Under the Waterfall

Screenplay written for the Netflix series competition (3rd place)

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3. EPISODE TWO

 

FADE IN:

 

EXT. DAM - MIDDAY

 

Lin plunges down the face of the dam, past gaping, gushing mouths of pipes, deep in which huge turbines turn, through clouds of rainbow-sheened spray, the ROAR of cascade deafening - kneeling and hanging on to the pillar of the hoverboard, breath caught in her throat, eyes wide, hair blown upwards as the roiling basin of water races towards her.

 

Only metres from the end of the falls the hoverboard slows its descent, dipping then flying forwards, before banking sharply towards the procession of a several other boards, each carrying a large white box, that are floating sedately down from the top of the dam and away over another small ledge of rock. Lin tries to hold on to the droplet-slickened board as it tips almost vertically but she slides, just managing to catch the upturned edge with her fingertips, feet skimming the churning water. Then it reaches its place in the queue and rights itself, and Lin pulls herself back on with effort.

 

She looks back at the looming dam but it is already falling behind as the train of boxes floats on at a steady pace.

 

Shaking, she stands up, leaning on the pillar, and once again tries the manual controls of the board. Then looks around for a way to get off, but to each side of the floating caravan are deep, treacherous rapids that swirl and boil, hissing around the jagged rocky banks.

 

LIN

(talking to calm herself down)

Okay... Okay, can't get to land. So... Aha!

(she sits, reaches inside her scarf to unclip her keypad from her collar, goes to punch in number and press her headset-)

(breathes) Crap.

 

CUT TO:

 

Her shiny earpiece is dashed by the current on the bottom of the riverbed, swirls in an eddy, the falling water churning the surface above.

 

RILEY (O.S. on earpiece)

(muffled through the water, desperate)

Lin? Lin, can you hear me? Lin, please...

 

CUT BACK:

 

She looks back up at the dam, then down the wide river that surges onwards. As the hoverboards tip over another ledge a huge green forest opens up below her, rolling to the hazy horizon, the river a meandering ribbon of silver through its heart. She stares in wonder, then looks around at the boxes, realises-

 

LIN

Wait- (to hoverboard) You're going to the Lowlands!

(laughs in relief) I can get help there, I just have to stay on you!

 

DISSOLVE TO:

 

EXT. RIVER - MIDDLE COURSE - LATER IN DAY

 

There is the faintest hint of dusk in the sky, and a golden mist wreaths the tall deciduous trees that grow close to the bank, roots forking into the river mangrove-like. The FLOW of the river is overlayed by BIRDSONG and the RUSTLE of leaves.

 

The boards sit in the water now, no longer in a line, bobbing down the middle of the river, Lin's closer to one bank. Lin has shed most of her cold-climes wear and sits cross legged, backpack open next to her, and happily finishes munching a sandwich as the bank drifts by, settling readily into the feeling of adventure. She tosses the crusts of her bread into the water then spots a herd of huge, spindly deer, with branching velvety antlers, emerge from the trees ahead and gather down at the water's edge. They stop drinking momentarily to watch her go by.

 

LIN

(quietly)

You're beautiful...

(exhales) If Riley could see you...

 

The deer's heads suddenly snap back towards a point in the forest, and as one they melt back into the trees in the other direction. Lin glances back, but all that can be seen of her home above the trees are the cloudy peaks of the mountains. Behind her, bright flashes of small fish now crowd about the surface where the bread fell. She pulls a fat, peach-like fruit from her bag and bites into it, wipes the juice running down her chin as she searches the trees for another sign of the deer.

 

There are larger fish rushing to the surface now, attracted by the smaller ones, tails and snouts and the jumping fry escaping the surface as a feeding frenzy develops. Lin doesn't notice until the long-beaked birds stood around the roots of the trees flap over heavily, coming to sit on the water and stick their tails and feet in the air as they duck for fish.

 

There is a BUMP to her boat and she peers over the edge. From above, a huge shadow can be seen circling and disappearing back down into the deep murk, a suggestion of metallic skin glinting.

 

The birds and insects in the trees and seem to quieten for a moment, so all that can be heard are the SPLASHes of hunting fish and birds. Then-

 

WHAM! A monster fish bursts from the water, metres behind Lin, snatching and crumpling one of the water birds and dragging it below the surface. More huge fins break the water, buffeting the boxes and Lin's raft as they pass, and she drops her fruit. It sinks in the murky water.

 

One of the creatures erupts, revealing ancient milked-over scales and eyes, and clamps its rows of yellow back-hooked teeth on the edge of Lin's raft, dragging that end into the water with its enormous weight. She screams, scrambles back and slams it repeatedly on the snout with the sole of her boot.

 

It doesn't let go, and shakes the raft wildly, throwing Lin and her belongings into the water. The commotion has attracted a couple more of the things, who nose over at the other boxes but find no purchase and ignore them in favour of shredding her backpack and coat.

 

Lin desperately swims for the bank, splashing, spluttering on water as the current pulls her downstream. She is still feet from the safety of the tree roots when a long shadow rises up from the depths, arrowing straight for her. It rises, breaking the surface, opening its mouth-

 

BANG! The water within two a two metre radius is blasted away and falls back down with a gentle PATTER, steaming.

 

Lin makes it to the bank, pulling herself deep into the protective cage of mangrove roots and turns, panting, but no fish attacks. She sees the eel-like grey body float past, blood and chunks of flesh clouding the water.

 

Above her, ALEXANDER, 19, sun-tanned and work-roughened with a smiling face, and his brother SATOMI, 14, slim, serious, and quick-minded, come down to the bank overhanging her hiding place.

 

ALEXANDER

This thing makes fishing a lot easier!

 

SATOMI

We could strip some for dinner, most of it's intact.

 

A giant catfish-like animal emerges and clamps its jaws around the corpse, dragging it to the depths.

 

ALEXANDER

... Old meat's tough anyway.

 

Footsteps THUD overhead. Lin shrinks back further.

 

ALEXANDER

Hey, you down there.

 

His face appears upside down over the ledge of roots and earth.

 

LIN

What do you want?

 

ALEXANDER

To help! We just saved you.

 

Slowly coming out of fight-or-flight mode, she nods.

 

LIN

Oh, yeah. Thank you.

 

His face disappears and she ventures out, accepting his hand to climb up. The younger boy at his side looks a lot less friendly.

 

ALEXANDER

I'm Alexander, this is my brother Satomi.

 

LIN

Lin. I'm from-

 

SATOMI

The mountains. We know.

 

ALEXANDER

Come on, we'll get you dried up, you can tell us everything.

 

DISSOLVE TO:

 

INT. LIN'S HOUSE - EVENING

 

The last of the evening light peers into the white, wood-furnished living room, bright abstract paintings on the walls and baskets of flowers growing on every surface. A grand radio sits pride of place on the coffee table nest to a clay tea set.

 

Riley sits, a blank look on her face, with KATASHI, Lin's father, who wears rectangular glasses and speaks quietly, as they comfort Lin's mother, MARI, slender with fine lines tracing her face, long waves of dark hair and paint-streaked overalls, who is trying to hold back tears. The town's police SHERIFF, rotund and benign, in blue, badged police hat, sits opposite them looking sorrowful, and a soldier - the OFFICER, late 40s, short-cropped hair, wiry with a wide thin mouth - stands by the door.

 

RILEY

You've searched around the falls?

 

KATASHI

And she isn't still on the board?

 

MARI

(tearful)

She's always been the best flyer.

 

SHERIFF

(shaking his head)

Had craft down there the whole afternoon. The Officer here even lent a few of his people. They caught up with the shipment an hour ago, no sign.

 

KATASHI

Why didn't you stop the parcels earlier?

 

SHERIFF

I told them to, soon as I heard! But they said the boards cut out radio contact when they're in the middle course, just drift the rest of the way, so they couldn't stop them remotely. I'm sorry.

 

Mari lets out a hiccupping sob.

 

RILEY

(rubbing Mari's arm)

She'll turn up. (directing words to silent, smiling officer in the back of the room) They'll find her.

 

 

SHERIFF

Aye, don't fret. She's a clever girl, and we've sent word down to the plains, they'll keep a look out.

 

KATASHI

Thank you, Sheriff. (eyeing soldier) Officer.

 

OFFICER

It's no bother. We're here to help. (wide smile, doesn't reach eyes)

 

It's now dark outside, and Riley pats Mari on the arm and gets up.

 

RILEY

I should be getting home. (to Katashi) Thank you for the tea, Sir.

 

The Officer intercepts her at the door.

 

OFFICER

Ah, yes. (addressing all) We'll actually be imposing a curfew at sundown - it won't be for too long, but it would help if you could spread the word? (steps aside) Let me escort you home.

 

RILEY

(readily irritable from stress)

Escort me? I've lived here my whole life, I don't need you to escort me.

 

MARI

You can stay here for tonight, Riley sweetheart, of course you can.

 

RILEY

I wouldn't want to impose-

 

KATASHI

(stands up, hand on Mari's shoulder)

Nonsense, I'll make dinner. Gentlemen, if you don't mind. (he nods to the door)

 

SHERIFF

(nods) I'll call by immediately if there's any news. Goodnight.

Oh, and Riley, you don't need to come down to the station this week, we'll manage.

 

Riley nods, all energy gone.

 

OUTSIDE HOUSE

 

OFFICER

We'll be down tomorrow to see what kind of set-up you have here.

(smiles, shakes head)

It's a dangerous river, Sheriff, and there've been happenings in the plains. It really doesn't do to give the civilians unnecessary hope.

 

The Sheriff bristles as the Officer walks back towards the lit train station, and from behind the door, sliding in the chain, Riley grits her teeth.

 

 

EXT. FOREST - CAMP - NIGHT

 

A strange blue fire, flames rounded like a dying candle, illuminates the small clearing. There is the faint RUSTLE of leaves in the background.

 

Lin kneels close to the warmth, clothes dry and Alexander's jacket draped around her. Satomi sits nearby, scowling, crushes a palm-sized puck of fuel and tosses it into the fire, making the flames leap up peach-white and lick the fish cooking on the grate above it.

 

LIN

So... you're from the plains?

 

Satomi nods.

 

LIN

What's it like?

 

SATOMI

Wet.

 

LIN

Oh.

 

SATOMI

... It's okay. A few hours from here. What are the power stations like?

 

LIN

Well, I don't work there yet, but it's super boring.

The only things to do are race on the lake, listen to books and do schoolwork. My mum paints all day but I'm not very good.

 

Satomi takes the fish from the griddle, then points at her.

 

SATOMI

What's that?

 

Lin looks down at her shirt.

 

LIN

My radio. But it doesn't work, I lost part.

 

ALEXANDER

(coming over to eat)

Your radio's broken? Satomi could fix it, he's great with all that mechanical stuff. (takes it from her, throws it to Satomi)

 

SATOMI

(sullen)

What, so she can call her stupid parents to come pick her up?

 

Alexander cuffs his head lightly as he sits down.

 

ALEXANDER

Please excuse him. He'll do it.

 

They all take bowls the juicy roasted vegetables and fish.

 

LIN

(gestures around)

What are you doing out here, anyway? I mean, you saved me, but...

 

 ALEXANDER        SATOMI

      Fishing.     Chopping wood.

 

LIN

Okay...

(gaze falls on the gun Alexander is wearing in his belt, frowns, then drops piece of carrot in shock)

It was you! You blasted that plane!

 

ALEXANDER

(chokes)

No, no we didn't-

 

LIN

You did! Like you got that monster that was chasing me. I saw it come down in the lake.

 

SATOMI

(stands up) See, I told you she'd side with them. (waving radio) I have your radio, you can't tell anyone!

 

LIN

Wait, I'm not siding with them! I wanna know why.

 

SATOMI

What?

 

LIN

Why you shot at the plane. And why those people were going to my town.

 

ALEXANDER

(looks at her appraisingly)

We can trust you, then?

 

She nods, solemn.

 

ALEXANDER

It's the soldiers. They started landing a few weeks ago, they've been terrorising the town.

 

SATOMI

(stabs food) Working everyone to the bone.

 

ALEXANDER

We were already out here hunting. I saw the plane. (shrugs) Took my shot.

 

LIN

Where did you get that thing-

 

ALEXANDER

(claps)

Now, time for sleep, we've got walking to do in the morning.

 

 

INT. CLASSROOM - DAY

 

Riley stares down at the equations on the interactive mat spread on her desk, trying to ignore the whispers and stares of her classmates. Looking out of the window, she sees the Officer going into the police station down the street. She grips her stylus, then abruptly gets up, knocking her chair back. The whispering students go silent and she rolls up her mat and grabs her bag, strides out of the room. Miss Jenny starts to object, but stops - Jack follows her out.

 

HALLWAY

 

She jogs to keep up with Riley.

 

RILEY

(angry)

Lin would be loving this. She says nothing ever happens.

 

JACK

Where are you going?

 

RILEY

To find out why those soldiers are here in the first place.

 

JACK

But I thought you didn't-

 

Jack hesitates for half a second before nodding, determined.

 

JACK

I'll help.

 

INTERCUT BETWEEN JACK/RILEY AND INT. BARRACKS

 

Soldiers lounge with their jumpsuits ties at the waist on camp beds in the make-shift barracks, in the power station buildings. From behind a bend in the corridor outside, Jack checks the coast is clear, then quickly sneaks up to the door, whispers into the earpiece with the microphone 

 

JACK

Okay, go!

 

Riley, from the platform adjacent to the window, lobs a fist-sized rock hard at the glass, quickly ducks down behind the wall.

 

The soldiers startle at the loud BANG, a couple grabbing for their guns. Jack reaches through the door whilst they look away and slings her earpiece across the floor. It slides under a bed further down the room. Jack quickly retreats.

 

They meet on the rooftop and put their heads together to listen to Riley's still-connected earpiece.

 

SOLDIER 1

Ugh, I'm sore. Why does Sir keep making us do the drills?

 

SOLDIER 2

At least he's gone off intimidating people across the pond for an hour or two.

 

SOLDIER 3

I think he's excited to finally be out in the field. The lowlanders should be glad we didn't get posted down there, he's being harsh on all these scientist people and they aren't exactly going to act up.

 

SOLDIER 2

Why are we even out here?

 

SOLDIER 3

Defend the power sources from attack. These stations provide most of the city's electricity, we'd be more vulnerable without them.

 

SOLDIER 1

You don't actually believe there's going to be an invasion, do you?

 

Jack and Riley look at each other, frowning.

 

SOLDIER 3

Well they're getting all worked up about something, up there at the top.

 

SOLDIER 1

I've never even heard of there being people across the ocean.

 

SOLDIER 2

Perhaps the rebellion in the floodplains is just way worse than everybody seems to think. Our plane got shot, didn't it?

 

SOLDIER 3

They wouldn't be engineering these guns by the dozen and drilling us eight hours a day for a load of farmers.

 

SOLDIER 1

(sighs) I wish someone would tell us what we're supposed to be fighting.

 

 

EXT. FLOODPLAINS - DAY

 

Around the sluggish, sediment-loaded river, miles of orchards and cattle grazing sprawl. Wooden houses are clustered, elevated above the overflowing river water on stilts. There are waterwheel and wind mills, and quarries and metalworks further out. Farmers wade in the fields, clothes rolled up, or carry baskets along the raised earth paths that crisscross between them. A woven barrier of metal stretches across the river, stopping the parcels that float downriver, on which people climb to retrieve them.

 

Lin and the brothers emerge from the tree line, make their way towards the habitations. Lin first stares around in wonder, then begins to notice the guards scattered around - not pristine and disciplined like the ones at the power station, but yelling, eating, lazing around, carrying more of the same weapons that Alexander is hiding under his shirt. They are walking down a larger street surrounded by grain stores when they see two men corner a child.

 

SOLDIER 1

Hey, brat. You seen a runaway girl, white hair, come from the mountains?

 

KID

Who? No! Let go of me!

 

Lin starts towards them but Alexander pulls her behind a wall.

 

LIN

Hey, what are you-

 

SATOMI

Shh!

 

LIN

But they're talking about me! And they're hurting that kid!

 

ALEXANDER

You can't trust them, Lin, they're pigs. Who knows why they're looking for you?

 

The kid ducks around the soldiers and runs off, Alexander gestures for them to follow and they sneak behind the buildings, Lin glancing back at the men.

 

INT. SATOMI AND ALEXANDER'S HOUSE

 

The small wooden house is on a raised island of grass and flowers, a tree bearing all different kinds of fruit growing next to it and a path leading up to the door. The interior is well-lived in, messy but homely, the bottom floor a has an oven, and chairs, with spiral stairs leading to the second floor.

 

Alexander sees them to the door, Lin immediately goes in to look around but the brothers stay at the doorway, speaking quietly.

 

ALEXANDER

Okay, keep her out of sight and have the radio fixed by the time I get back. This is going to work.

(louder)

I'm off to see about getting our Lin home. See you later!

 

 

INT. SATOMI'S ROOM

 

There are two beds on the second floor, which is even more cluttered than downstairs, with projects and experiments spilling over from Satomi's side of the room.

 

Satomi fiddles with the radio and a set of clunky headphones by the open screen window, wires and tools on his desk. Lin is browsing the shelves he has all over his walls, filled with strange forms, bits of bone, rocks, feathers, dried plants, projects including a home-fashioned radio that plays QUIET MUSIC.

 

SATOMI

How can you not know how it works if you've been using it for years?

 

LIN

I never needed to know, it just works. What's this?

 

SATOMI

(still working)

Old cattle skull they found digging.

 

LIN

And this?

 

SATOMI

Tree resin.

 

LIN

This?

 

She's picked up a ridged black plate of metallic material, edges jagged and shattered, turns it over to see it's curved mother-of-pearl underside. There are more pieces on the shelf.

 

SATOMI

Ah, now that, I have no idea. (puts radio down) I've found that stuff buried in a few places, no-one I ask knows where it came from.

 

LIN

Looks like the inside of the shells in the lake.

 

SATOMI

Right, and the outside looks like a beetle carapace. (shrugs) Maybe the old settlement was attacked by giant crabs.

 

Lin puts the stuff back on the shelf, picks up a stiff photograph of a smiling man and woman, the woman holding a toddler and the man a young girl, with a younger Alexander stood between them.

 

LIN

Are these your parents?

 

SATOMI

(goes quiet again)

... You smell like pond water. There are clothes in the chest, bath's downstairs.

There's a waste-hut out back if you need it, but don't let any soldiers see you.

 

LIN

(pulling clothes out)

Why are you both so scared of them?

 

SATOMI

(indignant)

We aren't scared!

 

LIN

Your brother hates them, but he didn't help that kid.

 

SATOMI

Alexander isn't scared of anything! He says we just have to be smart.

 

LIN

(curious) So he has a plan?

 

SATOMI

Of course! (realizes he's said too much, clams up)

 

LIN

Well? Is it a good plan? Shooting at that plane didn't do much.

 

SATOMI

That isn't the plan.

 

LIN

Tell me!

Hm. Thought so. (obviously calling his bluff) You don't have a plan at all.

 

SATOMI

(indignant) Yes we do! And it's going to work!

 

Lin shakes her head, disbelieving.

 

SATOMI

(looks around, whispers proudly)

We're going to go to the President.

 

LIN

You're going to what?

 

SATOMI

We're going to go to the reef, all the way to the top. And Alexander is going to make the President take the soldiers away.

 

LIN

How?

 

But Satomi just carries on fixing the radio.

 

 

INT. LIN'S LIVING ROOM - EVENING

 

Riley and Jack, wearing mismatched ear pieces, sit at the kitchen table, whilst Katashi stands at a pot simmering over the blue-fire stove, and Mari chops vegetables from her hovering chair.

 

KATASHI

You're sure that's what they said? Invasion?

 

The girls nod.

 

JACK

They said someone is going to attack the city on the reef.

 

RILEY

From across the sea.

 

KATASHI

I mean, there are the old stories, but nothing's crossed that ocean in our lifetime.

 

MARI

(wipes eyes discreetly)

The world is getting more dangerous, and Lin's still out there.

 

 

INT. SATOMI'S ROOM - EVENING

 

The CHIRPing and CREAKing of insects in the fields carries in on the breeze through the open screen doors. Lin and Satomi are asleep, on the bed and at the desk, respectively.

 

Alexander climbs the stairs. He smiles at them, goes over to close the screen, wakes his brother.

 

ALEXANDER

It's ready?

 

Satomi nods sleepily.

 

DOWNSTAIRS

 

Pulling the door closed behind him, Alexander walks out into the mild night in bare feet, a little away from the glow of the houses. In his hand he holds a pair of patched headphones, which are messily wired up to Lin's radio. He puts them on.

 

INTERCUT BETWEEN ALEXANDER AND RILEY

 

Riley is helping Lin's parents clean up the plates when her radio beeps, and she pulls the box from her pocket, bored, then bolts up straight and presses her earpiece when she sees which of the tiny bulbs is lit.

 

RILEY

Lin!? Is that you?

 

Katashi and Mari whirl around.

 

KATASHI

What?

 

ALEXANDER (O.S.)

Is this Lin's family?

 

RILEY

Um, yes, yeah, they're right here. Who is this?

 

MARI

Is it her? What's going on?

 

Riley plugs her reciever box into the ornate radio in the living room and the audio plays out loud.

 

KATASHI

Lin? Are you there?

 

ALEXANDER

(smiles) Ah, hello.

 

KATASHI

Who are you?

 

MARI

Where's Lin?

 

ALEXANDER

Don't worry, I have your daughter.

 

MARI

Oh, thank goodness, please put her on the line-

 

ALEXANDER

(looks up at sky)

And if you ever want to get her back, you're going to do exactly what I say.

 

FADE OUT.

 

END OF EPISODE TWO

 

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