Project Vulture, episode 1 – Vultures, Act 1
[Content warnings: strong language, cavalier attitude toward violence.]
SCENE I: MAMA KOLSHOV GETS BURIED; LAB GETS SET UP
A young man takes off his stylish, black hat and folds it into an envelope and puts it in a pocket on the inside of his coat. The only colourful items this man is wearing are a pink badge (the breast cancer awareness thing) and a red rose (socialism). This is EMIL KOLSHOV. He steps into the church. Behind him people are filling in like syrup back into the carafe, reluctantly. Many of them touch KOLSHOV’s elbow or shoulder and mutter condolences. One who does not do this is JUNE, a tall man with sunk-in cheeks, sunglasses, and pale skin.
Pastor GORCZI starts speaking without a microphone. People fall silent.
– Everybody in this room knew Tarja Kolshov. To many of us, she was known as Mama Kolshov. She had the strength of character of the Kolshovs.
JUNE looks at his clock. The insides of JUNE’s coat are sort of shining with the blue that people know as ultraviolet.
– She is the reason I am alive today. The reason many of us haven’t moved away from this otherwise godforsaken piece of land. She gave the workers rights, the people hope, the politicians something to fear and now she’s gone.
KOLSHOV’s eyes are closed. So are Mama Kolshov’s.
– For those of you who want to have one last look at this brave woman, I urge you to slowly pay your respects while the coffin is open. Go on, whilst I speak.
Elsewhere, to the voiceover of GORCZI praising Mama Kolshov, a lab is scrambled into assistance:
TOESCH, carrying a backpack full of stuff, disemelevators into a pristine area known as the lab. She wobbles through the corridor of airtight glass cells and puts down the backpack. Starts taking equipment out of it – a microscope, a mini-fridge, a tube of petri-dishes, something that looks like anEKG-meter, and a fern.
– She was a gale, a force of nature. Wherever she is now, the people in charge of that place are about to face some serious opposition.
Shot of GORCZI again, standing a tiny bit above the milling people. The camera then pans around the church to KOLSHOV.
– And she will have her way and make it better for the people there. Never before have I met someone like Mama Kolshov, and never again shall I. I am not joking when I say we would all go to war for this woman.
JUNE moves closer to KOLSHOV without looking at KOLSHOV. JUNE scrunges up his coat a bit to not glow as much.
– She made us aware of the vultures dying. She nursed some of the poor birds back to health.
The lab’s cells are filling up with specimen: flayed pigs, a monkey without a brain, a metre-thick layer of earth crawling with bugs, and one empty cell. TOESCH is talking withMISCHA about things. MISCHA walks away.
– It was already too late when they found the cancer. She took no medication, did nothing to stop it. One day, she just fell.
There is silence for exactly 60 seconds in the church and also elsewhere. A lab asssistant (not wearing the cool kind of lab coat TOESCH and MISCHA are wearing) is rolling a stretcher with a black bodybag into the empty cell. No sound effects on this. He then walks out of there while MISCHA, looking fascinated, zips the bag open and emancipates the corpse of a young man with a few tattoos on his face and some scars on his forehead from where the electric chair got him.
TOESCH cuts him up deftly and pours in some worm-filled dirt into his stomach, and sews the thing shut again.
GORCZI (sound returning; people crying)
– She would have liked us all to be drunk right now. I hope I will see you all at the tavern.
The simple coffin containing Mama Kolshov is closed. People start welling out of the church now. As soon as EMIL KOLSHOV goes outside he folds his envelope back into a hat and puts it on. Other people just grab their hats from the hat-rack. The coffin-carriers go out last bar for GORCZI. People stand in wind and leafrustle, around the setup of the hole that lets people put the coffin on a wooden slate and move it slowly to above the hole, then lower it down with rope.
JUNE (reaching into his glowing pocket)
– And who the fuck are you?
(takes a swig of a flask)
– Come to make sure she stays dead?
– Ah, interesting turn of phrase, that…
SCENE II: CORPSES GET FIDDLED WITH
MISCHA, in a state of bewilderment, zaps the corpse on the stretcher, repeatedly. He now has what is basically a jungle in his cell. (Another of the cells have decomposing vultures hanging from theceiling, now.)
MISCHA makes a lot of notes after every zap on every different part of the corpse’s body. It’s cold enough that one can see MISCHA’s breath.
TOESCH (going through the glass door, very tense)
– I put the worms inside the toad and added batteries to the toad’s brain to make it run.
– You know there’s only us here? I can understand your technical-speak.
– Sorry. Habit of talking to the kerberos all day, I guess. I … adjusted the biosphere again, with a few more bacterial agents. This time, the sphere seems stabile. The toad, when prodded, started moving along the bacterial trail until it fell off the table and exploded.
MISCHA (raising an eyebrow)
– How curious. And the batteries?
– Well, I didn’t think it’d work. But I figured the toad didn’t need more than its cerebellum, and inserted a five-minuter into the prefrontal … well, all the cortices, and amped it up.
– At first, there was nothing but static, but after three minutes…
Excellent. Did you clean up the mess?
TOESCH (rolling her eyes)
– Yes. This is a breakthrough, you know! I Frankensteined that thing and made it search for rot! You could be a bit more happy for me.
– No, this is a breakthrough.
TOESCH stares at him, slightly ticked off. MISCHA takes out a plastic jar filled with bugs, opens it, and drops a beetle into themaw of the corpse. He shuts the lid again to not let the crawlies out. The corpse swallows.
SCENE III: EMIL KOLSHOV GETS WANKERED
Everything is blurry. There is noise and faint out-of-tune music.
– And what the fuck even is with the funeral business.
MYNERA (in the background, not very audible, talking to VOSEM)
– No, it’s got to do with the factories. Regulations are not being–
KOLSHOV comes into focus rather abruptly. His eyes have bags, his foldable hat is almost a bowtie around his neck, but not quite.
– I’m pretty sure it’s just this town going under.
– Buncha pricks. Had one of those call me up the day after she died. Wanted to make deals. Said how sorry they were and that she had just the coffin- no, the word she used was new home.
– If that was true, we’d not be seeing this happening all over – we can count the number of vultures–
KOLSHOV is explaining with his hands. People are looking at him (as far as one can tell with the blurriness), and he doesn’t need to talk very loudly to be heard.
– I’m just here because Mama Kolshov saved my life. I’m paying her respects. I don’t have to agree with you because …
– I said alright, alright, come over to my house and we’ll make a deal. Told her the deal was I’ll drive her home and they would never speak to me again. She asked why the driving home part. I broke her legs with a golf club.
KOLSHOV smiles a little when he mentions the legs thing. Everybody else is shocked to uncomfortable silence.
GORCZI (coming into focus next to KOLSHOV)
– Aye. Well done, boy. Them fucks at Lithos are always houndin’ me about deals. Talkin’ to me about when I’m going to die. Any moment now, they say.
This makes people laugh a little and many take a swig from their drinks. Everybody sitting around the tavern table are now in focus, but not KOLSHOV or GORCZI. They make noise and pour drinks and shout slogans. Most of the people around the table are women. Everybody looks a bit punk. Some people start singingsongs but stop a few words or a verse in.
KOLSHOV (downing four fingers of vodka)
– What is it with people approaching me nowadays? Like they think I’m going soft because Mama’s gone. I thought I’d taught them all … that they should … trifle with others. Not me. I’m not one to be …
(sentence falters out and he makes a rolling hand gesture to complete it)
– Government man talked to me today, actually. Thought he wanted to give me a ticket out of this town first thing…
MYNERA (turning away from VOSEM)
– Oh right?
SCENE IIII: PROJECT VULTURE GETS INTERVIEWED
JUNE appears on screen. His face is bruised but make-up people start doing magic on him. He talks through this, into the camera.
– You know, it’s very difficult finding a perfect specimen of the human. Here that just means what a human, if nothing goes wrong, is. And then they have to die like that. Every time someone tries, and thinks they’ve found someone, it turns out that person was ill with some unknown disease. Or, in one famous case, syphilis that had infected the man’s bones.
– Why does it have to be humans? Why not, say, pig cadavers? Why not just zombify the vultures?
Cut to TOESCH answering the question instead. Things look a lot neater when TOESCH is on the screen; on the Kerberos News Company’s logo (‘the Past [linebreak] the Present [linebreak] the Future’) the ‘future’ part is lit up.
– There are some serious gaps in the research body on non-mammalian organisms in the last eighty years, as you may know. Even with mammals it’s pretty difficult to do any serious studies. If the ban hadn’t been lifted three years ago we wouldn’t have noticed the vulture shortage until it was too late to fill that niche. Also don’t say ‘zombify’.
– I’m sorry, could you explain that a bit more to our viewers?
MISCHA just stares into the camera with dead eyes for ten seconds. A voice from off-screen says ‘cut this’.
The lit-up part is now ‘the past’ instead, as TOESCH comes back on screen.
– There was a Europe-wide ban on doing research for humans’ benefit on animals. That plunged the world into a second dark age, it was kind of a big deal. Go look it up. It was called the Humane Humanity Act.
– And what does that imply for the lives of our viewers?
JUNE (making a gesture and ‘the present’ appears lit up next to him, where a make-up person’s head used to be)
– Well, things will smell less, for one.
(a small, controlled chuckle)
– All the carcasses littering the roadways, they’ll be taken care of. We’re looking at a New country. We’ll be able to populate places we’d previously though, ah, impopulable.
(he now looks mostly fine due to the make-up, except for the sunk-in cheeks)
– All around improvals, as they say.
– What do you say to the people who think your claims are dubious, and that you’re wasting government money on this?
TOESCH rips the microphone cord off and buries her head in her hands. Sighs frustratedly.
TOESCH (to the off-screen people)
– Just give me … five minutes, okay, five minutes?
TOESCH gets up and walks around a bit, dragging her hands down along her face like she just woke up from not sleeping.
SCENE V: JUNE GETS BEAT UP
JUNE stands next to EMIL KOLSHOV, takes out a smoke and doesn’t light it. It’s the funeral scene again, but now the coffin’s been lowered into the dirt. JUNE does not look beat up at the moment.
– Actually, I’m from the government. Name of June. Like the month.
– What do you want?
JUNE (flashing some sort of card)
– I’m part of the research group known as the Vulture Project. We have a keen interest in the work your mother was doing with the birds, Emil.
– You got some nerve, don’t you? Get to the fucking point or I’ll exemplify you.
– Right. I would
(takes off glasses)
– like to buy your mother’s body in order to advance science and possibly save the world.
KOLSHOV elbows the weak, pale man in the ribs and pushes a thumb into his eyes.
– Fuck off and live in chronic pain.
SCENE VI: JUNE GETS THE LAST LAUGH
LARUSA KIERKE (mysterious, sharp-dressed woman) sits on a small stool and listens to JUNE talk from the hospital bed.
– Of course, I’d
– already purchased the corpse from the coroner, and ordered a wax duplicate. That is now six feet under.
(laughs a little)