Thursday, July 15, 2010

Up Country by Lucas McNelly - Chapter 7

Lucas McNelly is the award-winning filmmaker behind such feel-good movies asBLANC DE BLANC and GRAVIDA, as well as the screening series Indies for Indies. His work has been featured all over the place. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t.

After Blanc De Blanc Lucas McNelly is planning to make Up Country (well, the title may change later as McNelly says). He is publishing the narrative as a series of Novellas on his blog 100 Films. We are supporting him to raise funds for the film by reposting his posts here.

Please feel generous to back the film on Kickstarter.

John ran faster than he had run in years, faster than he thought was still possible.

He had never seen eyes that contained so much hatred, so much hunger, so much pure evil. In his mind's eye they were yellow, almost glowing, like a wolf or a coyote or a bear, ready to tear him limb from limb at the slightest provocation. The sort of eyes that haunt your dreams. Had he been mistaken? No, there was a weapon--an axe or a spear or a sword, something sharp and painful. It was a man protecting something, defending his turf, and he had intruded.

He ran like a man possessed, blindly down the road. Branches whipped his face.

He knew he should look back to make sure Paul and Mark had gotten away. He had yelled to them, hadn't he? The moments after he had come across those eyes had been something of a blur, so he couldn't be certain, but he thought he had yelled
something. At minimum they would have a head start on the psychopath and should be able to outrun him. Mark, especially, was young and somewhat athletic, but he wasn't sure about Paul. How fast could he run? He knew Paul was older, but couldn't be sure how old, exactly.

He ran some more.

Paul had been on one knee, wiping blood on the grass when John had fallen away from the shed and bolted. On closer inspection, Paul saw the blood had been smeared on the rock with a wide brush and had started to dry and turn brown. He figured it was still relatively fresh, and was about to make a more thorough investigation when he had heard John's panicked yells of
Run, run. Fuck me, run. His right hand was still on a rock for support, so he used it to push himself up and followed John's lead.

He looked back briefly to see a man lumbering out of the shed. That was all he needed to see.

The wind rushing past his ears, his heart pounding, John tried to focus his attention. He thought back to his high school track days, trying to remember his coach's tips. He pumped his arms, lengthened his stride, and was careful not to turn around, lest he slow himself down. Plus, he figured whatever was going on back there, however close the axe murdering serial killer might or might not be, it was probably best that he not know. He remembered a story he'd once heard, something about how you don't have to outrun a bear, you just have to outrun the guy next to you. It was enough to know there were two people between him and danger. All he had to do was stay in the lead.

And so he ran, down the road, ducking to avoid low-hanging branches. When he came to a fork in the road, he took it.

In his fishing boots, Paul struggled to keep up with John. He could see John up ahead, pulling farther ahead. John would vanish from view when the road turned, then reappear when it straightened out again. Paul tried to call out for John to keep up, but he was having trouble drawing enough air into his lungs and his cries came out as nothing more than the wheezes of a desperate man. He feared John would run too far ahead and be gone for good.

John's lungs burned. He had no idea how far he had run (A mile? Two?) when the road emptied into a clearing. He kept going.

Paul saw John reach the clearing and figured it might be his last opportunity to get his attention, so he slowed his pace in order to gather the resources for one last scream. He shortened his step and the shift in stride put him off-balance. He never saw the root that caught his toe, sending him tumbling to the ground.


John slowed when he heard his name and turned around to see Paul face down in the dirt, scrambling to get back up. He ran back to help and readied the knife in anticipation of the madman, should he come barreling around the corner, but he didn't appear. It was oddly quiet.

Had they lost him?

Paul was on all fours, struggling for breath. His hat was gone. His face was flushed crimson. The fall had knocked the rest of the wind out of him. It took him a minute to speak.

"Who the fuck was that?"

John bent over, his hands on his knees. He had no idea. "You ok?"

Paul nodded. "More or less."

It was another minute before either one of them spoke. John straightened up. "Hey Paul?"


"Where's Mark?"

They turned around, looking back in the direction of the camp. There was no sign of Mark. No one was yelling. They couldn't even hear someone running through the woods. It perfectly quiet. Too quiet. There was no sound at all. be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $3,500...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Up Country by Lucas McNelly - Chapter 6

Lucas McNelly is the award-winning filmmaker behind such feel-good movies as BLANC DE BLANC and GRAVIDA, as well as the screening series Indies for Indies. His work has been featured all over the place. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t.
After Blanc De Blanc Lucas McNelly is planning to make Up Country (well, the title may change later as McNelly says). He is publishing the narrative as a series of Novellas on his blog 100 Films. We are supporting him to raise funds for the film by reposting his posts here.
Please feel generous to back the film on Kickstarter.

To call it a road was...generous. Sure, it fit some definition of a road--chiefly, you could drive a truck down it--but it was little more than two tire tracks in the woods. Despite the fact that the bridge had been gone for what seemed to be several years, the road looked to be somewhat recently used. Paul guessed that someone had been driving ATVs across the brook, or perhaps a truck with 4 wheel drive when the water was low, but the traffic had done little more than maintain the integrity of the ruts. The trees hung over, creating a gauntlet of branches under a canopy that blocked out the sun. They could only see thirty or so feet until it made a gradual right turn and was eaten up by the forest. It could at best be described as a tunnel through the woods that was just barely big enough to fit a vehicle.

John was pretty certain that this road would lead them to the highway, or at least to a dirt road, so without discussion he started down it. And really, what was there to discuss? They could either follow a river or a road and a road was, at very least, man-made. It seemed to be taking them in the general direction from which they came, so it was something of a no-brainer. It never occurred to him to ask the others.

And so they walked, John in the lead, for a quarter mile until the road came to an intersection. To the left the road spread out a bit, opened up into something a little more spacious. Straight ahead appeared to be more of the same. But through the trees to the right, there was a building.

They had found their way out.

John motioned for Paul and Mark to catch up and they all stood there for a minute, staring at what appeared to be a hunting camp.

It was a small camp, placed in among the trees with a semi-attached shed over to the right. The trim and the porch had long ago been painted green. The shingles on the roof were badly in need of repair. It was obvious this building had been around for decades, if not longer. But in the area in front of it someone had gone to the trouble of doing basic masonry around a campfire and there was firewood stacked in the small clearing that served as a yard. As abandoned as the camp itself looked, it wasn't.

John went first, walking about half-way before he started calling out to no one in particular. Hello? Is anyone there? There was no answer, so he walked the rest of the way and stepped up on the worn, knotted planks that made up the porch. The camp was covered in gray shingles (had they always been gray?) that looked similar to the ones on the roof, only a different color. There was a hunting knife with a 6-inch blade jammed into the windowsill. John set his fishing pole down against the gun rack nailed to the wall and pulled the knife out of the wood, gripping it as a weapon. He slowly opened the wooden door, then the screen door patched with duct tape. It slammed shut behind him.

Once inside, it took John's eyes a second to adjust, to focus. Despite the fact that there were four rather large windows, the camp didn't seem to get a lot of sunlight except for on the white table to John's left. It was old and chipped, but looked new compared to the linoleum on the floor, which was cracked and peeling beyond recognition. In some spots it was non-existent. From the gas lamps that hung from the ceiling, John surmised that there wasn't any electricity. He was right. They were too far from a power line for it to even be an option. To the right there was a sink, but the spigot had been taken out and taped over, and a metal bucket with quite possibly the original version of the "All" logo was turned upside down inside it. There didn't appear to be a single thing in the camp that wasn't older than John himself.


Straight ahead was a wood stove, and behind that there appeared to be another room.

Is anyone there?

John pushed the curtain back to reveal bunk beds, two queen sized mattresses with another two more on the other side of a partial wall. The mattresses were lumpy and stained. John could see where a mouse had ripped out a good deal of stuffing and made a nest, exposing the metallic spring. There was a duffel bag on the floor and a sleeping bag rolled out on the top bunk, but no one was in the camp itself.

Outside, Paul and Mark looked around. Mark made a slow circle around the perimeter. Paul looked at the wood pile and spent a few minutes in the middle of the yard, taking in the surroundings while John went inside. There was a rusted out oil drum that had been used to burn garbage. He could see that the campfire had been recently used, as there was a tiny bit of smoke coming from it. He bent down to take a closer look as John came back outside.


"No, but someone's been here. I'm going to check the shed."

The shed had been built more recently than the camp, but was in worse shape. There were gaps in the boards and from the smell, John could tell that at least part of the shed functioned as an outhouse. The door was shut. He walked across the porch and reached to open it.

Paul shifted his weight to get a better look at the fire, to maybe get an idea of just how long ago it had been used. He reached his hand out for a rock to steady himself and it landed on something sticky. Annoyed, he went to wipe what he assumed to be pitch on his pants, but it wasn't pitch. It was a dark red. He touched it to his tongue.


The rock was covered in blood.

"Oh my God. Uh, John?"

John had the door to the shed half open when he noticed the silhouette of someone standing in the corner. He was heavy-set, hadn't shower or shaved in weeks, and looked as if he had been living out here for months, maybe more. But John didn't see that. What he saw was a crazed, maniacal look in the man's eyes and the gleam of light reflecting off whatever metal object was in his hands.

"Holy shit." He stumbled back and gripped the knife tighter.

The man took a step toward him and started to swing the metal object through the air.

"Oh fuck!" John scrambled off the porch, nearly tripped on the uneven ground, and took off.

"Paul! Mark! RUN!" be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $3,000...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Up Country by Lucas McNelly - Chapter 5

[Lucas McNelly is the award-winning filmmaker behind such feel-good movies as BLANC DE BLANC and GRAVIDA, as well as the screening series Indies for Indies. His work has been featured all over the place. Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t. After Blanc De Blanc Lucas McNelly is planning to make Up Country (well, the title may change later as McNelly says). He is publishing the narrative as a series of Novellas on his blog 100 Films. We are supporting him to raise funds for the film by reposting his posts here. Please feel generous to back the film on Kickstarter.]

Their gear was gone, that much was certain. The packs had left an imprint in the grass, so there was no mistaking where they had been. As the minutes passed, it became more and more clear that their guide might not be coming back. He hadn't exactly been friendly or outgoing, and he had always seemed to be sizing them up, as if he was unsure they were worthy of the woods. It didn't take a detective to connect the dots. The guide was missing. Their stuff was missing. There were, as far as they knew, only four people for miles around, maybe farther. So unless Yogi Bear had mistaken their gear for picnic baskets, the only logical solution was that the guide had stolen their stuff. It wasn't a perfect theorem, but it was damned close. It was John who finally said what everyone was thinking, that the guide had stolen their stuff and abandoned them in the middle of nowhere. He shot a disapproving look at Mark, who seemed to be more at a loss than Paul. "It's just...I had no idea," Mark stammered. "He even had positive reviews online." He has a webpage? "How do you think I found him?" "Through your jailbird cousin?" John retorted. Mark glared at him. Paul's face said that maybe this wasn't the best time as he took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. He was going to have to start thinking like a lawyer again. He started by taking a wider look at the area, but the woods pretty much all looked the same. There was evidence of traffic all around, but it was their traffic. The guide could have easily re-traced his steps back to the road or gone up river. There was no way to know. And considering how unfamiliar they were with the area, it would be a bad idea to head out into the woods looking for him. "Well then," John added. "That means we either stay where we are, try to find our way back, or follow the river. Paul, you saw the trail better than I did. How well could you pick it up?" "I would hardly call it a trail. For all I could tell, we were just walking through the woods." "Ok, well we can't exactly stay here. I don't imagine he's sending someone to come get us. What do we have to work with?" They all emptied the gear they were carrying. It wasn't much. Some worms and lures. Extra hooks. A lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Mark had a small Swiss Army Knife. John had his cell phone, but there was no service. The flares, the flashlights, all the stuff they needed was in that missing gear. Paul had bragged at the airport that he had brought enough supplies to survive for weeks. It was all gone. "We're fucked," John said in the most direct way possible. Mark was quiet. Paul was sorting through the creels, trying to see if he could channel his inner MacGyver and fashion something out of nothing. John looked around, trying to get a sense of direction related to where they had started. He paused staring at a 30 degree angle up-river. "So I think we generally came from that direction. Seems we have to follow the river. So I would think upstream would have a better chance of taking us to the road." Mark finally spoke up. "But if we go downstream, won't it take us to the ocean?" "The ocean is a hundred miles away. We have to go upstream. Right, Paul?" Paul thought for a minute. "Yeah, I think so." They worked their way upstream for a mile or more, walking on the shore where possible, but more often wading through the shin-deep water. The rocks were slippery under the water, which slowed their progress some and made for a few moments where it looked like one of them might fall, but they trudged on more or less silently, all three of them trying to sort out the situation at hand. They were lost in the northern Maine woods, in a place so remote they hadn't even bothered to name the town. They had driven by a sign indicating that they were in the unorganized township T2-R6, whatever the hell that meant, and now they were seeing it first-hand. That big rock over there might as well be the mayor's office, the fish in the water the town council. John was leading the way. After a while, he slowed to a stop. He motioned for them to catch up. "What is it?" Paul asked. "I don't know. Definitely something." Upon closer inspection, what they found was the remains of some sort of wooden structure on the shore, the logs connected like the corner of a log cabin. The structure was clearly gone, but the wood wasn't so old that it should be. And yet, it was too close to the water to be a cabin. It looked as if it had been knocked down a couple of years ago. John climbed up on the shore and suddenly his expression changed. "Guys, it used to be a bridge." "How can you tell?" Paul said. "Because up here, there's a road." be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $2,500...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Up Country by Lucas McNelly - Chapter 4

Mark heard them yelling and wandered downstream to see what all the fuss was about. They were back-to-back, hands cupped around their mouths, hollering into the woods. It was comical, really, to see them standing there. They looked like idiots, the guy who married his sister and some lawyer friend of his. Mark had never met the lawyer before, but he seemed like a nice enough guy--quiet, courteous but not polite, and clearly excited to be in the middle of nowhere. You didn't have to know him very well to realize that this was a person who relished the opportunity to get away from urban life.

As for John...well...John was family, sort of. He was proof of the old saying that you can choose your friends, but not your relatives. And, in truth, he didn't know him that well. His sister hadn't exactly brought him around to meet the family, instead casually mentioning one day that she'd started living with this guy who until then had only existed in Facebook photos of her at a baseball game, her at the beach, her at the bar. He was in the background at first, sporadically in the same places as her. Then he was in almost all of them, usually right next to her, sometimes with his arm around her. Then her status changed from "single" to "in a relationship with...". Even when they skipped the engagement and got married one day, John still hadn't met her family.

Not that Mark was all that surprised. His sister was the poster child for rash decisions where reason was little more than an afterthought. She held the local high school record for pregnancy scares without a positive result and managed to do it without getting a reputation for being a slut. She was just...impulsive. A match made this quickly, this foolishly had disaster written all over it. Sure, a rushed marriage wasn't newsworthy, but it didn't say much for either of them. What sort of person gets married without meeting his wife's family?

His father had said it best: "Thank God there aren't any children". And he liked John more than most.

Mark could do without him entirely.

But he was sort of enjoying watching him and Paul standing there, yelling into the woods like their lives depended on it. They hadn't even noticed he was there, they were so busy shouting. Could they seriously not even remember Ryan's name?

"What the fuck are you doing?"

"Hey," Paul saw him first. "Have you seen the guide?"

"You mean Ryan?"


"He went towards you. Why?"

John and Paul looked at each other, both of them feeling too dumb to answer right away. "We can't find him," John finally said.

"What do you mean?"

"We don't know where he is."

"Well...maybe he went to take a shit."

Paul looked at John with a wry smile. "That's probably it. I bet he can't hear us." He looked back at Mark. "Did you catch any big ones?"

Mark held up a Ziploc bag full of brook trout. "I got my limit."

Paul smiled. "In my bag there's a flask with some 18 Year Glenlivet in it, should you want a celebratory shot."

Mark couldn't believe it. "You put that in a flask?"

"We're roughing it, aren't we?"

Mark laughed and turned to head back upstream to where they'd left the backpacks. It took him a minute to find the spot where the guide had pushed back the brush, but finally noticed something of a trampled path of grass where they had walked through. Once his eyes adjusted to the change in light, he found the matted grass where they had placed their bags. Only, there was something wrong. He walked back to the brook.

"Paul? John?"

After a minute, they walked into view.

"Did you guys do anything with the bags?"

They both shook their heads. John yelled back, "No, why?"

"Because they're gone." be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $2,000...