Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bloodletting - Screenplay & Novel Excerpts

Ideally, before viewing this post, you've already read my interview with William D. Prystauk (if not, be sure to read it right away for his insightful remarks about adapting, inspirations, his writing process and more.) The interview gives background about Bloodletting, his original feature screenplay that he turned into a novel. Below is an excerpt from the screenplay, followed by the same scene in the novel. It's interesting to see how the novel's prose is expanded and developed compared to the concise, to-the-point screenplay narrative/description.

Bloodletting - Screenplay Excerpt
Page 26
by William D. Prystauk

Please note: Any screenplay format that looks a bit "off" (such as how the dialogue is centered) is due to the limitations of blog format, not William's original script. 

Denny and Erin, a little unkempt, climb the front steps of the church. Denny tries one of the large doors.

I know they're locked and...

The door opens. Denny stops Erin while YAWNING. Slowly, they step inside.

Denny, keeping a watchful eye, walks ahead of Erin towards the pew with a shadowy life-sized Christ on his cross.
Churches look so unholy in the

Denny brings a finger to his lips. Erin peers at the cross.
I can't see anything except...

Erin SCREAMS. Denny rolls his eyes. SIGHING, he moves closer to the pew and lights a candle.
So much for the element of

He follows Erin's eyes to the crucifix.
She wears her own barbed-wire crown of thorns and her right side sports a wound. Blood from her injuries cover the floor and the cross. Denny tries to get a closer look, but Erin clings to him for dear life.
It's the girl I met in the bar the
other night.

Denny turns and faces Erin.
She told me to stay away from
Penny. Said she was evil.

Lights pop on. Denny and Erin turn and face the front doors.

Bloodletting - Novel Excerpt
Chapter 16 (Pages 107-111)
by William D. Prystauk

     In my heart, organized religion was the root of all evil and I had little tolerance for any temple and the many hypocrisies that accompanied it, but the Church of St. Francis Xavier was different. They truly gave a damn, and because they represented an entity as staunch and old world misogynistic as Roman Catholicism, I was surprised the Vatican hadn’t shut the place down long ago. Besides outreach programs for the poor and unemployed, this Jesuit apostolate devoted themselves to gay and lesbian Catholics caught in the crossfire of political rhetoric and selective biblical interpretation.
      At five on the dot, Erin and I, unkempt and drained, stood before the pale granite of the fairytale-like 1880’s church. With the gold statue of Saint Francis looking down upon us from the stone balcony of the second story, as if he’d stepped away from his alcove to bless Erin and me, we passed the black iron fencing, and climbed the stone steps up through the center of a trio of arches to the waiting door.
I silenced a yawn then gripped the handle. “I know it’s locked and ...”
    The wooden door opened with little effort.
    My raised hand stopped Erin from rushing in. Slowly, we stepped inside.
    Keeping a watchful eye, I moved far ahead of him. With the lights of the pre-dawn dancing through the mosaic glass in a kaleidoscope of color, I sensed the enormity of the parish. There were far too many recesses, columns and pews to hide behind, let alone the darkened mezzanine. Worse still, the Latin cross-shaped house of worship was under renovation, and filled my nose with lingering odors left from plaster and sealant, though I was more concerned about the additional places from equipment that allowed for more hidden surprises. Fearing an ambush, I moved forward anyway, trying to bury the sound of my heart so I could listen for any misstep from the caller who was most likely already here. Against my instincts, and with a shaky hand, I moved straight down the center towards the shadowy, life-sized figure of Christ on his cross, making sure the heels of my boots didn’t clunk or scrape along the uneven stone floor of the transept. The church and its ornate frescoes rose above me and whatever intimacy I felt outside its gates was now completely lost. I was alone in the shadows in a vast warehouse of stone and glass that would amplify the smallest of sounds.
    With my own tell-tale heart continuing to hamper my ears as I plodded along, guided only by those haphazard rays of light, I took pride in our silent approach, when, “Churches look so unholy in the dark” made its escape from Erin’s lips. I slammed a finger against my mouth, signaling him to shut the fuck up. But Erin just peered at the crucifix. “I can’t see anythang except ...”
    Erin’s scream rang throughout every corner of St. Francis Xavier’s. I rolled my eyes and sagged in defeat. Taking a small flashlight from my back pocket, I calmed my nerves and wondered if my ears were bleeding from the dancer’s shriek.
    “So much for the element of surprise,” I half-said aloud. 

     Following Erin’s horror to the crucifix, I thumbed the switch and the light found the spirit of his cry: a frail, willowy girl nailed to a cross.
     Erin’s fingers dug their way into me as he slammed his eyes shut and buried his face into the back of my olive drab. I kept my bearings. Listened first. No movement meant the killer was long gone. I tried to move forward, but Erin was steadfast. I shined the light onto the corpse and the hair gave her away.
     “It’s the girl I met in the bar the other night.” I turned towards Erin and he released his numbing grip though his eyes were still closed. “She told me to stay away from Penny. Said she was evil.” \

     Erin cried and the echo rang out. “Honey, let’s go. Please.” His voice alien and strange. He tugged at me in desperation, but I wasn’t going anywhere.
     Putting my arm around Erin’s waist, I spun him about to face the doors, leaving me to face the body, and brought him in close. I lifted his chin and told him to look at me. He did.
     “Go outside, have a cigarette and wait for me. Don’t call the cops.” I stopped my new lover from speaking with a calming kiss. “Go.”
    Erin sniffled, nodded and rushed outside with fast clicks from his heels to the safety of the sunlight.
    I moved forward with tentative steps towards the cross, careful enough not to get too close. I focused on the body: the Jesus girl wore her own barbed-wire crown of thorns, above a face in repose, and her right side had been cut open, mocking what the spear of destiny had done to the original rebel some two-thousand years before. Her pale, tortured body was covered in zigzag patterns of gashes and whip marks. Railroad spikes punctured her palms and ankles. Blood covered the floor as well as the handmade cross of rotting, damaged wood, set before the altar. Past the desecration shined the true, painted crucifix in the rotunda of the sanctuary, a riveting fresco in an arched frame below the church’s grand dome. It must’ve taken time to pose the girl, and the portrait behind her body was in all likelihood used as a guide.
     I shifted to the side, crouching low to let the light play along the base of its altar at the edges of the black pool. With the best angle for light and reflection, I found it: bootprints. Two sets. One very large and one much smaller. There was nothing more though my heart told me someone else had to be there, watching, orchestrating, gloating – the Mistress directing her minions.
     The Jesus girl had to have been alive for the final moments because her blood had cascaded from deep cuts in her armpits and covered most of the prints on the floor. No blood had been tracked beyond the confines of the altar, though its metallic odor cut through the smell of the drying plaster.
Shining the light on her face, I caught the trails from tears and the pale, downturned mouth as if she were at rest. And for some reason, in that hall of absolute peace, as I expected her eyes to open, I heard a drop splash onto the floor as if the church was crying for her.
     I wondered if she peered out the colored glass and begged for mercy. Then I remembered the giant crucifix that had hung around her neck and could hear her saying, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” in her final moment. Maybe Jesus was her one true love and this was her one chance to totally immerse herself into the spirit of his death to try and feel what he had felt. To completely appreciate her savior via a forced imitation of Christ with her in the starring role. I could see her bringing her captors, her torturers no satisfaction as she grew quiet and still while peering out of the stained glass. Yeah, she didn’t beg. She smiled because she was going home. Going home to her love. I just can’t imagine the hell she went through to get there.
     I looked at her one last time before getting back to work. I searched in vain for her silver crucifix but couldn’t find it and knew the necklace had become a trophy.  

     And as I got closer to the bootprints in an effort to better see the patterns, the lights popped on. I twisted around, snapping a wide-eyed gaze toward the front doors.

© William D. Prystauk

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