Topic: Budgie gave me the title “No Gentleman, No Lady” (and the word “ambigram” to use. I’m afraid I let him down, in that I haven’t managed to use the word. But ever since I wrote that little origin story for John Dials a few weeks back, I haven’t been able to entirely exorcise the urge to actually write that story I was talking about, Earth Died Screaming. So I went back to my outline notes, and I started writing the damn thing (as a comic, because as ever I just can’t make prose work in any form other than a short monologue). Here’s the first four pages of script. You may see more of it over the next few weeks/months if I’m happy with how it turns out.
(There is more coming about whisky, by the way. Bear with me.)
Panel 1: Split this page in two, horizontally. The top half of the page is moorland, ending in a clifftop, a single tree sitting to left of the shot. Knock the whole panel out to bleed. It’s a bright, sunny day, birds wheeling in the sky overhead, and the whole scene, if this were in colour, would be lush and green. The tree is verdant, spreading and very, very alive, if somewhat bent by years of the prevailing wind off the sea.
Panel 2: Exactly the same shot, except that this time, the sky is slate grey, and the whole scene is *dead* Not so much as a blade of grass is growing, and our tree is very dead, and very very scary, and monstrous, skeletal thing, like the hand of some maleficent god reaching out of the earth.
In the border between the two panels (make if thicker for the purpose) we’ve got our title: EARTH DIED SCREAMING.
Panel 1: A study in disarray, viewed from the door. Papers are strewn everywhere over the desk, over the floor between us and the desk, books are disarrayed on the shelves, a burea in one corner has all its drawers open, more papers poking out. The desk is a huge old mahogany affair, with a backboard that completely prevents us us from seeing one corner of the room behind it – the chair is off at an angle from it’s proper position where it would be facing us across the desk. Behind the desk, half visible behind the blackboard is a large window, looking out that the skyline we saw in panel 1.
VOICE (off): JOHN DIALS, I SWEAR YOU ARE THE MOST DAMNABLE CREATURE.
Panel 2: Same POV but a head sticks up from behind the desk. Mid-thirties, hair about two inches too long, and looking the owner has just stuck his fingers in a lightsocket. Slightly overdone Edwardian fashion, the tie/cravat disordered and the top button unfastened. Goatee beard, surprisingly neatly kept. This is someone that could look very presentable indeed if they bothered, but they don’t, generally.
DIALS: WHAT WAS THAT, EMILY DEAR?
Panel 3: A shot from a corner of the room – a three-quarters shot past Dials, allowing us to see Emily for the first time. Emily’s dressed in a fairly fetishistic version of Edwardian garb. Don’t overdo it – this is her everyday wear, but at the same time, she’d not someone who would blend in on the street, even in this era.
EMILY: I HAD THE SERVANTS TIDY THIS ROOM JUST YESTERDAY, AND LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE.
DIALS: IS THAT WHY I CAN’T FIND ANYTHING? HAVE YOU SEEN THAT PAPER THAT AUSTIN SENT UP THE OTHER DAY?
Panel 4: Emily points to a piece of paper midway between them, on the floor, as Dials strides round from behind the desk.
EMILY: IS THAT IT?
Panel 5: Dials stoops to pick it up.
DIALS: WHY, YES, IT IS. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’D DO WITHOUT YOU, MY LOVE.
EMILY: FLOUNDER HOPELESSLY, I’M SURE. HAVE YOU MADE ANY PROGRESS?
With the exception of the first ballon, all the dialogue on this page is voice-over ballons, no tails.
Panel 1: A shot past Dials, looking more clearly out of the window we can just see a bit of Dials face. The scene out of the window has changed slightly, though – instead of the afternoon view, we’re looking at night time now, the tree visible against the moon. There are some leaves on it, because this is before the horror – but it’s autumn so they’re sparse, and we can some get “scary tree” value out of it. There are three figures running up the hill toward it, just ahead of a mob, the frontrunners of which are visible at the the very bottom/front of the panel.
DIALS: YES, I BELIEVE SO. WITH AUSTIN’S HELP, I’VE TRACKED DOWN SOME LOCAL HISTORY ABOUT THE BONE TREE.
Panel 2: Move past Dials, for a high shot, over the heads of the mob (pitchforks and torches, please – I want a proper lynch mob…) so we can see the three of them, huddled together backs to the tree. One of the women looks terrified, the other furious, and the bloke looks curiously calm. I think it might be worth keeping just a small part of the window in shot – a corner of frame, of some of the lead in the panes, or something.
DIALS: IT SEEMS THAT ABOUT A CENTURY AGO, THREE PEOPLE WERE KILLED THERE. TWO WOMEN AND A MAN.
Panel 3: Three bodies hang from the tree, and we’ve zoomed in a bit more, lost all trace of the window.
DIALS: NOT EXACTLY. THEY WERE LYNCHED FOR WHAT’S CHARMINGLY REFERED TO HERE AS “UNNATURAL CONDUCT”. IT SEEMS THE TWO WOMEN WERE SISTERS, WHO WERE BOTH SHARING A BED WITH THE SAME MAN.
Panel 4: Zoom in closer, so that we can see the three dead faces, twisting on their ropes. This close, we can see that the man’s eyes are two different colours – one light, one dark.
EMILY: SOUNDS POSITIVELY DELIGHTFUL, BUT WHERE DO WE COME INTO IT?
Panel 5: A shot of the blasted heath as it is today.
DIALS: WELL, THE MAN’S NAME WAS RECORDED AS SIMEON MORROW. AND A YEAR TO THE DAY AFTER THEY DIED, EVERYTHING WITHIN HALF A MILE OF THE TREE DIED. NOTHING’S GROWN THERE SINCE.
Panel 1: Back in the study, focused on Emily, who has moved closer to the desk while we were in flashback, and who looks a little shocked. If we can see Dials, then he’s setting the chair.
EMILY: BUT WHY WOULD MORROW LET HIMSELF GET HUNG?
Panel 2: Dials is sitting down at the desk now, pushing some some papers to one side. There’s a book open underneath them.
DIALS: WELL, I’VE GOT A FEW THEORIES ABOUT THAT. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A GYTRASH OR MAYBE SHAGFOAL?
Panel 2: Emily shrugs, while Dials picks up the book and hands it to Emily.
DIALS: LOCAL BELIEF-FORM. BIG BLACK DOG OR HORSE, HARBINGER OF DEATH. HELL HOUND, BASICALLY.
Panel 3: The main panel on this page. A shot of the pages of the book. One of them, the focus of the shot is, illustrated – up to up if it’s a woodcut, or something a bit more detailed, but it’s a big (unnaturally huge – put a frightened looking man in the illustration in for scale – on all fours, this thing is three quarters man height) black dog, with fire burning in its eye sockets, maybe around it’s jaws. This is a book printed in the 19th century, so don’t go overboard on the illustration quality, anyway. On the other, we can just make out the title GYTRASH.
EMILY: I DON’T UNDERSTAND. WHAT’S THAT GOT TO DO WITH GETTING HIMSELF HUNG?