The Morningsider (Issue 1 – Act 2)

It All Returns to the Earth

exterior –
Morningside Park.
The sassafras grove around 118th St.
night

The Morningsider kneels over a cluster of small trees, about a foot tall each. He uses his shovel to uproot them and then hack the roots away from the tree. He stuffs the roots into a green canvas bag on the ground by him. He then crushes the leaves and rubs them over his face and hands.

MORNINGSIDER
(to himself)
A little sassafras to ward off the bugs and warm up the bones. Works better than wild onions. And it smells a whole lot better, too.

The Morningsider gathers up his shovel and his bag and slips silently away from the sassafras grove and onto the paved path. He leaves the paved path and climbs up the lawn to the buttressed retaining wall that supports Morningside Drive. The buttress (which looks like a castle turret) has a metal, dungeon-like gate at the bottom. The Morningsider uses his shovel to forcefully pry the rusted gate open. He crawls inside and pulls the gate closed behind him.

cut to darkness

The Morningsider strikes a match and uses it to light a lumpy, crooked candle about the size of a soda can. The light glows on the Morningsider’s face as he uses it to light his path inside the buttress. We see the faint illumination of the gate to the outside behind the Morningsider as he crawls deeper into the cavern. Rubbish litters the ground around the gate, the remainders left by previous homeless tenants.

The cramped passage opens up into a long and deep cavern that takes its shape partly from the natural gneiss rock formations and partly from the excavation done to support the street above and the sewer, gas, steam, and electrical lines that pass beneath the street.

The Morningsider pulls the rusted chain on a light bulb hanging from a dirty, orange extension chord that snakes off into the tangle of wires, conduits and pipes that crowd the ceiling of the cavern. We see behind him that layers of graffiti cover the gneiss wall–ranging from old “tags” left by renowned artists from the 80s to very fresh-looking sidewalk chalk impressions probably left by the Morningsider himself. These include several line tracings of a man’s hand, a couple drawings of coyotes and turkeys (reminiscent of Lascaux cave paintings), a drawing of three sassafras leaves (one with no lobes, one mitten-shaped and one with two lobes) and–sprawling over most of the wall–the phrase “This is only temporary.”

A hot plate sits on a dilapidated folding table under the light. Its chord plugs into the base of the light bulb hanging above the table. The Morningsider removes a canteen from its clip on his belt and uses it to fill a beat-up sauce pan on the table. He drops a few sassafras roots into the water and sets it on the hotplate to boil.

The Morningsider takes the baggie of marijuana from earlier out from under his poncho with one hand and the candle with the other hand and crawls into a side tunnel just past the word “temporary.”

A light shines ahead where the tunnel intersects with another tunnel that channels an underground stream toward the light.

MORNINGSIDER
(voiceover)
Everything came from the earth.

The Morningsider empties the baggie into the stream. The clump of weed floats toward the light.

MORNINGSIDER
(voiceover)
The elements combine.
Cut to outside

The weed floats out of a hole in a rock wall.

MORNINGSIDER
(voiceover)
The light from above infuses the elements with energy.
Pull back

The rock wall forms the bluff over the pond in Morningside Park, and the stream flowing out of the rock wall becomes the waterfall that empties into the pond.

MORNINGSIDER
(voiceover)
The elements and energy together form life.
Cut back to the main cave

The Morningsider pours the sassafras tea into a tin cup.

MORNINGSIDER
The energy is spent, consumed, transformed.
MORNINGSIDER
(drinking his tea)
Sometimes the energy is invested in new life.
cut to
Close up on the base of the waterfall

Out view sits right at water level, with the bottom half of the frame showing underwater. The weed floats amid a clump of cattails, and an MP3 player has sunk down to the roots of the plants.

MORNINGSIDER
(voiceover)
But in the end, it all returns to the earth.
end scene
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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] It All Returns to the Earth […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by locke on 07/26/2007 at 1:22 am

    “This is only temporary.”

    Yep, it shouldn’t be long before he gets himself a decent job and rents an apartment. Oh wait, you couldn’t have possibly meant something else, could you?

    Actually, I think that would make a great t-shirt if you and Scout need some funds for Rewild.info. Use a picture of some silhouetted skyscrapers and caption them “This is only temporary.”

    Reply

  3. Posted by Rix on 07/26/2007 at 1:18 pm

    Oh wait, you couldn’t have possibly meant something else, could you?

    Yeah, that cave wall is riddled with lots of minor clues, but the phrase is a Chekhov’s Gun of sorts.

    Actually, I think that would make a great t-shirt if you and Scout need some funds for Rewild.info. Use a picture of some silhouetted skyscrapers and caption them “This is only temporary.”

    Oooh. I like that idea. [writes it down]

    Reply

  4. Posted by locke on 07/27/2007 at 1:56 am

    By the way, there’s a short panel comic that I like that’s been exploring primitivism for the past few weeks.

    Reply

  5. […] send my thanks to locke for sharing this comic with me and to Urban Scout for tipping me off to McMillan and Jensen’s […]

    Reply

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