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Begin with a black screen – mostly black. Low-hue, indistinguishable colors swirl around for a few moments. We hear mostly unintelligible voices and sounds, an ambulance siren the most prevalent. Slowly, but still slightly muffled, the voices of JEN and the PARAMEDIC become intelligible, and we see JEN’S face, sick and confused.
JEN (slurring): What am I dying of?
PARAMEDIC (still on JEN’S face): Oh, uh . . . You’re not dying, I promise. You’re gonna be okay. We’re going to University Hospital right now.
We see the PARAMEDIC’S hands above JEN, messing with something.
JEN: (slurs more, still from her POV) No, no, it’s okay. (laughs) I’ll see you later. Or maybe not.
JEN (softly, a woman dying): Nothing.
Closes her eyes.
Jen opens her eyes and looks around, camera still on her face. She looks around for a couple of seconds until a finger snap catches her attention.
Jen looks ahead. Shot switches to reveal the front counter of a hotel. Just a normal front counter, with a computer and a bowl of mints. Behind the counter is the ANGEL, a girl of about twenty, dressed in a nondescript uniform but with earrings, a weird haircut, and a bandana headband, chewing gum. She has her finger in a beat-up book. She is leaning forward towards a very confused JEN, speaking slowly.
ANGEL: You confirm that that’s your last word?
JEN (composes herself with great difficulty): Uh . . . sure. (shaking, looks down at and rubs her side.) But what happened to me?
ANGEL: It’s not important.
JEN: Not imp –
ANGEL: Yeah. Not important. (Looks down at the computer and sighs. Her utter disinterest is ratcheting up the tension). Now that you’re accounted for, why don’t you have a seat? You have awhile to wait.
JEN: Wait for what?
ANGEL: (rolls her eyes, pffts.) Agnostics.
Shot of Jen, taking it all in. She’s really confused but is taking it amiably. She manages a shrug and looks around. This place could be the Holiday Inn. There’s a fireplace. There’s a hotel breakfast counter (not set up; it’s not morning and probably hasn’t been since the beginning of time) with several four-person tables. The lobby is reasonably crowded, but not packed. Some people have luggage with them and look like they’re waiting for their room key. Some are in T-shirts and sweat pants, hotel guests hanging out in the lobby. They’re everywhere, sitting on the couches, at the tables, and, in a couple of cases, just up against a wall. Not too out of the ordinary, except for the fact that nobody is doing anything. At all. Nobody’s talking to each other or reading a book or newspaper. There’s a mounted flat-screen TV, but it’s not on. Not a laptop or cell phone in sight.
JEN looks back to the ANGEL, who’s playing with her fingers, bored as hell, waiting for JEN to leave so she can get back to her book. JEN turns and walks over to the fireplace, where there are two armchairs. There are two people sitting there, a man (AX MAN) sitting straight-backed on one armchair and a woman (PITY WOMAN) slumped in the other, eyes elsewhere. JEN hesitates, then takes a seat on the hearth of the fireplace.
JEN: Hey, how’s it going. I’m Jen.
Slowly, AX MAN and PITY WOMAN, whose heads had been down, look at JEN. JEN quails a little bit as she realizes that there is a really nasty gash, fresh and red, down the side of AX MAN’S face, right across his eye and running to his chin, like somebody dug an ax in his face. PITY WOMAN, on the other hand, looks like she has some sort of wasting disease. Her face is pale, her hair lank and damp, her fingers skinny, her mouth thin, her eyes sunken and bloodshot. JEN takes a big breath but keeps cool. She prides herself on being normal in really weird situations. She meets the eyes of her new friends, but after a few tense seconds, both AX MAN and PITY WOMAN break the gaze, returning to their own worlds. JEN, now in relative privacy, lets her confusion surface. She’s not panicking – just mildly confused. She feels her side.
Cut to JEN’S kitchen, where she’s collapsing in pain. Cut to a shot of her hand, desperately feeling for a phone. Cut to the same shot of her in the ambulance, then to the PARAMEDIC, working frantically.
PARAMEDIC (echoing): Dave, we’re losing her.
DAVE (out of frame): Dude, f***ing traffic.
Back to JEN, holding her side in the lobby. She’s still not really fazed. She just chuckles to herself.
JEN: So I’m dead. Awesome.
Her friends just sort of glance at her.
JEN: Whooo, you’re a friendly bunch. So where are we?
PITY WOMAN says nothing and looks away pointedly. JEN turns to AX MAN.
JEN: Where are we?
AX MAN (real husky dude, man of few words): Can’t say for sure.
JEN: Are . . . we all dead here?
AX MAN: Can’t say for sure. (He looks around. We finally get focused shots of individuals. There’s a dude with a gunshot wound. There’s a chick whose wrists are slit. There’s an old man with wrinkles upon wrinkles. There’s a ten-year-old kid with an arm in a cast, a slingshot, and a sad expression. He turns back to JEN.) But if I were to take an educated guess, I’d say, yeah. We’re all dead.
JEN: So . . . are we in heaven?
AX MAN: Wouldn’t think so.
JEN: So . . . hell?
AX MAN: Wouldn’t think so.
JEN: Then where? Purgatory?
Ax man shrugs and shuts off again. JEN raises her eyebrows. Mouths, “Purgatory?” Cut to a shot of a schoolroom of nine-year-olds with a NUN at the front. YOUNG JEN’S in a corner desk, trying to be a smart-ass.
YOUNG JEN: So like, what if you, like, do bad stuff for your whole life and then when you’re dying you say, “I’m really sorry God please forgive me?” – do you get to go to heaven?
NUN (smiling, naively cheerful): No, Jen. You will probably go through Purgatory. We Catholics believe that Purgatory is when people who have been sinful but have died in a state of grace go through a process of purification in order to present themselves as perfect beings for a perfect God.
YOUNG JEN: . . . Wait, what?
Cut to the ambulance. Things are beeping. DAVE is honking. JEN’S fading. PARAMEDIC’S fumbling with stuff, freaking out. JEN slips out of consciousness. Realizing this, he stops. He sighs. He raises his hand and makes the sign of the cross, like a priest does. JEN rallies a bit.
PARAMEDIC: Lord, please welcome this woman into your kingdom. Please forgive any sins she may have committed and accept her contrition.
DAVE, from front: Dude! Do your f***ing job!
PARAMEDIC: As she passes from our world, Lord –
JEN (same expression and tone as YOUNG JEN): Wait, what?
PARAMEDIC looks down at her.
JEN: What am I dying of?
PARAMEDIC: Oh, uh . . . You’re not dying, I promise. You’re gonna be okay. We’re going to University Hospital right now.
Cut back to the lobby, where JEN looks genuinely surprised for the first time today.
JEN: Holy s***, I got absolved.
Her friends look up again, eyebrows raised. JEN is happy to have gotten their attention.
JEN: I didn’t even believe in God, man. I mean, maybe I did. I don’t know. But that paramedic . . . I mean . . . but . . . wow. (She realizes she’s blustering. She composes herself.) So what am I supposed to do here? In Purgatory. Reflect?
Cut to AX MAN and PITY WOMAN. The latter gives the former an it’s-all-yours-mate look. AX MAN opens his mouth, but it’s interrupted by a ding. Everyone in the lobby turns, JEN a second later. Off to the side, there are a couple of elevators, and one has opened, though we can’t see the interior. JEN stands up a little to look at one of them. A moment later, REDEEMED WOMAN, a woman with luggage who has been sitting at a corner table unnoticed, looks up. Like she can’t believe it, she gets up and walks towards the elevator, her rolling suitcase scraping across the floor. She has to pass the front counter on her way, and, like she’s not in her own body, she slooowly turns to look at the ANGEL. She says nothing; the two just stare at each other for a moment. Then –
ANGEL: You’re going to need your key. (hands REDEEMED WOMAN a card key.)
JEN’S looking really intrigued here. She looks over at ANGEL again, peeking around the fireplace. And the scene has completely changed. Instead of a bored employee, the ANGEL is . . . well, an angel, with beautiful flowing locks and wings and a halo, standing behind a golden podium, handing REDEEMED WOMAN something indistinguishable but glowing. The little hallway leading to the elevators is now a big golden gate. REDEEMED WOMAN walks through the gate. Back to JEN, whose eyes widen, then back to the counter, which is now just a counter. The ANGEL is reading her book and chewing gum again, and there’s another ding as the elevators close off-frame. JEN’S awestruck gaze lingers, but she soon realizes that everyone else has returned to their usual contemplative expressions.
JEN gets up and walks to the counter, only to find that a drugged-up-looking teenage boy, the DRUGGIE, has seemingly appeared out of thin air and is talking to the ANGEL.
DRUGGIE (as JEN waits her turn): Uh, sure. But . . . what happened to me?
ANGEL: That’s not important. Now that you’re accounted for, Henry Lark, why don’t you take a seat. You have awhile to wait.
DRUGGIE: What’s your name?
ANGEL: That’s not important.
DRUGGIE: Um, okay. Uh . . . most people call me Bird, you know. Because of the . . . well, anyway . . . (he’s still pretty high) when do you get off?
The ANGEL just looks at him. DRUGGIE, embarrassed, walks away, and JEN steps up. The ANGEL, who had just looked down at her book, now has to help JEN again. She does not appreciate this.
JEN: So, just out of curiosity, how does one get into heaven?
JEN: But I don’t know what I did.
If looks could kill . . .
JEN: Okay, I mean, I know I wasn’t exactly a godly person, but I don’t know anything specific to repent. I mean, if I say I’m sorry for all my sins, and I mean it, is that all right?
ANGEL (still holding the book open): Yes.
JEN: You mean, there’s not a set time I have to stay here?
JEN: O-kay. I’m . . . sorry. For all my sins.
ANGEL (shaking her head): No, no, no. Feel what you’ve done. Know it’s wrong and know why.
JEN: What did I do?
ANGEL (shrugging): Idunno. You can look in your mailbox, if you want to.
The ANGEL gestures behind her, where there are rows of little mail slots. JEN looks around for a moment, searching for hers. Then she sees the slot with her name on it – and it’s friggin huge. Her particular mail slot takes up half the mailboxes, and as JEN looks closer, she sees that it’s absolutely stuffed with envelopes.
JEN: (clearly embarrassed) Does everyone have a mailbox that big?
ANGEL: It’s typical. But usually the ones who have small mailboxes compensate by committing bigger sins.
JEN (laughing at her own misfortune): Okay. I’ll look at them later.
The ANGEL shrugs again and returns to her book – Dante’s Purgatorio. Behind her, the mailboxes have returned to their normal size. JEN hesitates, then turns back to her mantle seat – but DRUGGIE has taken it. Pissed, JEN approaches him.
JEN: Hey, you’re in my –
Match cut to YOUNG JEN in the same classroom.
YOUNG JEN: Hey, you’re in my seat!
Quick pan to YOUNG JEN’S seat, where a disabled girl is sitting, staring.
Cut to teenage JEN, sitting on a bed with her FRIEND, who is sobbing.
FRIEND: And so then he broke up with me . . . with a text message. He said he . . . he never wanted to see me again, and . .
JEN: Hey, that sucks. But I wanted to tell you – I got a new boyfriend! And he’s a senior . . .
Cut to JEN in a shopping mall, pushing other women away for a pair of shoes. Cut to JEN at her home, as PARAMEDIC and DAVE are carrying her to the ambulance on a stretcher
JEN: Oh, great, my life is in the hands of two hicks from frickin Hickville. Fan-f***ing-tastic.
Cut back to the lobby, where DRUGGIE, AX MAN, and PITY WOMAN are staring at her. For the first time, JEN looks genuinely uncomfortable with herself.
JEN: Um, never mind. I can sit . . . over here. (takes a very awkward seat on the floor).
JEN looks over at DRUGGIE, whose eyes are blank. He seems to be getting the hang of this whole purgatory thing pretty well.
JEN: So . . . why are you here?
DRUGGIE: Um, well, I think I died of an OD, if that’s what you mean. What do you mean by here?
PITY WOMAN: Self-pity. (everyone turns to PITY WOMAN. Her words are weighty.) Like me. That’s why he’s here.
There’s a long, uncomfortable silence. PITY WOMAN’s returned to her default setting, though her eyes flick back and forth every once in a while. AX MAN stares at his lap. DRUGGIE looks intensely embarrassed. So does JEN.
JEN (to AX MAN): And why are you here?
AX MAN: I don’t know. I haven’t looked through my mailbox yet.
JEN looks over at the mail slots, except now there aren’t any. Behind the ANGEL, there’s just one big box, stuffed with packages.
AX MAN: I don’t think I can face it just yet.
JEN: How long have you been here?
AX MAN: Can’t say for sure.
Cut back to JEN, who takes a shaky breath.
DRUGGIE: So . . . why are you here?
JEN: Insensitivity. (silence, as everyone looks at her.) Okay, tell you what. Why don’t we rotate? One of us can sit on the floor for a while and then they can take a seat. I’ll go first, since I was already out of my seat.
PITY WOMAN: Okay.
Time passes. Cut to shots of everyone in the lobby – the boy, the old man, the suicidal woman, the friends, the ANGEL, everyone. Slowly, the shadows in the room lengthen. People begin to fall asleep. Just as the room becomes dark, the little boy gets up and walks to the counter. He and the ANGEL exchange a glance. The ANGEL goes to the mailboxes, takes a single, thin envelope out of a normal-looking slot, and hands it to the boy. The boy returns to his seat, staring at the envelope. JEN watches. More shots of more people. Finally, JEN and PITY WOMAN look at each other. Slowly, deliberately, they exchange spots.
JEN and PITY WOMAN: Thank you.
JEN (long pause): You’re welcome.
Cut to shot of PITY WOMAN’S face. Her eyes are less sunken and bloodshot, and her face has a little more color. JEN looks at her own side again. She makes herself comfortable in the armchair. She begins to close her eyes. Just as she falls asleep, the elevator dings, and we hear the muffled voice of the ANGEL.
ANGEL: Hey, kid. You’re going to need your key.
JEN, eyes closed, grins.