Long-distance shot of a snowy landscape, a tundra. Completely silent.
A MAN enters the frame, running.
He is wearing a bulky white parka, its fur-lined hood pulled over his head, and flying a fire-orange kite.
We continue to see the MAN from a distance, running across the landscape, kite soaring.
Cut to close-up of the man’s plastic goggles, which are caked in frost. The close-up also brings with it sound: the man’s heavy breathing, audio magnified to near-distortion.
Cut to a close-up of the kite, ruffling manically in the icy wind.
The MAN keeps running and running, the kite twists and bobs and dives and arcs. When seen from a distance, an epileptic red dot, a jittery platelet, set against the blanched, gauzy sky.
MAN continues running and running, falls down one time, gets right back up, running and running, falls down again, gets up.
Certain aspects of the landscape are darkened by milkblue shadows. Other aspects of the landscape are celestially bright, a white burning white that is impossible to gaze at directly for more than a few seconds.
MAN stops running.
The kite, anchored to the MAN’S stillness, continues its wind-powered rhapsody.
The clamoring of the kite is heard at magnified volume. The only sounds: the kite and the icy winds.
The MAN sits down on top of a snowdrift.
Cut to a plastic bride and groom set on top of a wedding cake. The sound of cheering.
Cut to a young BOY in a birthday hat, about to blow out candles on a birthday cake. He blows them out. Cheering.
Cut to long distance shot of the MAN seated, alone, on the snowdrift.
A light snow begins to fall. The snow picks up.
(Note: Real snow can be filmed, but an alternative is to film a rhapsodic scattering of white feathers and confetti shreds in place of real snow. Ritualized artifice.)
Perspective shift. We now see through the MAN’S frost-caked goggles.
In the distance, a FIGURE appears at the top of a snowy hill. The FIGURE remains poised at the top of the hill, and because we are seeing through the man’s goggles, the figure is genderless, obscured by distance and falling snow.
At the equidistance point between the MAN and the FIGURE, something falls from the sky. Then another, and one more.
Close-up on three antique, wooden music boxes.
The first one starts playing a song, then the second, then the third. Each one plays a different song, yet there is an emotional resemblance, a tonal thread, connecting the three.
Cut to the FIGURE dancing its way down the hill, a strange, ghoul-with-grace sort of dance.
We now see that the figure is a WOMAN. She is wearing multiple scarves of varying colors, a black leotard, and leopard-print tights. Her face remains blurred.
The music boxes continue playing, the occasional hiccup or break creating dissonance, and the WOMAN continues dancing her dance of dead winter, of new bones, of deepdark, of lonely wordless nights.
Cut to MAN’s perspective through the goggles.
Cut to the ruffling kite, its chatter.
Cut to the WOMAN dancing. The song on the first music box finishes. Then the second finishes, then the third.
The WOMAN is swallowed by the landscape, slowly, bit by bit. Ankles, followed by knees, torso, chest, shoulders, neck and head, and gone.
Cut to young BOY having just blown out the candles on his birthday cake. Voice from off-screen: Did you make a wish?
The MAN rises from the snowdrift and runs, kite in tow, to the spot where the WOMAN was swallowed.
Close-up on several strands of dark hair, haiku veins, frozen beneath the skin of snow.
All is silence except for the incessant chattering of the kite.
The MAN ascends the hill over which the WOMAN appeared.
When he reaches the top, he sees, in the near distance, a small cabin, graydark plumes of smoke rising from its chimney.
The MAN walks to the cabin. Knocks on the door with his gloved hand. No response. Knocks some more.
The MAN opens the door of the cabin. Enters. Closes the door behind him.
Lays his weary kite on the wooden floor.
Cut to a shot of round wooden table and chair. Beyond the table, a cobbled fireplace, a strong fire going.
Lingering shot of the fireplace.
Cut to the MAN shedding: gloves, goggles, parka.
The MAN waggles his fingers, shakes his hands, trying to circulate warmth.
He sits down on the chair, unlaces his boots, wrangles them off. Peels off one pair of thermal socks, leaves the other pair on.
The MAN gets up and appraises his surroundings: a single, spartan room.
On one of the walls hangs a rusted anchor and a spear-fishing gun. The other walls are bare.
No food, no supplies, no other objects except for three red shoeboxes set near the fireplace.
The MAN begins massaging his face, then his scalp. Then he walks over to the shoeboxes, and sits down with his back to the fire.
He removes the lid from one of the shoeboxes.
He looks inside and sees a white envelope set on top of a stack of photographs.
He opens the unsealed envelope and takes out a yellow paper, folded in two.
He unfolds the yellow paper.
On it are written two lines, in pencil.
You have been here before.
Take what you need and go.
The MAN stares at the words. Reads them again.
You have been here before.
Take what you need and go.
The MAN places the yellow paper back inside the envelope.
He gets up and moves around the cabin. At one point he stops and runs his fingers along the spear-fishing gun, then the anchor.
He picks up one of the shoeboxes, sets it on the table, sits down.
He opens the shoebox, takes out the photos, and flips through them one at a time, at first slowly, and then picking up speed, with each photo identical, not a shred of variation.
A young girl
blonde hair bound in a spray of pigtails
white T-shirt beneath
round face lit by a big smile
standing in a grassy meadow
right knee slightly bent
left hand puddled in string
attached to a lemon-yellow kite
set on the ground near her feet
The MAN gets the other two shoeboxes, sets them on the table, goes through the other photos: all exactly the same.
He spreads the photos on the table, counts them.
Seventy-seven in all.
Seventy-seven photos of the Summer Girl with the lemon-yellow kite.
He does not recognize the girl. Yet there is something about her. What is it?
He views the photos from different angles, hoping he might stumble upon the perspective that will unlock a memory. Nothing.
The MAN closes his eyes.
Slows down his breathing.
Opens his eyes.
Picks up one of the photos.
Who are you?
Suddenly a loud crash as the anchor falls from the wall to the floor.
The MAN is startled.
After regaining his composure, he surveys the photos again, and this time he notices something he hadn’t before. He picks up a photo (bottom row, third from the left) and holds it close to his face.
In close-up we see that over the girl’s right shoulder, in the background, there is a dark spot, what looks like a stray eyelash or wrinkled hyphen.
The MAN blots the mark out with his thumb, then removes his thumb to reveal it again. He repeats this gesture.
The MAN slowly and carefully examines the other photos to make sure none of them have the mark. None of them do.
The MAN takes a pencil out of one of the shoeboxes and writes—Bird—just above the mark on the photo. Then he writes—Original—at the bottom border of the photo.
He gathers up the other seventy-six photos and feeds them into the fire.
Close-up of the photos burning.
He sits back down and stares at the “original” photo.
Lingering shot of the MAN staring at the photo.
Cut to the MAN now sleeping, his forehead planted against the table. The fire nearly burned out.
There is the muffled, muted sound of a voice, as if it’s entombed behind thick glass.
The MAN stirs, rises. He listens. Words spoken through a cloud-gagged mouth. What is it saying?
He moves around the cabin, trying to locate the source of the voice. The voice stops. Silence. The MAN stands there, transfixed.
Cut to the MAN urgently putting on his boots, socks, parka, goggles.
He opens the door and looks out.
It is night. In the most prehistoric and beginningless sense. There is no sound. All is deep silence.
The entire landscape is lit by pale greenish moonlight, giving it the look of a spectral pool, glaring softly. The MAN stares in the direction of the hill, from over which he came.
The MAN considers his kite. Decides to leave it.
He closes the door behind him and walks off in the direction of the hill.
He walks slowly, with a fatal sense of purpose.
We now see through the eyes of the cabin: a solitary figure growing smaller and smaller, morphing into a speck which disappears over the hill.
We linger on the snowy landscape. The low rumble of winds blowing.
Cut to the MAN now on the other side of the hill, digging in the snow, where he believes the dancer was swallowed.
One music box falls from the sky.
Then a second, and a third.
They begin playing their respective melodies.
The MAN keeps digging.
Cut to shot of the wedding cake with the plastic bride and groom. Offscreen voice: So who’s going to cut the cake?
Cut to scene of the young BOY in his birthday hat, having just blown out the candles on his cake. Offscreen voice—So what did you wish for?
Cut to long distance shot of the man digging, as the music boxes continue to play.
Fade to black.