Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Rise of the Big N

The brain-shattering continuation of the odyssey of Nigel Yang, as chronicled in Verkoff: A Terrible Ego.


[Night. A limousine drives through the suburbs. In the back, Nigel sits pensively glaring out the window. The air is moody and grim. Sitting next to him is Andrew looking around in excited interest.]

Andrew: You know, I don’t see what you’re complaining about. I mean, not much to ask, is it? I did save your life, didn’t I? And it wasn’t too difficult for you to tell the police I was a relative so they’d let us both go. Don’t you have any sense of solidarity? Hang on, I don’t even know your name.

Nigel: And I don’t care what yours is. Let’s just stay strangers in the night, shall we?

Andrew: What were you even doing in the storm drain anyway? During a storm? The one time where storm drains are to be avoided at all costs? You trying to commit suicide?

Nigel: [annoyed] And what if I was?

Andrew: [shakes head] Selfish, selfish, selfish. Do you have any idea what would happen to the water table with your sodden corpse decomposing in the sewers? Bright green? And the smell! Didn’t that outbreak of cryptosporidium mean anything to you? We didn’t close the pools and boil all the drinking water for fun, you know...

Nigel: [blinks] Wait a second, isn’t this the bit where you scold me for trying to end my life?

Andrew: Is it?

Nigel: You’re just complaining about environmental damage!

Andrew: JUST complaining? Environmental damage is a very serious thing...

Nigel: You don’t care I was trying to kill himself?

Andrew: [eyes widen] You NOTICED that, did you? Very good! [sighs] Who am I to judge the lifestyle choices of others? You thought you wanted to die, why should I say you were wrong?

[Andrew suddenly starts looking around the limo interior, no longer wanting to talk.]

Nigel: You stopped me drowning.

Andrew: I thought you were stupid, not suicidal. And I did apologize...

Nigel: Aren’t you interested in why I did it?

Andrew: Are you interested in telling me?

[Nigel sighs. Andrew manages to find the mini-bar and tries to open it. It’s locked. He struggles to haul it open while Nigel looks sadly out the window and speaks.]

Nigel: I wasn’t really suicidal. I mean, I wasn’t planning to kill myself but... I ended up drowning and it seemed so much easier. I’ve burned down a school, alienated myself from my friends, driven a wedge between me and my family. Just staying under the waves seemed easier...

[Andrew repeatedly kicks the mini-bar, and then searches for something to break it open. He finds a crook-lock and tries to wrench the bar open. Nigel is oblivious.]

Nigel: I mean, maybe it was just some dying hallucination. But it was better than the alternative.

[Andrew starts beating the mini-bar with the crook-lock like some insane caveman.]

Nigel: Danny’s gone. I loved her. And she’s gone. I’m not 100% sure on what happened... but she didn’t want to be with me. And now I’ll never know why. What did I do wrong? Did I actually DO anything wrong? Why does it all seem to be my fault?

[Andrew absently grabs Nigel’s arm and places the handle of the crook-lock in his hand, the fork-bit jammed around the door of the mini-bar. Nigel does so, not even looking.]

Andrew: You know, I don’t want to come across as patronizing...

Nigel: Then don’t.

Andrew: But I know exactly how you feel.

Nigel: Bullshit.

Andrew: You wish it was bullshit. All right. [looks Nigel in the eye] Nothing matters any more. Food has no taste. Sleep gives no nourishment. Nothing provides pleasure or pain. It’s like you’ve been given anesthetic, but you’re still in pain. Everything you do, everything you see, everything you perceive is now defined by two simple words: “without HER”. She is an absence and your world has no meaning. You don’t care if it ended tonight, but half-wish that it would. Because anything is better than what you’re feeling now. That empty, hollow nothingness that has robbed any point from life. She made you alive, now she’s gone. Is that how you feel?

[Nigel sniffs sadly.]

Nigel: Lucky guess. Has your girlfriend vanished into the Dream Time to become a frill-neck lizard?

Andrew: [darkly] I wish. [blinks] WHAT did you say?

Nigel: You seem to be doing pretty well for someone who’s soul has bled from a broken heart.

Andrew: Ah, but I have a solution.

[Andrew suddenly kicks the crook-lock with ferocious energy. The lock snaps in two, but forces the mini-bar open, revealing is stocked with miniature bottles of alcohol.]

Andrew: Oldie but a goodie.

[The limousine pulls up outside the Yang residence. Nigel’s Mum, Kenji, Akiro and Bernice are present (the latter in pajamas). Togi opens the passenger door and a slightly-tipsy Andrew and Nigel emerge, to the sound of many empty bottles rattling in their wake. Bernice rushes up to Nigel and hugs him, nearly knocking him over.]

Bernice: Oh, thank God you’re safe!

Andrew: Don’t give God the credit, it was all me!

Bernice: Who are you?

Nigel’s Mum: Yes, young man, who are you?

Andrew: [woozy cunning] Identity is an encumrumberslumberance, madam. I’m the one who saved his life. Drowning till I came along. Please, though, no thanks. The continued safety of Gotham City is all I...

[He groans as Nigel’s Mum slams him into a bear hug.]

Nigel’s Mum: [tearful] Thank you, strange and eccentric Caucasian! I am forever in your debt!

Andrew: [in pain] Let me crash for the night and we’ll call it quits.

Nigel: Oh, Christ, I’ve already spent a night in a cell with this guy...

Nigel’s Mum: Nigel!

Nigel: Hang around, where are Owen? Ryoshi and Jose?

Akiro: [darkly] THEY weren’t stupid enough to get caught.

Nigel’s Mum: Enough of this. They need clean clothes and food. Come.

[The group shuffle towards the house. Nigel looks around, realizing his dad is not present. He looks up and sees, through the window into his study, Nigel’s Dad looking down at him. Nigel raises a hand to wave hopefully, but Nigel’s Dad turns away. Nigel groans.]

Nigel: I hate my life.

Andrew: [kindly] I hate your life too, mate.

Nigel: Piss off.

[The bathroom. Andrew, now very clean and wearing a thick white furry dressing gown, is drying his hair with a towel. Nigel is lying in a bubble bath, looking glum. He still wears his sunglasses. Bernice is bandaging his hand.]

Andrew: [to Bernice] I really can’t thank you enough for this.

Nigel: Ain’t that the truth.

Andrew: I know. Running water! I mean, being indoors was novelty enough...

Bernice: You really live on the streets?

[Andrew picks up some incense and snorts it.]

Andrew: Nowadays, yeah. I spent most of the last five years in a brothel, though.

[Nigel stares at him.]

Nigel: Fair dinkum?

Andrew: Fair dinkum. Popped in for directions, and they insisted I stay. Had nowhere else to go and they needed a cook... worked out quite well. Twenty-five days out of the month anyway. Got a bit loud at night, but they were very nice people there.

Bernice: A brothel.

Andrew: Uh-huh. [blinks] Legal, though. There was a code of conduct and everything.

Bernice: [confused] What’s a brothel?

[Nigel covers his eyes in embarrassment.]

Andrew: Brothel. Cathouse. Knocking Shop. Whore Rental. [examines toothbrush] Basically a kind of hotel where men have sex with women in return for cash.

Bernice: Why?

Andrew: [shrugs] They want to, pretty much. The potential market’s enormous. I remember there was this one dude who liked to dress up as a koala...

Bernice: [interrupts] I mean... why did you end up there? What about your family?

Andrew: That’s what I said. Nope, all gone now. [toothbrush switches on] Ooh!

Bernice: [gently] Did they die?

Andrew: No idea, Benny. I went one way, they went another.

Nigel: [groans] Do me a favor, man, don’t tell mum about this. She’ll want to adopt you.

Andrew: [shrugs] If you insist. Anyway, this guy in the koala suit liked to dance to the theme tune of the A-Team...

[Spare bedroom. Andrew, Nigel and Kenji enter. Andrew now wears a kimono.]

Kenji: For five years?!

Andrew: At least. Every weekend, one guy in the koala suit and the other guy watching. It’s quite a love story when you think about it. They don’t even know each other’s names.

Nigel: [yawns] Lucky them. I’ll leave you two intellectual giants to grapple with the weighty issues of the world today. I’m off to bed.

Andrew: [dry] Try not to kill yourself on the way down the hall.

Nigel: Feel free to do the opposite, whatever your name is.

Kenji: Gracious! We haven’t been introduced!

Nigel: [leaving] Whatever.

Andrew: I’m Theo by the way...

Nigel: [calls back] Nigel.

[Nigel heads down the hallway. He stops. He blinks in realization. Split screen to show Andrew in the same position. A long pause.]

Andrew & Nigel: [dismissive] Naaaaaaah.

[End split screen. Nigel enters his bedroom. Danny’s jacket is still draped over a chair. Nigel picks it up, holding it in his hands. Then he suddenly hurls it into a garbage bin and stalks over to the bed. He pours himself a glass of chocolate milk as there is a knock at the door.]

Nigel: [tired] Yeah?

[The door opens and Akiro enters. She is pissed off.]

Nigel: Oh, what is it NOW?

[Akiro punches his lights out.]

Nigel: [jaw not working] Worda hellish zatfur?

Akiro: [screaming] You psychopath! You’ve brought shame upon us all!

[With a sickening crack of his jaw, Nigel speaks properly again.]

Nigel: Hey, Ryoshi was the one that mooned that guy! And how was SHE supposed to know he was an undercover cop suffering a nervous breakdown?

Akiro: It doesn’t matter! Ryoshi wasn’t caught! Ryoshi wasn’t arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct while driving a motor vehicle the same week as she burnt down her school!

Nigel: Give her time!

[Akiro angrily punches him again.]

Nigel: Look, Akiro, if you want to use a punching bag, use Kenji! He won’t even notice!

Akiro: This is all your fault!

Nigel: What?! Is?! My?! FAULT?!?

Akiro: [bashing him with her fists] I overheard Father talking with Mother! He is so disgusted with the shame you’ve brought to the Yang family he’s decided to put us all on a harmonizing and bonding exercise to draw us all together!

Nigel: So what?


[Nigel freezes. He holds up a hand to pause Akiro’s rage, then takes a mouthful of chocolate milk, then spits it out in incredulous amazement.]

Nigel: [horrified] THE JEKKA TATVI?!

[Nigel swoons and faints backwards onto the bed. Fade to some el-cheapo line-drawing animation.]

The Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about the Jekka Tatvi: “What do you mean you’ve never heard of it?” The Jekka Tatvi is an infamous test of skill and endurance for warriors and martial arts placed in a single location with the simple rule of the last man standing is the winner. An ancient rite from the third dynasty, it was bought up by Kerry Packer in 1987 and turned into the world’s most nefarious gameshow ever, banned in every country in the world bar Bangladesh. The winner receives international admiration, ten million Australian dollars and a year’s supply of Viagra. The losers face the humiliation of life-threatening situations and horrible internal injuries, but ostensibly have character built in a proportionate ratio to being maimed. After all, you don’t see real entrails in “The Mole”, do you?

[Fade up to a gothic underground passage lit by burning torches and statues. Andrew, Nigel, Bernice, Kenji, Akiro, Owen, Ryoshi and Jose are present, all wearing white judo-type gear.]

Andrew: This has to be THE campest death labyrinth I have ever been in.

Akiro: Why the hell are you here, anyway?

Andrew: Moral support.

Nigel: [simultaneously] Human shield.

Andrew: Plus, you know, I didn’t have anything on today.

Bernice: I can’t believe Father thinks putting us in a national humiliation and risking be-heading, be-arming, be-legging and bifurcation several times over will make us better people.

Owen: I can.

Bernice: Yeah, so can I, if I’m honest.

Kenji: How long do we have to wait here?

Jose: They’re just trying to make us sweat.

Ryoshi: Either that or the heating’s broken.

[Suddenly the doors ahead of them slide open. The Yangs and Andrew wander through into a large circular room. Other doorways are open and through them other families enter, boys and girls between five and fifteen. Ryoshi, Owen and Jose are the oldest people in the room. There are about fifty people crammed into the chamber.]

Owen: I hate crowds.

Jose: You hate everything.

Kenji: Compared to the entire population of Australia, this is a select set.

Akiro: Oh, well, that’s good. I mean, losing against hopeless odds is way worse than just a select set...

[Andrew turns to a young boy sitting in a lotus position.]

Andrew: You comfortable down there?

Nutter: I am at peace. Despite this noisy, unwashed multitude, I effortlessly maintain my serenity. I am at one with myself. Are you impressed by my self control?

Andrew: Oh yes. Not as good as my own beatific glow, though.

Nutter: [totally losing it] Up yours, dickhead!

[A booming voice emerges from speakers around the chamber.]

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, you honor us with your presence. You are here to compete and what you lose in physical terms like blood or limbs you will regain ten times over in honor and admiration. There are fifty competitors and only one winner, in this special junior edition of the Jekka Tatvi – we have representatives from the Yang family, the Fuji-Wong family, the Woo Ping Yuen family and of course the Donahues from Sylvania Waters. And we’d just like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors OMO, the recommended washing powder for removing deep-ingrained blood stains and agent orange. The competition now begins. The first stage is incredibly simple. Get to the top, and you qualify for the second stage. Get past the second and you qualify for the third. Get past the third... and you win. You have precisely one hour to do these things or you lose by default.

[Instantly, panels open in the ceiling and ladders descend. One drops right next to Nigel and Kenji. The doors slam shut. Water starts to seep up through the tiles and in moments the chamber is ankle-deep in water. Alarms go off.]

Announcer: Your time has already started, people! Tick-tock! Tick-tock!

[The participants start to struggle towards the ladders, held back by the rising water and their damp outfits. People start fighting each other to get to them. Some try and climb the walls. The tranquil dude is trampled under the water. As they were closest to a ladder, the Yangs and Andrew manage to climb up the ladder towards the ceilings. Suddenly, jets in the walls activate, hosing criss-cross near the roof. Some are knocked from the ladder into the rising water, or forced from the walls. Then the ladders start to retract up into the ceiling. More contestants are shaken loose. Nigel, Kenji, Andrew and Bernice clamber up over the edge. Akiro loses her grip and falls into the water. Jose immediately lets go of the ladder and dives after her, but manages to land on Owen and knocks him off the ladder. Swearing loudly, Owen tries to swim to the ladder as it rises up out of reach. By now, the water level is so high the ceiling isn’t too far away.]

Owen: Jose, you stupid bastard...

[As the ladder full retracts, Ryoshi manages to join the others, turns around and offers her hand to Owen. The alarms end and there is a deafening slurping sound. The water is being sucked out of the chamber and the loser contestants are drawn back to the ground. The ceiling panels slam shut. There is now just a heap of soaked bodies sprawled on the floor. Illuminated signs flash “WORTHLESS LOSERS”.]

Akiro: [sighs] Shit.

[In the tunnel above, the surviving Yangs and Andrew exchange glances. They are now in a clinical-looking maze of white walls.]

Andrew: Well... that seems to have cut down on the speaking parts.

Kenji: Oh, shut up. Which way now, Benny?

Bernice: How should I know?

Ryoshi: Oi, I’m the eldest here!

Nigel: Oh brilliant, as long as the next challenges requires baring your arse, we’re laughing!

Andrew: Obviously the first stage was a kind of weeding process, narrowing it down to the best of the best. There can’t be more than a dozen or so contestants left, us included. So the challenges will most likely be a bit more specific than general.

Nigel: Well, thank you Captain Obvious. Come on, we can’t hang around here all night...

[Nigel stalks down the corridor. The others shrug. As they pass through another corridor, a heavy-set contestant charges Kenji and they both smash through a wall and plummet out of sight with a distant shout. The others panic and run for it. An alarm goes off and walls start to descend, sealing off the maze section by section. Andrew and Ryoshi run down a corridor which opens onto a balcony. Beyond it is a forest of glowing neon cables stretching up and down in all directions. A wall slams shut behind them.]

Andrew: Sweet!

Ryoshi: Sweet?

Andrew: Well, we made it to the next level! Now... up, down or across...

Ryoshi: You are enjoying this WAY too much.

Andrew: Least I’m not having a rubbish time. COWABUNGA!

[Andrew leaps into abyss, grabs one of the cables and starts to climb through them. Ryoshi sighs and follows, but loses her grip and slides down the cables and out of sight.]

[Nigel and Bernice are also climbing through the plastic vines.]

Nigel: No sign of Kenji, Ryoshi or whatever his name is!

Bernice: [weakly] And then there were two...

Nigel: Has anyone actually ever won this thing?

Bernice: Apparently there was a monk with telekinesis a couple of years ago... apparently he could snap your spine with a thought...

Nigel: Wasn’t he the drug-addict Nazi sympathizer?

Bernice: Yeah, he was into that sort of thing.

Nigel: And being put into the same list as him is supposed to make us better people. I sometimes wonder why the hell I care what our stupid Father thinks.

Bernice: You know this is all being filmed live, right?

[Nigel pauses.]

Nigel: [forced grin] Of course, whenever I wonder I always come up with the same conclusion that it will be worth it to restore the respect and affection between my father and myself, a relationship strained by many outside factors.

[We pull out to see this is being shown on a TV screen watched by a bunch of sodden and depressed-looking ex-contestants, now wearing “LOSER” signs around their necks. Owen, Jose, Ryoshi, Kenji and Akiro watch on, arms folded.]

Jose: [caustic] Smooth, Nigel. Very smooth.

[Through the plastic jungle, Andrew swings.]

Andrew: [cheerful] IT’S A HOLIDAY IN CAMBODIA!

[Moving through the vines with much more difficulty, Nigel and Bernice pause.]

Bernice: [frowns] Can you hear that?


Nigel: Bastard’s still alive... AND singing!

[Andrew reaches the edge of the cables. This forest is inside a large hangar-like garage. Beyond is an open roof atop a building with a glass pyramid window thing in the centre.]


[Andrew jumps free and lands messily on the ground.]

Andrew: [in pain] Where the slums got so much soul...

[As Andrew gingerly gets back to his feet, a very knackered-looking Nigel and Bernice make their way through the cables. Nigel looks at him in disgust.]

Nigel: Typical. I am getting SO sick of running into you again.

Andrew: [annoyed] Likewise. Anyone else make it through?

Announcer: Fraid not, as you have reached the final challenge.

Bernice: And what’s that?

Announcer: Three enter, one leaves and they are the winner. Your opponents are each other.

[They exchange looks.]

Nigel: Kinda predictable.

Announcer: True, but as the only competitors are from the same family, it should be very interesting to see what happens next...

[Nigel and Bernice look worried. Andrew grins.]


DAVE: Depression? Piss off!


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

This story keeps going in directions that I really don't expect... liking it quite a lot.

I was about to hazard a guess about who would win... first guess made me think Bernie given that she is again accepted by her parents, but I'm leaning towards Nigel as he cements his 'Big N' persona and the ruthlessness that goes hand in hand with it...

Youth of Australia said...

Man, you're good.

I was hoping some vague suspicious Andrew might be the winner, but obviously I fooled noone.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Well, I thought the commentator just made it clear that it was between the family members and thus Andrew wasn't going to fight..

Youth of Australia said...

Hmm. That sure as hell wasn't the intention. As far as the comp. is concerned, Andrew's part of the family (I mean, they're a very multicultural lot). Hence the line "the only competitors are from the same family".

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Oh, okay. I clearly misinterpreted that.

I was about to make a comment about it being slightly odd that Nige and Andrew never refer to each other as former foster brothers, but then I realised that their relationship has reached the point where they essentially just abuse one another.

(As you said... it also explains why Andrew and Nigel know each other so well after being in entirely different circles in school...)

Youth of Australia said...

I was about to make a comment about it being slightly odd that Nige and Andrew never refer to each other as former foster brothers, but then I realised that their relationship has reached the point where they essentially just abuse one another.
Well, yeah. But the foster brother thing won't last long - Andrew's literally just crashing at their place and spends more time with Kenji than Nigel.

PLUS they both look and act completely different to the last time they met. Nigel has blonde hair and a new personality, Andrew's been on the street for six years and why would they remember knowing each other for less than a day? But they do, subconsciously, recognize each other (the "naaah" bit, which was pretty unsubtle).

(As you said... it also explains why Andrew and Nigel know each other so well after being in entirely different circles in school...)
It's almost like I planned it...