Wraps her free arm around him and feels her own head rest against her neck/his neck. The rooms split again and she staggers/he staggers into the wall, but he lands against it with his arms so she doesn’t lose her grip/his grip and drop her. She shuts her eyes and with it a superimposed world, leaving a single blessed point of view. “What is happening to me?” a terrified plea into his neck.

“I know it’s frightening,” Elliot says as he moves her carefully, but as quickly as he can, through the ruined castle hallways. Her hand grasps the shirt at his back, her fingernails digging into him through the fabric and it hurts her/hurts him. Her fear reverberates between them. Eyes remain closed but the sounds of combat that blast in her ears/in his ears/makes her ears ring. “Trust me,” he says, rushing past carnage and sleet and broken glass. Praying to be unimportant enough to not get shot at.

“I’m going to direct you to a memory,” Elliot says, fishing in the depths of his own mind for the moment he understood. Both of them are suddenly waylaid by an overpowering grief as he remembers. The white-hot sensation of sorrow in the bridge of his nose. That clenched fist around his heart. No clear understanding of why the memory makes him feel as he does, he knows he wasn’t grieving when it happened. He was afraid then. The shattered, intrusive understanding begins to dawn on him but he forces it back. Head shake. Gasp. Swallow. Look away. Bury it. Bury it. Bury it. She staggers/he staggers into the doorway of the mess hall, slipping in fresh blood where a bird repeatedly stabs at the open viscera that used to be a soldier’s neck with its beak. Wright barks in pain.

Elliot cries/Wright cries as his grief rolls through him to her. She senses where he’s pointing, where the tunnel between them leads. Knows that it isn’t the source of the grief, knows where he is trying to direct her away from but she slips through to the memory of tragedy. Elliot gasps when she slides past his firewall effortlessly. Knows what that means for them.

Wright watches them die.

Elliot is squeezing their hands, crying; a childlike, helpless whimpering. He can’t get words to form. Tala’s blood is in his mouth. There’s a bullet hole through her jawbone and her mouth is sagging open horrifically, her tongue in pieces. She coughs more blood onto him and herself as the drones veer off for another strafing run. She squeezes his left hand in the way that means I love you as Elliot hyperventilates. He feels her love ripple from her to him.

Tala dies.

He isn’t looking in her eyes when she does, he’s transfixed by the horror of her face. The Christmas red of blood on her olive skin.

His right hand is in Yancy’s. “Look at me, buddy,” Yancy says with a bloody wheeze as a third of them goes dark. Elliot only breaks away to look at him with a strangled scream that’s making him sick. “Look at me,” Yancy says. His eyes hold the deep, meaningful, solidity that’s kept Elliot on track. Blood flows freely from his chest, pools on the warm brown skin in the hollow of his neck, spills over onto the ground. “You gotta let go of us. You gotta breathe it out. You gotta run.”

Yancy dies.

Another third of them goes dark and with the shock of it there’s only a ringing sound and vertigo as Elliot plummets from consciousness with a quiet gasp.

“Oh god, Elliot,” Wright says, the mess hall jarred and spinning. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” His jaw is clenched against it, vibrating side to side with a shake of the head repressed. He swallows dryly. He can’t form the words to respond as tears fall freely and silently across her cheeks/his cheeks/fall from his face to hers. He merely squeezes her hand again and directs her to the memory she needs to see. Wright falls into it.

Elliot paces, alone, in cell 0000.1, but he is not alone. The ear-piercing, ribcage-vibrating klaxon in Tala’s identical white room—cell 0000.1.2—has him in a panic. The heels of his hands/her hands are jammed into her ears. His fingers are woven through the maze of wires and electrodes adhered to his shaved head. He’s sweating profusely from the heat in his own white room. The rooms spin as he staggers about, blindly fighting the sensation in an animal panic. He tries to get back inside his ACTS, even the oblivion of stasis is preferable to this. He slams his fist against the device as he screams into the room.

”Elliot,” Tala says, “Elliot you need to sit down.” Her accent has picked up edges of New York City in the years since she immigrated. But she’s also picking up his panic as it overflows across their link. She begins to hyperventilate as well.

”Hey, buddy,” Yancy says from cell 0000.1.3. His arms are wrapped around his chest, hands tucked beneath his institute jumpsuit against the frigid air of his own white room. “Elliot,” he says, the source of the peaceful confidence trying to ripple over Elliot. Tala feels it first and cuts away from the panic, breathes it out.

”Elliot,” Yancy says again, “Let go of it. Breathe it out.” Breathe it out. Elliot’s hands are over his ears but it does nothing to dull the sound from Tala’s room. Let go of it. He drops to his hands and knees, takes a marathon breath. He feels the edges of it, that extrasensory part of his mind where the link sits, open and pulling. A static prickle like a sudden chill rolls through his skin as he breathes it out. The sensations, pulled across his links to Tala and Yancy, are gone. The links remain but he is alone in his sweltering room. A buzzer sounds in the room and the vents click before beginning to cycle out the stifling air.

With a nervous gasp, Wright breathes/Elliot breathes out. It’s like a pressure change popping in her ears, but it’s everywhere in her body. She can look up and only see him, not also down at herself. He can’t feel her pain. She can still feel his determination, his heartbreak, his fear, his hope that they will make it out of here. Feels how he feels about her.

“I can still feel you there,” she says, calm but for the pain that only she now feels. She doesn’t understand Elliot’s feeling of dread as he hesitates to answer.

“I’m so sorry,” is all he can say.

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