The Wolves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 30, 2018

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Submitted: September 30, 2018

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BLACK SCREEN —  A LONE WOLF HOWLS IN THE DISTANCE 

VOICE (V.O.)
Nobody believes me. My wife doesn't. My kids think the idea is cool but they don't really believe me either. But I remember, and I've never tried to hide it. I was once a Knight. And I was once a cowboy.

FADE INTO:

EXT. MODERN DAY/TOP OF A HILL — DAY
JACOB is standing alone on a rocky outcropping near the head of a lush, green river valley. The river winds lazily between the brown hills, dotted with wealthy ranch homes, pristine stables, herds of cattle, and plenty of horses. 

JACOB (V.O.)
Now, when I say I was a Knight, I don't mean I was a Jouster in 
Medieval Times.

FLASHBACK:

EXT. MEDIEVAL ERA/WOODS — DAY
JARIN (Jacob) rides up on a big CHARGER. He’s dressed like a MERCENARY KNIGHT, all in black. Black leather greaves and pauldrons. A black WOLF’S PELT covers his shoulders and his saddle. The scabbard of his SWORD is black. Sewn into the black fur around his neck is the EMBLEM of the Wuffing (Wolf) Clan. He reins in his charger and surveys a stretch of fields and a large Tudor House in the distance.

JACOB (V.O.)
And when I say cowboy, I don't mean I spent a summer on a ranch in Montana. I mean in another life.

FLASHBACK:

EXT. OLD WEST/WOODS — DAY
Joshua (Jacob) is running through the woods. A WOLF races across an open clearing ahead of him. Joshua comes out of the trees, slows, stops. Raises his RIFLE to shoot the wolf. The wolf looks back at him. They have a moment. Joshua lowers the gun. He can’t shoot it.  

JACOB (V.O.)
That's the bigger picture no one can see but me. That's the story that unfolded back then and seems to be unfolding again now.

CUT TO:

EXT. MODERN DAY/TOP OF A HILL — DAY
Framed against an impossibly blue sky, Jacob looks out over the long river valley from his high perch on the rock.

JACOB (V.O.)
Those stories, those lives, have ended, but they sure aren't over. I hope, this time around, I can say it's done. That I did it better.

FLASHBACK:

EXT. MEDIEVAL ERA/WOODS — DAY
BRUCE steps out of the Tudor House and sees Jarin in the distance. Jarin looks back at him. 

JACOB (V.O.)
I hope this time will be the last time.

FLASHBACK:

EXT. OLD WEST/OPEN FIELD — DAY
Joshua is walking out of the mountains, rifle over his shoulder. Coming over a rise, he spots BRUCK in the distance and comes to a slow halt. 
Bruck looks back up at him. 

JACOB (V.O.)
This is my intention, because I believe in the macrocosm and the microcosm of things. Because I believe that if he and I can heal this thing between us it will help the world heal, too.

CUT TO:

EXT. MODERN DAY/TOP OF A HILL — DAY
Jacob starts down off his rocky outcropping, making his way toward the river below.  

EXT. MODERN DAY/RIVER BOTTOM — DAY
Jacob walks along the river, deep in contemplation. He's wearing CARHARTS, NEATLY PRESSED SHIRT, and HEAVY RANCH COAT. 

JACOB (V.O.)
Everyone around here has been slowly selling off their herds, their land, their homes. Mine is the last privately owned ranch in the county.
Jacob sighs. He stops for a moment at the river. His attention disappears into the gentle rippling of the water. 

JACOB (V.O.)
He's coming to my place again today, like he did back then. And like back then, he’s going to try and take my land. It's an old story — Bart just doesn't know how old.

 

EXT. MODERN DAY/RIVER BOTTOM — DAY

Making his way out of the river bottom, Jacob heads up the last stretch to his RANCH HOME. It’s a gorgeous spread. There are THREE BARNS. A newer one with the horse stables. Another for the cattle. And a third, over one hundred years old, Jacob’s personal tinker space. He walks passed the house and into the stable barn. A long row of horses greet him, two whinnying loudly. From a barrel, he feeds a small bay stud a handful of hay, and then steps into the stall of a tall black mare. Leading her outside, he loose-ties her to a HITCHING RAIL and begins to curry-comb her dusty coat.

JACOB (V.O.)
Now, usually souls don't choose to live the same type of life over. But I did, because last time I thought I was in the right and Bart the wrong. To be honest, I felt like the wounded bloody steer I saw on a nature channel one time. He’d been swimming some jungle river somewhere and been torn apart by a swarm of piranhas. It was an image that stayed with me. 
(beat)
The thing is, I wasn't quite right in that, because there was the life we shared in what we now call the Medieval era. A life where I did much worse to him than he's ever done to me...

FLASHBACK:

EXT. MEDIEVAL ERA/TUDOR HOUSE — DAY
Outside of the Tudor House, Jarin rides up on his horse and dismounts. He whispers to his horse, CLAY, to stay, just as one might speak to a dog, and then waits, casual and confident, as Bruce takes a few tentative steps toward him. Bruce is a much bigger man than Jarin, but he’s soft. Wealthy enough for the time, but a man who gives orders, preferring to bend himself toward business. Bruce’s MAN, SADON, comes out behind him. SADON is swarthy, an educated man from the east.  

JARIN 
It's time to go. You're the last of the lot.

BRUCE 
I told you I'm not leaving. This is my home and my land.

JARIN
Not anymore. It's my land now and therefore, my home. I say who stays in it.
Jarin makes a pointed look at the door of the house.

JARIN (CONT’D)
Of course I can allow for your woman and daughter to stay, Bruce. I'd make sure they are...comfortable.

Bruce's eyes bulge with rage. His fist tightens around the handle of a tall, weathered WALKING STAFF. Sadon steps up beside his master. 

JARIN’S POV — CU ON BRUCE’S STAFF.

JARIN (CONT’D)
I’m taking this land. You can leave your wife and daughter in my charge and go now with your life. Or you can remain and lose all three.  
Bruce is bristling with fear and rage. His throat works as he tries to answer.

BRUCE 
Never.
Jarin heaves a sigh. He’s in no mood. 

JARIN
Very well.
Without flourish, Jarin reaches back and draws his sword. Though he's a smaller man, he attacks Bruce viciously. Like an animal he rushes at Bruce. Bruce is barely able to get his staff up before Jarin has batted it out of his hand. Jarin kicks Bruce's staff aside and slams his sword against Bruce's upraised arms. There’s a sickening crack, Bruce cries out, and falls to the ground.
Bruce’s wife and daughter run out of the house. 
Bruce screams —

BRUCE
Get them out, Sadon! Get them out now!

SADON
My lord, no! No!
Bruce is filled with torment as Sadon hesitates. 

BRUCE
I beg you! Run!

Sadon finally turns and runs back toward the house, yelling the names of Bruce's WIFE, CATRAIN, and DAUGHTER, JASMINE —

SADON
Catrain! Jasmine! Run!

Jarin stands, watching, unaffected. Two women and two soft men are no match for him. 

On his back, on the ground, Bruce sobs and screams, reaching out helplessly for his wife and daughter, with two broken arms. 
Under the eyes of his screaming wife and daughter, Jarin finishes off Bruce with a quick slash to the throat. He then begins to walk, almost casually, toward Sadon and the women. 
Sadon never makes it to the house.
Breathing hard, Jarin stands amidst the carnage outside the Tudor house. It was all too easy. But there is not triumph in his eyes. 

EXT. MODERN DAY/JACOB'S RANCH — DAY
Jacob is chopping wood behind the house. He is heavy with the memory of his actions in that other life, that day at the Tudor house. 

JACOB (V.O.)
In that life Bart was called Bruce. A wealthy nobleman. But I was a Knight of the Wuffing House. And though Bruce was wealthy enough for the time, he didn't stand a chance against the power of the man I served. Or, against me. 

Jacob slams the axe down again. Another log splits with a pleasing chunk!

JACOB (V.O.)
And so we came back again in the life just before this one. When I was a soldier, turned cowboy, turned rancher. And Bart, well, he went by Bruck in that time, the son of a powerful land baron from the east, a man in charge of his destiny rather than a Man of a House, who could lose everything under the whim of forces far more powerful.
(beat)
It was a life we'd chosen after the terrible thing that happened in that medieval time. Where I'd wanted to see what it felt like to give everything for something and have someone take it away from me.
But I had not intended for it to end up as it did.
(beat)
Anger, inequality, rage. These do strange things to a man...

FLASHBACK:

EXT. OLD WEST/OPEN FIELD — DAY
Joshua walks down out of the fields, through the gates of the pasture next to the barn and the small cabin. He stops in front of Bruck, eyes hard. 

BRUCK
Doing some hunting?

JOSHUA
There've been wolves about.

BRUCK
I've heard.

JOSHUA
Get off my property, Bruck. I told you before. I'm not giving up my land.

BRUCK
This ain't your land. It's Wilhelm's.

Bruck waits a beat, staring Joshua down.

BRUCK (CONT’D)
The railroad’s coming. This land's gonna belong to he who can pay for it. And that ain’t you.

JOSHUA
Bruck, you know me and Wilhelm have a special arrangement.

BRUCK
A thing you haven't worked off yet.

JOSHUA
You know its set to be mine before the year is out.

BRUCK
It doesn't matter. Wilhelm's gone.

Joshua goes very still.

JOSHUA
You have him outed, Bruck?

Bruck offers an unsettling little smile.

BRUCK
All that matters is this land is mine now.

JOSHUA
You killed him.

BRUCK
Wilhelm saw reason all on his own. Just as I imagine you will.

Bruck holds Joshua's gaze.

JOSHUA
Maybe, I've been too reasonable. Maybe, you'll take my spread over my dead body.

BRUCK
If that's the way you see it. As you said, been wolves about, your wife wouldn't even need to bury you.

Joshua's grip on the shotgun tightens. He shifts it from his left hand to his right. Bruck notices and tries to go for one of his PISTOLS. But before he can draw Joshua has already fired.

The shot grazes Bruck in the side, knocks the pistol from his hand, and spins him. He staggers and falls.

Joshua tosses his shotgun and strides towards Bruck, drawing a single PISTOL from his gun belt as he goes. Bruck is holding his wounded side with one hand and struggling to reach his second PISTOL with the other.

Joshua kicks the second pistol from Bruck's hand and points his own gun at Bruck's face.

JOSHUA
You're the wolf.

SMASH CUT:

BLACK SCREEN — SINGLE GUNSHOT (O.S.)

INT. MODERN DAY/JACOB'S OLD BARN — DAY
Jacob is in his tinker-around barn. There’s an old TRACTOR in there he’s working on and, sitting on the seat of the tractor is a GLASS WHISKEY DECANTER with a SOLID PEWTER EMBLEM of FOUR WOLVES on the front.
Jacob hears a truck pull up outside and the engine turns off. There's a moment of quiet and then he hears footsteps coming to the door. There's a knock. Jacob takes a steadying breath and calls out —

JACOB
It's open!

Bart opens the door and steps inside. He sees Jacob’s feet and legs under the tractor and the bottle of whiskey on the seat. 

BART
Doing some drinking?

JACOB
The current situation calls for it.

Bart just nods.

JACOB (CONT’D)
My family's around. Let's make this quick.

BART
Suits me.

Jacob slides out from under the tractor and stands, wiping his hands on an old T-Shirt. 

JACOB
I've told everyone else no. But, well, it seems the whole world's of a different mind than me. My neighbors. The other ranchers. Even my own kids. They all want me to sell.

BART
They'd be right.

Jacob studies the bottle of whiskey with the wolf logo on it.

JACOB
Will you tell me how you justify your way of life? How you make it all right, in your mind, to buy people's land for half what it's worth? The pressure you and your family have put on all of us to sell? Don't you have a place to sleep at night? Is your family worried about their survival?

Bart is uncomfortable and starts to speak but what he says becomes indistinguishable...

JACOB (V.O.)
I've read that people will often incarnate into the opposite thing they were in their previous life. For example, a man who buys sex from women would incarnate and make a living as a prostitute. Someone who committed a murder would incarnate as the victim of a shooting. The overbearing mother becomes the timid son. The list goes on and on. Opposites. Opposing forces. 'All the world's a stage and all of us merely players.' Except this time, we haven't traded. He may go by the name Bart, but he's still the same soul. As am I. Which means he must have agreed to play a similar role to the one he played last time so I could make a different choice.

Jacob looks at Bart. Bart is still speaking but we can’t hear what he’s saying. 

JACOB (V.O.)
Trouble is, I don't know how it's going to turn out. Because even though we're now living in a time when a single gunshot won't end or start all of our problems, I find I don't want to make a different choice. I want to kill him all over again. Because ruining someone's life may be more subtle in this modern age but it's no less insidious.
(Jacob closes his eyes)
The one thing that is clear, is that all of these lives seem to have to do with land, and who thinks they have a right to it...

RETURN TO SCENE:

BART
Always the philosopher, you are, Jacob. This isn't about any of that. It's inevitable. This really is the best thing.

Jacob blinks as if remembering not only where he is but what era he's in.

JACOB
That's what you people always say. And I won't ask you why you say it because I already know. It’s the best thing for you. This is the best thing for everyone it seems, except me. Can you tell me why this world won't just let people be? Everything I've worked so hard for swept away by a few pieces of paper and a pen.

Jacob makes a point of looking at the papers in Bart's big hands.

JACOB (CONT’D)
Do they say anything different than they did the last time?

BART
No. I've told you, I'm making the best offer you're going to get.

JACOB
I don't like you. Not one bit. But it's true, you have made the highest offer of all the shitty offers so far.

Jacob takes a beat. He's torn. He's staring at the Whiskey bottle again.

JACOB (CONT’D)
You know, in the old days, we'd settle this a different way.

BART
Like an old-fashioned shoot out?

Jacob glances up at Bart.

JACOB
Something like that.

BART
Well, at least no one's getting shot today.

Bart's joke falls flat as Jacob continues to look at him, causing something to change in Bart's expression.

BART (CONT’D)
Did I do something to you in a past life or something? Because this really isn't personal. This is just business. And you and your family will be better off in the long run.

Jacob goes very still.

JACOB (V.O.)
He has no idea how personal this is. I'm standing here, staring at this man who ruined my life in a past I can remember and feel like it was yesterday. I thought I'd be able to make it right. But I hate him. I can't help myself. I want to strangle him with my bare hands. And I'm afraid we'll end up doing this all over again.

Jacob closes his eyes, needing a moment to collect himself.

JACOB (V.O.)
I'm having a very hard time figuring out how I'm going to let him take my life from me again, while I'm still here, trying to live it.

BART
Listen, Jacob. Can I call you Jacob?

Jacob opens his eyes and looks at him.

JACOB
Jacob. Jarin. Joshua. Guess as long as it starts with a J. 

Bart is studying him now like he believes Jacob might be, genuinely, unstable.

BART
Well, why don't I just leave these papers with you. You can think about it. You know how to contact me.

Bart lays the papers carefully down on the seat of the tractor next to the whiskey bottle, but Jacob's eyes are fixed on Bart. He's intent.

JACOB
You really don't remember me? None of this feels the tiniest bit familiar to you?

Bart is confused and beginning to look genuinely afraid.

BART
I do this all the time. This is what I do.

Bart pauses here and it seems there's something going on in his mind that Jacob hadn't counted on.

BART (CONT’D)
It's just, what I've always done. Dad did it. Grandpa did it. So yeah, it's familiar.

JACOB
That's not what I mean.

BART
Look, I really am sorry for...all of this. I know you must see me as the bad guy here. I don't know. Maybe I am. But you have to know, change is inevitable. You will have to sell at sometime, to somebody. You see that, don't you?

JACOB
You said that once before.

BART
Did I? Well, I imagine I would have. It's the truth.

JACOB (V.O.)
I'm on the edge. My heart is pounding. I'm sweating. I'm itching to kill him again because the moment is so real and it's happening right in front of me. I want him to know the helplessness. I want him to experience being powerless...

FLASHBACK:

EXT. MEDIEVAL ERA/TUDOR HOUSE — DAY
Jarin looks down at Bruce lying on the ground. Beyond, Sadon also lies on the ground, just outside the front door to the Tudor house. From inside Jarin can hear the cries of Bruce's wife and teenage daughter.

CUT TO:

EXT. OLD WEST/OPEN FIELD — DAY
Joshua is standing looking down at Bruck lying dead in the grass.

CU — BRUCK’S WEDDING RING. 

 
INT. MODERN DAY/JACOB'S OLD BARN — DAY

BART
Mr. Meneker.

Jacob looks haunted.

BART (CONT’D)
Is there any other way out of this you can see?

JACOB
Yes, you turn around and walk away, and never come here again. And take those papers with you.

Bart hesitates a moment more and then slowly nods his head. Rather than angry, he simply looks defeated. Turning, he starts to walk away. At the barn door, he stops and turns back around. 

BART
Here's the thing.

The look on Jacob's face is tormented.

BART (CONT’D)
I can leave right now, and I will. But someone else will come in my place. I'm telling you, they're lined up behind me. So, what if there's another way?

JACOB
And what might that be?

Bart rubs the back of his neck.

BART
You can give it away.

Jacob stares, speechless.

BART (CONT’D)
Hear me out. This is kind of a stretch, but there's a trust out there. They're looking for a place to set up as a wolf refuge, a kind of habitat. It's a massive trust, but they haven't been able to secure the acreage necessary. Your place here could be that. You won't be farming or ranching, but I'll bet we could work out a way for you and your family to stay here. You won't make much money, less than half of what I'm offering, but you could stay, and I think there might be some sort of stipend put in place for the land use. And, it would keep people like me out. The land would be protected.

JACOB
Wolf refuge, huh? Wolves...

CUT TO:

CLOSE UP — MEDIEVAL ERA, WOLF EMBLEM ON JARIN’S WOLF PELT 

CLOSE UP — OLD WEST, JOSHUA IN THE WOODS LOOKING BACK AT THE WOLF

JACOB
Why would you even tell me about such a possibility?

BART
Honestly, I have no idea. Because this may ruin me, too. It could also be because I was afraid you were about to shoot me just now.

JACOB
Maybe I was. 'Cept the gun's locked up.

BART
Well then I'd say this is a better option. For both of us.

Jacob looks as if his world has spun four times in the past five minutes.

JACOB (V.O.)
Even remembering those past lives, doesn't relieve me of my shock over the serendipity, the irony of what Bart just said. A wolf preserve? He only got shot last time because I was out hunting for a wolf that had been carrying off the ranch's sheep. If I hadn't had my rifle on me that day, Bruck probably wouldn’t have gotten killed. And here we are again, and he's on my land again, this time with a proposal not to take it but turn it into a Wolf Habitat. I don't know if its providence or dark comedy.

Jacob's face has changed dramatically. He looks, almost, like he's about to laugh. He straightens his back and looks at Bart.

JACOB
Good god, this world tries to kill you. But at least it has a sense of humour.

CU ON THE WOLF DECANTER.
Jacob walks over and picks up the decanter. He pulls the top off. 

JACOB
If you can work that out, you've got a deal — my friend.

There's a change in Bart's face when Jacob says, "My Friend."

BART
Very good.

Bart holds the papers up in his hand.

BART (CONT’D)
I'll shred these.

JACOB
Please do that.

Jacob holds the glass decanter out to Bart. It takes Bart a moment, and then he accepts the bottle. Looking at Jacob, he takes a long swig. Grimacing and then sighing, he nods his head and hands the bottle back to Jacob. 
Jacob takes a drink. 

BART
I'll contact the trust and get back to you.

Jacob nods. Bart turns and heads toward the door.

JACOB
I'm sorry about what I did to you.

Bart stops and looks back.

BART
What did you do to me?

Jacob doesn't answer directly. 

JACOB
Next time around, let’s live in a time when land isn’t something men fight over. Then we just might get along.

BART
We just might. 

Jacob brings his hand up to an invisible hat, and tips it, as he might have in a different time and a different life.

Holding the papers in his hand, Bart returns the gesture, and goes out the door, shutting it behind him.

Jacob watches the door close.

CLOSE UP — THE WOLF DECANTER

JACOB (V.O.)
It seems like such a small thing, the thread of the wolf. The Wuffing or ‘Wolf People’ I served as a Knight. The wolf I couldn’t shoot in the woods. The wolves on the whiskey bottle. And now, my land might be turned into a wolf sanctuary.  

Jacob screws the lid on the whiskey bottle. 

JACOB (V.O.)
None of this has turned out to be what I thought it'd be. Even though Bart doesn't remember those other lives we’ve had, he did the right thing just now when I was about to repeat the mistake of the past. I remember and it didn't matter. He doesn't remember, and he still managed to change this thing between us. Who’s right and who’s wrong can be complicated. Wolves can kill valuable animal crops. But they can also revive a dying habitat. Remembering may not be the best thing. Maybe it's better not to. Maybe it's better to believe this is the only life you'll ever live.
(beat)
Life is cruel and unfair. It can also be forgiving and kind. But most of all it's surprising. There's what's written and there's what we choose. Somewhere between order and design lies that wild card. Life is for the living. The dead are never dead. And every chance we give ourselves, just may be a chance for someone else as well.

Jacob pushes the whiskey bottle aside. 

JACOB
There’s always a bigger picture. If you look closely enough, there’s always a thread to follow, a pattern to recognize. Mine was the wolf...

FADE TO BLACK.

(O.S.) A PACK OF WOLVES HOWLS IN THE DISTANCE

THE END

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Shytei Corellian. All rights reserved.

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