David S. Goyer
Last revised November 6, 1990
INT. ARCADE WORLD -- ELECTRONIC DARKNESS
We don't know if it's night or day. It's just black.
And maybe...maybe intermittent SPARKS racing by. So quick we barely
perceive them. Like the sparks you imagine when your eyes are closed.
slow and hollow, filling up the entire world. It's eerie as hell. A
feeling of utter loneliness.
And now the breathing recedes, fading into the darkness. Whatever it
was...it's gone now.
MAIN CREDITS ROLL.
We hear CELLOS. Four of them. Weaving an intricate melody.
And now the visuals. BRIGHTLY COLORED SHAPES spinning in. Equally
intricate, matching the music. They grow and flourish, like flowers
opening up in time lapse photography.
is what they're called. The visual manifestation of geometric formulas.
The Mandelbrot Set. The Julia Set. Each mathematic form made up of
progressively smaller forms and on into infinity.
Glorious and beautiful. Forms folding in upon themselves and
This is creation we're witnessing.
This is life in the making.
INT. COUNSELOR'S OFFICE -- DAY
For a brief moment we still hear the CELLOS. And in the eye, the last of
the fractals are spinning away, leaving us with the iris. A nice blue
one. This is ALEX MANNING'S eye.
Time. That's all I ever think about
anymore. It's like there's never enough of
it, you know?
INT. MANNING HOUSE, HALLWAY -- DAY
This is a flashback, in case you're wondering. We'll continue to hear
Alex's VOICE as we move through the house in slow motion. Everything is
very bright and dreamlike.
Right now we're moving with the camera, slowly moving down a long hallway.
At the end of the hallway is an open door.
We stop at the doorway. We're afraid to go in.
It's strange. When the future's in front
of you, it seems to go on forever. I mean,
you never really get there. It's always
one step ahead of you. It's like there's
no present. There's no "now". As soon as
you think, "I'm here", the moment's already
gone. Either everything's in the future,
or it's in the past.
There's no "now".
So where are you then?
I'm in the past.
We move through the doorway.
INT. MANNING HOUSE, BEDROOM -- DAY
Everything looks normal at first. A typical bedroom with sunlight
streaming in through the windows. A bed, made-up. Flowers in vases.
Everything looks perfect.
Then we move further in, and over to the right. There's something on the
floor, curled up in the entranceway to the bathroom. Halfway in, halfway
It's a woman's body. She's wearing a dress, her legs awkwardly bent. We
can't see her face from this angle. But in her limp hand is a gun. And
all around that hand, speckling the pristine white tile of the bathroom
and the carpeting beyond, is BLOOD.
A shrill BELL shatters the moment.
INT. COUNSELOR'S OFFICE -- DAY
The bell continues. It's a school bell signaling the end of the period.
as we see her for the first time, startled. She's seventeen and pretty,
though in a simple way. Her eyes are the most striking. Deep. Intense.
If Alex has a problem, it's the fact that she thinks too much, and it's
reflected in her eyes.
Across from her is MR. WEAVER, a high-school guidance counselor and that
was his voice we heard with Alex's. He's unexceptional, middle-aged,
incapable of really hearing what Alex has to say. This is his office
we're in. Typical "SAY NO TO DRUGS" teen propaganda decorate the room.
As the BELL dies we hear the army of FOOTSTEPS outside, students milling
in the halls.
Alex glances at the door and starts to rise from her chair.
We don't have to stop now...
(cutting him off)
That's okay. I've got a test coming up
anyway. Gotta study.
I have to tell you, I'm a little concerned
about you, Alex. It's been three months
now since your mother, uh...
(offering, fixing him with
Mr. Weaver stops, more than a little uncomfortable.
Yes. Now your father...
He's a basket case. You've talked to him.
You know that. He might as well be dead
Alex glances down at the floor, anything to avoid looking at the
counselor. She heaves a backpack onto to shoulder.
Look Mr. Weaver, I don't even know why I
came here. I fine. Really.
It's like I said. It's just part of the
past now. It doesn't matter anymore.
She turns, and before Mr. Weaver can respond, she's out the door.
INT. HIGH-SCHOOL HALLWAY - DAY
Alex moves quickly through the mass of STUDENTS, wiping the remnants of
half-tears on her coat sleeve.
INT. HIGH-SCHOOL CAFETERIA - DAY
Fun-time. Total chaos. If you've been to high-school you know the riff.
Bad food, teen-age melodrama, and a squadron of SUPERVISORS trying to keep
a lid on things.
makes her way to the far corner of the cafeteria where a cluster of kids
lounge around a table. These are Alex's FRIENDS. And while none of them
are your garden variety pocket-protector-type nerds, these kids aren't
exactly part of the "in-crowd". They're a little off. Quirky. All of
them come from screwed up families, and that's what bonds them. They are:
GREG HOLLISTON -- Alex's boyfriend. Hopeful artist (not bad, either) and
kind of punk looking. Greg and the others are big fans of thrift-shop
clothing. Because they don't have the money, they improvise.
NICK DRAKE -- Greg's best friend and future computer pioneer. He's
attractive and he's got an edge. A bit of a hot-shot. Genius in the
BENZ AND STILTS -- Inseparable. Benz is flunking out of school and would
like nothing better than to spend the rest of his life reading comic
books. He's tall, perpetually unkempt, awkward, and nervous. Stilts,
contrary to his nickname, is quite short and never without his skateboard.
Stilts is constantly hitting on...
LAURIE -- The sixth member of the group. A teen Theda Bara and as cynical
as you can get. She's what's affectionately known as an "art chick".
The boys in the group, particularly Nick and Stilts, are avid
skateboarders and are frequently seen with their boards. Stilts is always
leafing through an issue of THRASHER magazine.
Right now the group is in the midst of an argument. Nick has a pocket
video game in his hands which he casually plays. He can get through these
games in his sleep. It BEEPS and WHIRS.
You're an idiot, you know that? What're you
going to do when you get out of here?
I was thinking about writing for one of
those Filipino mail order brides...
Stilts and Greg burst into laughter.
I think I saw that on the Home Shopping
Network. The Girlfriend Hour, right after
You guys are sick.
Alex flops down in a chair and everyone turns.
So how'd it go?
Alex shrugs, trying to make light of it.
He thinks I'm "sublimating".
What the hell does that mean?
It means she's screwed up.
Fucked up. That's what they said I was.
You are fucked up.
Yeah, but only because I want to be.
Would you guys knock it off?
Greg turns back to Alex and looks her in the eye.
Listen to me, Alex. These counselor's
don't know anything. They're full of shit.
If you don't fit the pattern of the perfect
kid, they freak.
So tell me you're okay, then.
Good. Cause I'd freak if you weren't.
Greg leans over and kisses Alex. The rest of the group launches into
exaggerated GROANS, with Benz and Stilts fluttering their eyes and making
"smooching faces" at each other. The kiss is over and everyone LAUGHS.
Things are okay now.
Greg pulls an old Polaroid camera from his backpack. He leans in close to
her and holds the camera at arm's length, aiming it back at them. FLASH!
And the moment's captured forever.
Greg pulls the Polaroid out and peels off the backing. Before the picture
even develops, he begins rubbing his fingers over it, manipulating the
(engrossed in his game
You making another one, Greg?
Greg pulls some papers from his backpack and slides them over to Benz.
The papers are color xeroxes of Polaroid blow-ups. Greg has messed with
them, creating swirling, psychedelic patterns with the images. Stilts and
Laurie lean in.
See, when the emulsion's still warm you can
move it around...
Greg holds up the Polaroid for Alex to see.
Greg and Alex are side by side, grinning...all around them the world has
spun into strange colors. It's an odd effect.
Greg drops the photo in his shirt pocket and pats it.
Meanwhile, Nick's pocket video game emits an EXPLOSION NOISE.
Shit. I'm out.
He sets the game down, dejected.
You guys going to Dante's after school?
I don't know.
Check it out...
Benz pulls a flyer from inside his coat. It's an ad for a new game called
"ARCADE", featuring a pair of evil eyes and glowing hands coming out of a
circuit board. The tag at the bottom reads, "COMING THIS FALL. REALITY
WILL NEVER BE THE SAME".
That's the new Slip-Stream game. Those guys
are good. It's supposed to be interactive.
Graphics are unbelievable.
Yeah? They were handing these out at
Dante's. Test marketing it or something.
Gonna have a demonstration today.
Can you say anything but "cool"?
Of course I can. I can say all sorts of
Benz pulls back the flyer and looks at it again.
So how 'bout it?
Greg turns to Alex.
Come on. We'll hit Dante's after school,
try the game out, maybe get some dinner.
And then keep on driving?
Sure. Never come back. Disappear forever.
I could go for that.
Alex laughs. Laurie took the words right out of her mouth.
EXT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- DAY
The Inferno is a run-down video arcade near the beach, notable because the
games it sports are generally defective and out of date. Nevertheless,
it's become our group's hang-out. It has its charms.
A huge mural, chipped and faded with age, adorns the front of the
arcade...something straight out of Hieronymus Bosch. Demons in day-glo.
The yawning mouth of an enormous devil surrounds the entrance.
ALEX AND THE OTHERS
pull up across the street, caravan style. Greg and Alex are in one
car...an ancient Buick Skylark. No Honda Accords or VW Rabbits for this
At the moment, there's quite a bit of activity at the Inferno's entrance.
KIDS are clustered around and Slip-Stream employees are passing out Arcade
heads for the entrance, plowing their way through the crowd. Stilts and
Benz have their skateboards, jumping up onto the curb with them, then
popping them up into their arms.
INT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- DAY
Inside, the Inferno is a mishmash of video games, ancient carnival props
and old horror movie posters. Dusty, creepy under the right circumstances
and filled with leering faces... in short, any kid's bedroom taken to a
horrific extreme. At Dante's Inferno, they've got the latest games side
by side with chestnuts like Pac-Man.
makes their way inside, joining a cluster of KIDS in the center of The
Inferno. And there it is...
It looks out of place in the midst of The Inferno. Shiny black,
high-tech, and almost self-contained, like some sort of space-age vertical
coffin. Laser-etched graphics on the sides bear the ARCADE logo and the
same strange, frightening face.
Alex and her friends are suitably impressed, most notably, Nick and Benz.
Check it out...
Nick is silent, letting his eyes explore the machine. He turns to Greg
Super computers, micro-processors... That's
the future we're looking at.
Another kid, DELOACH, pushes his way to the front of the group. His
fighting a losing battle against acne.
So how come they're previewing it in this
If you weren't such a dick, you'd know what
a cool place this was.
Gimme a break, they got fucking Space
Invaders here. That's shit's for retards.
So...are you trying to say I'm retarded?
Is that what you're implying?
No, but since I'm standing here, I'm
noticing that you're an ugly little fuck
and you're making me sick...
That's it for Stilts. He launches himself at DeLoach, catching him off
guard and KNOCKING him to the floor.
Nick, Alex, and Greg are on them in a minute, trying to extract the two
from each other.
A LARGE MAN
pushes his way towards them and effortlessly scoops both boys up, wrapping
a beefy hand around the scruffs of their necks. This is FINSTER, the
proprietor...enormous, bald, and always irritable.
Cut it out!!!
His face contorts and he spits as he speaks. Nice guy. Alex steps
forward, always the voice of reason.
It's okay, Mr. Finster...
No it's not.
(to the boys)
You guys are shits and I'm throwing you out.
Your place sucks. Who gives a shit about
WHAT DID YOU SAY?
Everyone turns. The voice came from...
It's up and running now. The inside panel emits an eerie green light.
From speakers inside the compartment we can here BREATHING...the same
breathing we heard earlier. Coming from a machine like this, it's creepy
Even Finster is impressed. He releases the boys and stares at the
ANOTHER VOICE (O.S.)
Not bad, huh?
A MAN steps out from behind the ARCADE machine. He grins happily, dressed
to kill, sporting a SLIP-STREAM ID tag. This is DIFFORD, P.R. man for
The ARCADE machine continues to breathe, inhale, exhale... The eyes in the
face are glowing now, in unison with the breathing.
Difford draws closer and indicates the machine behind him with a nod.
(smooth as silk)
We're glad you people could make it, and
we're anxious to have you try out our new
product. We think it's going to be a big
seller. But you're the people that make it
happen. You're the market share everyone's
tearing each other apart to get at. It's
your opinion that's going to make or break
So what's so different about Arcade? You
guys've been talking about it for months.
Difford turns to Nick and salutes him.
A man after my own heart. Straight to the
What's different about ARCADE is the way it
reacts. It responds like a human does. It
learns. It adapts. Each time you play, it
changes its strategy.
(taking the bait)
Is it? Why don't you see for your self?
Difford reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a quarter. He tosses
who snags it out of mid-air and grins.
Go for it, Nick.
Difford steps aside and waves Nick to the machine. The rest of the kids
isn't just your typical video game. First of all there are three
screens...front, left, and right...which provide a panoramic view while
playing. Second, the player wears "data gloves" (which provide an actual
sensation of touch) and stereoscopic goggles which in turn are wired
directly into the machine. The results give the user the feeling that
he/she has actually entered the video game universe.
Difford thinks he has a hit on his hands, and his excitement shows.
The CyberGloves are keyed into the game's
response mechanism. You'll be able to pick
things up inside the world...tools, weapons
... it'll feel like they're really in your
Nick pulls on the gloves, securing them with velcro straps.
The goggles heighten the experience. When
we said "Reality will never be the same",
we weren't kidding.
Difford places the goggles on Nick's face. Then he points to the control
board, which features two joy-sticks and a large RED BUTTON labeled
In case things get too intense. It
automatically freezes the game, gives you a
breather. Things can get pretty wild...
Nick won't need it.
You're good, eh?
Nick winks at Alex and Greg.
So what's the scenario? Am I saving a
princess? Fighting Zombies?
It changes. There are eleven levels. Each
one is a different layer of the ARCADE
universe. The concept is, you're entering
the video game itself, making your way
across the circuit board to the logic core
... ARCADE's brain.
So how do I start?
The game will guide you.
Nick turns back to the machine and pops the quarter into the coin slot.
He punches the "START" button on the top of one of the joy-sticks.
Immediately the screens come to life. Darkness with shooting stars of
light racing back and forth.
A three-dimensional computer-generated FACE appears out of the darkness,
spinning in from far away and coming to rest.
I AM ARCADE.
YOU WANT TO PLAY GAMES? YOU PICKED THE
The crowd of kids is suitably impressed. Even Alex is amused.
So far, so good.
WHAT'S YOUR NAME?
NICK. KISS REALITY GOODBYE.
A LIGHTBEAM above the video screen illuminates Nick's face.
What's it doing?!
Memorizing Nick's features. Watch.
the face of ARCADE spins away and a computer-generated figure appears,
complete with a pixel-rendered version of Nick's face!
is dressed in futuristic armor with exaggerated CyberGloves and a full
helmet on instead of goggles. He also wears elbow and knee pads and
carries a thrasher in his hands, sort of a cross between a souped-up
skateboard and the Silver Surfer's board. It's his means of
The screen prints out: "NICK. ENTER THE VORTEX".
hops onto the thrasher. Abruptly the world around him begins to spin, and
Video Nick is shooting a curl, a whirlpool of light...down, down, faster
and faster, until...
BOOM! Empty space and video Nick is falling towards a circuit grid. It's
the electronic universe rushing up to meet him...
ONE WORD OF ADVICE, NICK. YOU SPEND TOO
MUCH TIME IN ONE PLACE, AND I SEND OUT THE
SCREAMER. YOU DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND WHEN
SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE.
Video Nick plummets from the sky like a meteor, slamming into the ground
with an explosion of dust. The dust clears.
Video Nick is standing on an eerie plain, with strange reed-like plants
dotting the ground and mist coiling around everything. It looks like
Earth, and yet...it doesn't.
hops onto the thrasher and begins to move. And move it does. With a
WHOOP! the ARCADE world is rushing past us. The game has begun.
ON NICK'S FACE
As a smile gradually creeps across it. He's having the time of his life,
gloved hands manipulating the joy-sticks like mad. From his reactions, we
can tell that this is one of the most incredible things he's ever
THE OTHER KIDS
watch Nick, then the screen, then Nick again...
Check it out!
Come on, Nick...
Now everyone is laughing, urging Nick on. It's like they've all
discovered the most amazing toy...something that's going to turn their
world upset down.
is pleased as punch, watching the kids' reactions more than the game.
Images are rushing past at blinding speed, LASERS, EXPLOSIONS, and god
As sweat begins to trickle down his fast. His hands move faster and
faster, in response to the game.
The screen and...
BAM!!! Nick SLAMS down the escape button and rips off his goggles. The
video image freezes.
He's practically hyperventilating, sweat pouring down his face. He leans
over, resting a hand on the control board. And for a moment, everyone is
Slowly, Nick lifts his head. He's now sporting a devilish grin.
You gotta try this thing.
Nick pulls off his CyberGloves and holds them out for Greg. Greg turns to
Go for it.
Hold my keys, then.
He hands her his keychain and takes the CyberGloves from Nick. Greg pulls
them on, then straps on the goggles.
So how do I get back in?
Just hit "ESCAPE" again.
Greg hits the button and immediately the image unfreezes. Once again,
we're on the thrasher board, rushing across the plains.
As a smile slowly creeps across it.
INT. DANTE'S INFERNO - LATER
At the front of The Inferno, Difford and two SLIP-STREAM HELPERS are
unpacking cardboard boxes. The KIDS have clustered around them,
momentarily forgetting the ARCADE machine.
Difford pulls cut a handful of game cartridges as well as goggles which
dangle over his arm.
Here's what we're going to do. What I'm
holding are the home versions of ARCADE,
This is met with an enthusiastic response from the kids.
In a month or so we're planning on releasing
ARCADE in both versions, but we're still
fine tuning, and that's where you guys luck
out. So what we'll do is have you register
with us, and then we're going to loan these
out to you for a week or so. The only thing
you have to do in return is answer some
marketing questions. Sound fair?
The kids can't line up fast enough.
is right up front, with Nick and Alex being the first two in line.
Difford winks at Nick.
So what do you think?
Sign me up.
Alex is glancing around now. She sees Benz, Stilts, and Laurie, but not
Laurie jerks her thumb back at the ARCADE machine.
He's still working on the game.
And Alex finds Greg for a moment, spotting him over the heads of the other
His face is a mirror of Nick's...sweat pouring down, grinning from ear to
ear. It's addictive as hell. SIGHTS and SOUNDS rush past us on the three
screens, racing at incredible speeds.
And now, from within the game, we hear a strange sound...a SCREAM of
sorts, halfway between a shriek and a sonic boom.
TIME'S UP, FRIEND.
The SHRIEK/SONIC BOOM reaches a nightmarish pitch and suddenly the screens
EXPLODE WITH LIGHT.
AT THE FRONT OF THE INFERNO...
everyone turns in response. It's as if someone set off a flashbulb.
pushes her way back through the kids, making her way to the ARCADE
Greg is nowhere to be found. In fact, the CyberGloves and goggles are
dangling from the control board, abandoned.
Alex turns to a nearby KID.
The kid shrugs.
Don't know. I think I saw him walk out,
but I'm not sure...
Alex isn't listening anymore. She's staring at the floor of the ARCADE
is on the floor...the photo of Greg and Alex which he manipulated.
Alex picks it up, glancing around. She scans the faces of the crowd and
she doesn't see Greg anywhere. She turns away.
A video figure is lying on the computer-generated ground. It sits up,
brushing dust from itself, and looks around. It faces us. Only the image
isn't of Nick anymore. It's VIDEO GREG now.
Alex has re-joined her friends. The four of them are now clutching ARCADE
home versions in their arms, CyberGloves and all. They look like kids on
Has anyone seen Greg?
He's probably outside. You know how he is.
Nick heads for the door with the rest of the group in tow.
EXT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- DAY
Outside, Greg is still nowhere to be found. Benz, Stilts, and Laurie have
piled into their car, waiting for Nick to take the wheel.
NICK AND ALEX
are up by Greg's Skylark.
So where is he?
Guess he took off... You have his keys,
Alex holds them up and gives them a shake.
Hmmm. He said you were going to have
So take his car home. Wait. I'm sure he's
up to something...
(cutting him off)
But he was playing the game. I mean, you
Laurie reaches over the seat and honks Nick's horn. Laurie and the others
burst into LAUGHTER. Stilts sets his skateboard on the street and rolls
it towards Nick.
BACK TO NICK AND ALEX
Nick stops the board with his foot and steps onto it, balancing. He waves
to the others and turns back to Alex.
It's nothing, okay? Just take his car home.
He'll show up.
Nick tousles Alex's hair. He shakes his ARCADE cartridge at her.
Don't worry about it.
And with that, Nick's off, rolling back to his car and leaping over the
door, skateboard and all. Laurie and the others are still screaming with
Nick hits the ignition and guns the car, pulling out with a dramatic
SCREECH and sailing off down the street.
clutching Greg's car keys. She glances on the front seat, where her own
ARCADE cartridge rests.
has the same glowing eyes that were laser-etched on the machine inside The
EXT. MANNING HOUSE -- NIGHT
The Manning place is your basic suburban ranch house, totally
unexceptional. The lawn looks a little ragged and a pile of newspapers,
frayed and yellowing, have accumulated by the front door. Inside, the
house is dark. Lonely.
pulls up in Greg's Skylark, scooping the ARCADE kit into her arms.
INT. MANNING HOUSE -- NIGHT
As Alex enters the dark house, we can hear WHISPERS coming from further
within. It's a little creepy, but Alex seems unconcerned.
She negotiates her way through the darkened house, on into the den.
DEN -- FOLLOWING THROUGH
Dim, flickering LIGHT illuminates the den, casting long shadows across a
SLEEPING FIGURE on the couch.
This is Alex's father, JIM...hopelessly middle-aged and getting older by
the moment. It's the t.v. that's doing the whispering. CNN or something.
From what little we can see of the rest of the house, it looks like a
Alex bends down and jostles her father's shoulder.
Jim stirs, though barely. He turns a sleepy face towards her, looking
gray and lifeless.
Did Greg call, Dad?
Jim shakes his head and sinks back into the couch.
From Alex's attitude, it's obvious that this scene has played itself out
many times before.
You should go to bed, Dad.
Jim waves a tired hand, dismissing her.
...am in bed...
(standing back up)
She turns and grabs a comforter that's bunched up at the end of the couch,
spreading it over her father.
ON THE T.V.
We're getting a de-saturated view of carnage...some sort of war going on
in some far-off land.
Alex grabs the remote and flicks the t.v. off, plunging the room into
INT. ALEX'S ROOM -- NIGHT
Late-night t.v. static, filling up the entire screen.
WE PULL BACK,
revealing a television...and further back until we see Alex crouched
behind it in silhouette. She's fiddling with wires back there and...
BLINK! Suddenly the SLIP-STREAM logo appears on the t.v. screen with nifty
computer graphics. She's just hooked up the home version of ARCADE. Alex
moves back to the front of the set.
is her haven, a virtual library, filled with books which she loses herself
in. They're stacked everywhere.
And puzzles too. Half-assembled jig-saws. Intricate things. An Escher
print. The descendants of Rubik's Cube. Boxes within boxes. This is
Alex's life, what she retreats to.
of Alex and her MOTHER sits by her bed, neglected and collecting dust.
We'll see her later.
or what's left of them, have dripped and spread across her night table.
sits at the foot of her bed, facing her television. Slowly, she draws on
the CyberGloves, testing her fingers. Next, she pulls on the goggles.
Instead of a control panel, the home version has a control box, complete
with joy-stick and a mini "ESCAPE" button.
Alex fingers the "START" button on top of the joy-stick.
goes black, black with intermittent sparks. And the BREATHING begins.
appears in the black, a pin-point at first, spinning round and round and
growing larger. It comes to a rest, eyes glowing.
Alex jumps back, dropping the control box. ARCADE continues to BREATHE.
A thing BEAM OF LIGHT shoots from the ARCADE terminal, playing over Alex's
KISS REALITY GOODBYE.
ARCADE'S face spins away, to be replaced by a pixel-rendered image of
Alex, dressed in battle gear.
Video Alex sets her thrasher on the ground and mounts it.
(both frightened and
And from the screen...
IN HERE, OF COURSE.
the vortex of light EXPLODES around video Alex, twisting reality. And
Alex is spinning round and round, plummeting towards...
THE CIRCUIT GRID
beneath her, a world of geometric shapes and light and... The words:
"LEVEL ONE" flash across the screen and we...
EXT. LEVEL ONE, THE PLAINS -- DAY
Alex SLAMS into the ground, splashing up water and smoke alike.
We are inside ARCADE now, experiencing what Alex experiences.
THE PLAINS --
In many respects it looks like Earth. Land, water, sky... Yet certain
things are off. Small things, like the color of light, a sluggish
smoke-filled RED, or the occasional FLICKER OF LIGHTNING which races
beneath the cloud cover above.
pulls herself up from the muck, brushing dirt and water from her face.
She coughs, totally disoriented. Looks around.
Looks at herself. She's wearing...
This is the real thing, as opposed to the cartoon version we saw Nick
wearing when he played the game before. It's a cross between a
skateboarder's protective guardpads and full-blown armor. A helmet rests
on her head, with a visor raised up.
Alex glances down and sees a thrasher board resting next to her. (Note:
Depending on the terrain of each level, the thrasher board will adjust
itself...working as a skateboard, snowboard, or hover board).
ON ALEX'S RIGHT CYBERGLOVE
is an LED display. In the upper left-hand corner it says "LEVEL ONE". To
the right, two pulsing bars of light labeled "TIME ELAPSED" and
At this very moment, the "TIME ELAPSED" bar is just shrinking away to
BLINK! Now it's gone.
No rest for the weary.
A SHRIEK/SONIC BOOM
is immediately heard on the horizon, and it's the most god-awful noise
we've ever heard. It fills up the world.
jerks her head up, terrified.
(to herself, remembering)
All around her, the world begins to vibrate...
is rushing towards her now at an unbelievable speed. The SHRIEK/SONIC
BOOM is deafening. The world is shaking apart.
And suddenly the thing is upon her!
INT. ALEX'S ROOM - NIGHT
Alex flies back from the t.v. screen, violently ripping the goggles and
CyberGloves off. But the SHRIEK is continuing and then she realizes
The phone is RINGING.
Alex stops shaking. The phone continues to RING. She's back in her room.
Everything's fine. Normal.
She glances at the game.
we see the black again, black with sparks racing past. Benign.
Alex reaches over and picks up the phone, all the while keeping her eyes
glued to the screen.
Alex clutches the phone, still shaking.
Have you played the game yet? It's
incredible! I was just...
(cutting him off)
Listen to me! Greg never came home. I think
the game has something to do with it.
What the hell are you talking about?
Alex continues to watch the television screen, almost mesmerized by the
flickering sparks. Her eyes begin to glaze over...
You there? Hello?
Alex snaps out of it, tearing her gaze from the screen
I have to talk to you.
We are talking...
No, in person. Now.
I'm coming over.
Alex quickly hangs up the phone and moves back to the television. She
reaches for the control box and hits the "OFF" switch.
Nothing happens. Sparks continue to shoot across the screen.
Alex tries it again. Same result.
Again and again she hits the button, but nothing is happening.
Alex reaches behind the t.v., grabs hold of the electrical cords, and
The fucking cord won't come out!
And then she hears it, an ELECTRONIC WHISPER, both seductive and horrific.
With all her might, Alex pulls on the cords. POP! They fling out of the
t.v. and the screen goes dead.
Alex sits back against the wall for a moment, catching her breath and
trying to calm the rising hysteria within her.
Okay...don't think about it...
Alex stands up, grabbing her coat off the bed.
INT. MANNING HOUSE, LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT
Alex comes down the stairs, heading for the front door. Only she stops for
a moment...noticing the LIGHT.
ON THE COUCH,
her father is once again bathed in the blue light of the television.
STATIC WHISPERS, the same as before, are coming from the set.
Alex looks at her father. He hasn't moved. And yet, the t.v. is on once
Blue static. Unexceptional. And a face? Someone in the static?
Alex draws closer to the screen. She can hear SOMETHING now, other than
static whispers. Sounds kind of like a VOICE...
A definite, ghostly FACE is there. It turns, looks at Alex (us) and it's
(on screen, strange)
Alex jerks and SNAPS off the t.v., spooked as hell. She stands in the
darkness and all but runs out of the house.
EXT. MANNING HOUSE - NIGHT
Alex races to the Skylark and fumbles with the keys. Finally she gets it
right, guns the gas, and rips out of the driveway.
above is FLICKERING wildly. Sputtering, HUMMING, casting strange shadows
across the street.
EXT. NICK DRAKE'S HOUSE - NIGHT
Alex has climbed up to the roof, using a wood pile stacked beside the
house as a boost. Now she creeps towards a second-story window.
Behind her on the street (and this should be subtle, folks), another
STREETLIGHT is flickering.
It looks in on Nick's room. Alex draws close and TAPS on the glass.
Nick appears immediately, grinning like an idiot. He raises the window.
Alex, you don't know how long I've waited
Alex climbs in.
INT. NICK'S ROOM -- NIGHT
The room is an intricate shrine to Nick's obsession...computers and
computer-generated images. An entire wall is covered with a collage of
cut-out pictures from magazines. On his shelves are miniature
armatures...flexible models of human musculature.
And of course, there is Nick's computer set-up.
Even as Alex climbs down onto Nick's bed, she notices that his computer is
up and running...connected to the ARCADE home version.
Nick turns back to the computer monitor.
(as seen earlier) are blossoming on the screen.
Isn't it amazing? It's a sort of rest
position in the game, when you're between
Nick pulls Alex closer. She's wary. But Nick is suitably impressed,
They're fractals. Visual representations
of mathematic equations. The game is
totally brilliant. I mean, look at it,
it's like a DNA molecule or something...
And in truth, the fractals are beautiful.
Alex turns back to Nick. And for the first time, Nick stops grinning.
It's clear that Alex is upset.
Something weird's happening.
Nick sits down on his bed.
What do you mean by "weird"?
Greg never came home. A few hours is one
thing, Nick, but this is different.
Something's happened to him.
Alex glances at the computer monitor again. On the lower right-hand side
is a little pulsing GREEN light, on and off, on and off, like a heartbeat.
Can you turn off the game?
I'm in the middle of it...
Turn if off!
Nick is taken aback, but he rises and turns off the computer all the same.
And this time, the game stays off. Nick comes back to the bed.
Look, I know you're not going to believe me,
but listen anyway...
I think the game's alive somehow.
The look on Nick's face says it all. He moves to speak and she stops him.
No, wait. Just listen. I hooked it up
earlier tonight, and it said my name. As
soon as I turned it on, Nick. It said my
name. How could it know? And then, I
asked it where Greg was, and it said, "In
Alex, I think you're freaking out. Greg's
gone, I'll give you that. And maybe he's
in trouble. But it's not ARCADE that's
How?! It's a machine, Alex. Machine's
don't think. They're not alive. It's a
good program, a brilliant program, it was
designed so it would act as if it were
alive, but it's not alive.
So how did it know my name, then?
You imagined it.
Alex is furious. She rises and begins pacing back and forth, voice
growing louder. She draws in close.
See, men always do this. "Quiet down,
honey. Chill out. Take a Valium". I'm not
a fucking idiot, Nick!
I DID NOT IMAGINE IT!!!
(a strained whisper)
Quiet. I do have parents, you know.
Alex spins around and points at the computer monitor.
ARCADE is back on again, fractals unfolding and green monitor light
Okay. Alright. This does throw him for a second.
It turned itself back on, Nick.
No it didn't. It's just a faulty relay or
something. It happens.
Nick crosses to the monitor and flips the "OFF" switch. He tries it again
and again, but the game won't turn off.
It's alive, Nick. It's listening to us ...
Nick spins around, angry, maybe a little freaked out.
Just shut up! Enough already, okay?
Silence for a moment. Nick takes a deep breath. Over-reacted. After a
Sorry. Maybe I need the Valium.
Call the others. Laurie, Benz...
Nick acquiesces. He pulls out his phone and punches in a number.
I'll try Stilts. He's got insomnia.
Nick and Alex watch each other in silence as the connection is made. We
can faintly hear the phone RINGING.
Alex turns away, sinking to Nick's bed. All the anger has drained out of
her. She knows they won't reach them.
As he listens for an answer. Three RINGS, four, five... He hangs up.
Punches in the final number.
Again. No answer.
Nick hangs up and sets the phone aside. He looks at Alex.
Something's happened to them.
It's the middle of the night. They're
asleep. Phone didn't wake them.
All of them?
Nick shrugs. He's not willing to accept anything, but he's uncomfortable
all the same.
Look, why are you fucking with me like this?
Alex rises. She's tired. Tired and scared.
Because I didn't know where else to go.
(glances at a clock)
It's two o'clock in the morning. Go home.
Go to sleep. We'll figure something out in
And then, more for himself than for her.
It's not this weird. It'll make sense.
Everything gets weird this late anyway,
She turns and climbs back out the window onto the roof. Then she ducks her
head back in.
If I were you, I'd think twice about playing
that game again.
Then she's gone. Nick moves over and watches.
As Alex drops down from the roof and makes her way to Greg's car. The
streetlight outside is still flickering.
Nick turns back to his room. Moves back to the monitor and watches the
He gives the "OFF" switch a token try. Nothing.
We move in on them, losing ourselves in the labyrinth of swirling colors
INT. HIGH-SCHOOL LIBRARY -- DAY
moves down the aisles of books, dwarfed by shelves which reach clear to
the ceiling. She looks a little haggard, like she hasn't had any sleep.
NICK AND STILTS
are sitting at a study cubicle. Nick looks equally tired, but Stilts is
As Alex joins them, Nick looks up.
Well? Where are the others?
Nick shrugs, looking elsewhere.
Everybody's sick, huh?
(glances at watch)
It's fifteen after. We always meet here,
you know that.
What's her problem?
Did you play ARCADE last night?
Actually, no. I was just telling Nick,
here, that my t.v.'s busted...
Alex nods, glaring at Nick. His reluctance to believe her is
understandable, but the events unfolding are scaring him.
You want to hear something else, Nick? I
tried to call them this morning...Greg,
Benz, Laurie... Their phones are out of
Alex reaches into her bag and pulls out a sheet of paper with names on it.
And then I started thinking...about everyone
else that was at Dante's yesterday. I drew
up this list. DeLoach, those other jerks ...
their phones are out of order too.
Stilts starts HUMMING The Twilight Zone theme.
So what do you want me to do?
Alex softens, then reaches for Nick's hand.
We have to find out what's happened to them.
I think they're gone...
If they're sick, great. But let's make sure.
Come on, Nick.
Okay. We'll see what's up. But if things
are cool, I don't want to hear anything more
about this. Life's too short, know what I
Nick and Alex rise.
So you guys are cutting school? Lemme go
Just stay here, Stilts.
And don't watch any television.
Stilts thinks Nick and Alex are involved in some sort of joke, but he's
playing along, grinning.
Oh, okay. Forget Twilight Zone, now we're
talking Outer Limits here. We control your
horizontal, your vertical...
Just do what she says, Stilts. And if we're
I'll call the National Guard. I got it
Oh, just one more thing. Is it a
supernatural thing you guys are going off
to fight, or is it aliens, like Pod People
and stuff like that? Cause there's a
difference, you know. One you need garlic
and silver bullets for, the other...
Look at me, Stilts. Am I laughing?
The grins fades from Stilts' face. Nick is definitely not laughing.
Just do what she said. Don't watch
Nick spins around and takes Alex by the arm, leading her away.
EXT. BENZ' HOUSE -- DAY
Nick sits in the passenger seat of Greg's car, glancing across the street
She's standing on the front porch of Benz' house, talking with his MOM.
Mom is currently shaking her head. Alex turns away and heads back towards
Nick. She comes around the Skylark and pulls open her door.
She thought Benz was at school.
Alex remains calm. She sits for a moment, staring ahead. Finally she puts
the key in the ignition.
Where to now?
EXT. LAURIE'S HOUSE -- DAY
Alex pulls the Skylark into Laurie's driveway. The house is run down.
You wouldn't want to live here. Above, the sky has clouded over. It
looks like it's going to get nasty.
Nick follows Alex to the front door and Alex hits the buzzer.
Alex tries the buzzer again. Persistently.
Alex looks close to cracking. There's a desperation in her face.
This is like a movie or something. I mean,
am I paranoid or what?
It doesn't necessarily mean she's...
(cutting him off)
Let's go around back.
Before Nick can stop her, Alex is running around to the back.
EXT. LAURIE'S HOUSE, BACK PORCH -- DAY
The backyard is in a sorry state, with junk strewn everywhere. There's a
cannibalized car, piles of scrap wood, and a swing-set that's hopelessly
Alex winds her way to the back porch and a set of dusty glass doors. She
steps up and clears a spot to look through.
Nick joins her at the window, peering inside.
They are looking into a cluttered living room, dark except for the light
that's issuing from the television. The television faces away from us,
but we can see Laurie, siting in front of it, mesmerized.
She looks like shit. Wan, with sunken eyes and mussed up hair. Mascara
has run down her cheeks, and even now, tears are trickling from her eyes.
Yet despite this, there's a dazed smile on her face. We can't hear her,
but she seems to be talking to the television.
steps back a moment, concerned.
It is the game.
She taps on the window.
Laurie continues to watch the screen, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Alex TAPS the harder, using her fist now.
Nick joins Alex now, and the two of them are banging on the glass.
There's no way in hell Laurie wouldn't be able to hear them.
Alex steps back from the window again, panicking.
Nick, what do we do?!
Alex looks around, sees a two-by-four, and snags it.
No, Alex! Alex, wait a minute...
Alex swings the two-by-four like a club and SMASH!!! Down comes the glass
in a shower.
INT. LAURIE'S HOUSE, LIVING ROOM - DAY
Alex and Nick enter and immediately sense that something is wrong.
The LIGHT from the t.v. screen continues to flicker and a low-pitched
electric HUM permeates the air...the sound a live wire might make. And
the HUM seems to be mobile too, coursing through the walls...up, down, and
around Alex and Nick.
Nick's eyes try to track the HUM as it races overhead.
What is it?
And as Nick speaks, his breath escapes his mouth in a frosty plume of
mist. It's cold in here too.
Laurie, meanwhile, has failed to notice Alex and Nick's arrival. Alex and
Nick step further in, to get a view of the t.v.
fills the screen. Static and strange WHISPER/VOICES. It's all
Laurie's face is a mess. Tears are running down, but she's grinning all
the same. It's frightening.
I am awake.
Don't you see them?
Laurie points to the t.v. screen.
Angels. There are angels inside.
But we see only static.
We have to turn it off, Laurie. I'm turning
As Alex reaches for the "OFF" knob, a face coalesces out of the static.
It's Greg again.
Alex. Don't leave me here.
AND ON THE SCREEN,
Greg's face metamorphosizes into ARCADE's!
(mocking Greg, electronic)
"DON'T LEAVE ME HERE".
And even as ARCADE speaks, the VOICE seems to come from all around them,
from the HUMMING coursing through the walls.
Nick backs away from the screen, petrified.
HI, NICK. READY TO KISS REALITY GOODBYE?
The HUMMING around them has increased. Laurie begins to shake.
Change the channel!
Alex snatches up the remote control and stabs the buttons.
Every single channel portrays the fractals. recombining and growing.
The screen flickers and ARCADE's face appear again, reestablishing
Who are you?!
The word reverberates through the room and HUMMING has become a ROAR
around them. An ELECTRICAL storm.
around the room are crackling with energy, spitting out SPARKS.
COME INSIDE. I ONLY WANT TO PLAY.
Alex drops the remote, stunned.
Oh God... He's in the cable system! He's
out of the game!
Nick's eyes find the cable wire extending from the wall and into the t.v.
Sure enough, SPARKS are crackling down that wire and into the wall.
ARCADE LAUGHS and it's the most awful sound we've ever heard.
is convulsing now, and tiny SPARKS are racing around her eyes.
Alex sees her and SCREAMS, clutching her hands to her ears in an attempt
to block out the deafening ROAR.
moves without thinking, picking up a nearby chair and SLAMMING it into the
television. It EXPLODES glass, sparks, and smoke.
The HUMMING stops altogether, quiet now. And then, from everywhere at
SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE.
With a final ROAR, the energy behind the walls whips around and around,
then rushes away.
Nick catches a quick glimpse of SPARKS racing across the telephone wires
suspended above the back yard.
Total silence for a moment. Alex and Nick are too stunned to speak. Then
Alex looks at Laurie.
lies on the ground, unconscious. Glass scattered all around her.
Alex drops to her side, trying to find a pulse...anything.
Is she breathing?
Then leave her.
We'll call 911. Look around Alex. We broke
in, smashed the t.v., no one's going to
believe what happened here!
Alex glances around. The room is a mess. All the outlet are singed. And
now she notices that everything electronic...t.v., clock, thermostat...all
of them have exploded open.
I believe you now. I don't know what the
fuck just happened, but it did. Now let's
get the hell out of here.
Alex slowly rises, reluctant to leave Laurie's side.
Where do we go?
My house. I want to try something.
EXT. NICK'S HOUSE -- DAY
As Alex and Nick pull up, the streetlights BUZZ on and off even though
it's still daylight. This doesn't escape Nick's notice.
Alex parks the car and the two of them jump out.
EXT. NICK'S BACKYARD -- DAY
Nick leads Alex to a cellar door and down inside.
INT. NICK'S CELLAR -- DAY
Rear the doorway is an old, paint-caked fuse box. Nick pries it open and
begins unscrewing fuses.
I'm not taking any chances.
Nick steps back.
Okay. I'm going inside. If I'm not back
out in, say, two minutes, you get the hell
out of here.
Alex nods. She lifts her digital watch up and sets her timer with a BEEP.
Meet you by the car.
EXT. NICK'S HOUSE -- DAY
Alex sits on the hood of the Skylark watching the streetlight above with a
wary eye. She glances at her watch. About a minute and a half has
Here's Nick now, carrying a lap-top computer and a modem hook-up. Nick
sets the equipment in the back seat.
We need to find a pay-phone.
EXT. SHOPPING MALL, PAY-PHONE -- DAY
Nick sets up his lab-top inside the phone booth as Alex watches. He hooks
up the modem to the phone receiver and turns the machine on.
THE SMALL SCREEN
warms up, and in black and white, we see the same FRACTALS. Nick flips off
the lap-top and sighs.
That's what I thought.
It's not just the cable system. It's in
the phone system as well, the electronic
net. It's everywhere.
Nick, what is it.
Maybe it is alive in a way...some sort of
electronic intelligence. It's like a
computer virus that developed a personality
or something. It's self-replicating...it
Like the fractals?
Nick nods. He grabs his skateboard out of the back seat and sits on the
curb, spinning a wheel with his finger. He stares at the wheel a moment.
It's growing. Getting stronger. Maybe it's
only localized now...
(catching his drift)
...but then it hits the relay stations...
Right. And then communication satellites,
and then anywhere.
Alex looks up into the sky despite herself.
We have to stop it from getting out.
(shakes his head)
It's already out.
The Police, then...
Give me a break, Alex. What are we going
to tell them? Excuse me, officer, but
there's some sort of electronic monster
loose in the phone lines. I'd think twice
about calling any of those 976 numbers...
Then where do we go?!
I don't know.
Alex stalks off a few paces. Thinking. Thinking...
They made ARCADE. It's still a game,
right? It thinks like a game. Maybe it
still has to play by the rules. Someone had
to program it in the first place, didn't
At this, Nick perks up.
You mean we learn the rules...
And beat it at it's own game.
You realize that in order to do that, we'd
actually have to play the game.
I was afraid you'd say that.
EXT. SLIP-STREAM, INC. -- DAY
The SLIP-STREAM compound comprises a cluster of mirrored,
antiseptic-looking buildings. Carefully maintained greens surround the
compound, dotted with perfectly positioned trees. The whole effect,
greenery included, seems prefabricated and sterile. We move with the
camera, sweeping in and dropping low, across the main concourse and up the
stone steps to the main lobby...
INT. SLIP-STREAM LOBBY -- DAY
Alex and Nick are moving across the lobby. Nick is still carrying his
skateboard. The two of them look extremely out of place, being that the
rest of the people bustling around them are "dressed for success".
as they approach a prefab RECEPTIONIST sitting behind and enormous desk.
The guy's smile is so perfect he must've had it tattooed on. He wears one
of those obnoxious phone/headsets.
May I help you?
We need to see Mr. Difford.
I see. And do you have an appointment?
No, but it's important and if you'd...
(cutting him off)
I'm sorry, but if you don't have an
appointment, I won't be able to help you.
If you'd like, you can call his office from
our courtesy phone outside and schedule
Nick reaches across the desk and snags the receptionist by his shirt,
jerking him forward.
If Difford's not out here it one minute
we're calling the news and informing them
that your fucking games are whispering in
our ears and telling us to commit suicide.
I'm talking public relations nightmare
here, buddy. Satanism, virgin sacrifices,
backward messages, the whole bit.
The receptionist glances at Alex who puts on a stern face and nods.
Nick releases his grip. The receptionist smooths out his shirt and
One moment please...
(punches in extension)
Rachel, would you be kind enough to tell
Mr. Difford that we have a situation in the
lobby which requires his immediate attention?
The receptionist clasps his hands together and looks back up.
Mr. Difford will be right with you.
Alex and Nick move away from the reception desk, having caused quite a
scene. The rest of the VISITORS watch them with curiosity.
Drives 'em crazy every time.
Nick casts his eyes over the walls where graphics from various SLIP-STREAM
games are displayed. He stops on one display in particular, a triptych of
sorts featuring the haunting face of ARCADE.
Alex and Nick turn at the sound, just in time to see Difford exiting an
elevator and briskly making his way towards them.
Nick, Alex, how are we today?
How'd you know it was us?
(points to one)
Pulled your files before I came down. Be
careful what you say, kids ... I know where
Difford laughs and claps Nick on the back.
Now what seems to be the problem?
It's the game, ARCADE.
You don't like it?
That's gotta be the understatement of the
century. It's killing people.
Beat. Difford looks from Alex to Nick, and back again. His smile fades
from his face.
If this is a joke, I'm not laughing.
Neither are we. Something's wrong with the
game, Mr. Difford.
(clearing his throat)
Why don't we take this into my office.
INT. DIFFORD'S OFFICE -- DAY
Difford closes the doors behind him. He stares and Alex and Nick for a
moment, assessing, calculating risks...
Talk to me.
There's something wrong with ARCADE. The
game's alive somehow...
At this Difford breaks into a smile. Nick sees this and acts quickly to
save the situation.
What Alex is trying to say is that it
"seems" like it's alive.
No I'm not...
(freezing her with a
We're not getting very far into the levels
and we kind of thought maybe we could talk
to a programmer, learn some tricks and
I mean, you don't want us kids running
around school saying your game's too hard,
That's what this is all about? Tricks?
Sure, I'd be happy to introduce you to
Alex has caught on. She shuts up for the moment.
Tell you what, I'll take you down to our
R&D labs right now.
INT. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT -- DAY
Hardly what you'd expect. The lab is hopelessly cluttered, as if a
whirlwind had swept inside and thrown everything helter-skelter. Difford
leads Nick and Alex inside.
A MAN sets in front of a stack on monitors. One his head is a helmet-like
instrument...sort of an extension of the stereoscopic goggles. He wears a
lab-coat and a SLIP-STREAM I.D. badge, but aside from that, his appearance
is unkempt. Kind of your 60s drop-out look.
This is one of our newest projects. We're
trying to get rid of joy-sticks
The Air-Force is working on the same thing.
Come on, come on...
He moves his head this way and that...
A computer-animated TURTLE is crawling across the screen. Then the words
"TIME'S UP" flash over. The turtle flips onto it's back and dies, tongue
(clearing his throat)
ALBERT turns around in his seat and pulls off the helmet.
This is Nick and Alex. They'd like to talk
to you about ARCADE. Maybe you can give
them a few programmer's secrets.
(to Nick and Alex)
Then I leave you in capable hands.
Difford exits. Nick points to the helmet in Albert's hands.
Does that thing work?
Getting there. It's more sensitive than a
joy-stick. Your video-character can respond
as fast as you can.
But what can I do for you?
We're having some problems with ARCADE...
Yeah, who isn't.
What do you mean?
It's a tough game. Hard to pin that bastard
down. Keeps on changing the rules.
We vere thinking there might be tricks.
You know, surprises that you'd worked into
Sure. Every game's got 'em. I'll start
with the schematics. I can print these up
if you want.
Albert moves back to the wall of monitors, then reaches for a computer
disk and inserts it into a nearby drive. He taps a few buttons and
of each world/level within the ARCADE game appear on the monitors.
You've got your ten levels, right? Here
they are... Each level has an exit, only
remember, the exits aren't always what they
(points to each one)
First one's The Blood Red Sky, then you've
got The Blue Desert, Tower of Ghosts,
Kingdom of the Blind... On each world you
have to find a golden key and you've only
got so much time to do it in. If you're
too late, The Screamer comes.
How do you stop The Screamer?
You can't. He gets you and you're dead.
It's like time catching up with you, you
know? Like Fate. Each level you get
progressively less time to complete. First
half of the game takes place in the Wild
Lands. Then you reach Level 6, and that's
the Sea of Darkness. There's a two-headed
Boatman that'll take you across if you
answer his riddle right. If you don't...
He motions cutting a knife across his throat.
What's the riddle?
If I tell you, then it's no fun.
Just tell me the fucking riddle.
Well...it involves a paradox. You have to
trick The Boatman.
Now all the while, you also have to watch
your strength. You can build that back up
by catching FIREFLIES...the little glowing
Albert hits some keys again and Levels One through Six disappear. Now
they're replaced by Seven through Ten. Only instead of a schematic for
Level Eleven, there's only a question matc.
The next half of the game takes place in
ARCADE's brain, The City of Truth. It's
urban scenarios, lots of metal and concrete.
Screamer comes faster here. On Level Four
you can get a free life if you wait until
the last possible second before exiting that
world. Gotta time it right though.
What's the question mark?
Level Ten. That's where you've got to
unlock ARCADE's heart using the keys you've
How do you do that?
Good question. See, that's where the fun
comes in. ARCADE changes it every time.
He's a machine without a soul. Once you give
him a soul, he stops being a threat.
Alex looks dejected.
But how can it change every time?
It's the game's logic core. We actually
patterned it after human brainwaves. I
mean, there's a personality in there.
That's what makes it so incredible.
How the hell did you do that?
Well, we're veering into classified info
here, but I'll tell you that it involved a
donor. He was dead of course, so it's not
like anything unethical was happening.
At this, a chill runs down Alex's spine.
Well, brain-dead anyway. Coma patient.
It's really not all that important.
Maybe he's not dead.
The donor. Maybe he's alive inside the
And maybe you've been taking too many drugs.
Nick glances at the helmet again.
Could you play ARCADE with that?
Well, technically "yes", but this is only
Nick nods and smiles, offering his hand.
Thanks, Albert. Think you could print up
Albert moves back to the computer console. Meanwhile, Nick pulls Alex
Go outside, get your car, and meet me out
front with the engine running. And make it
What are you going to do?
Get that helmet. If we're going to play
ARCADE, I want every advantage possible.
ACROSS THE LAB,
Albert is oblivious to their conversation.
Alex backs towards the lab doors, turns, and opens them.
INT. SLIP-STREAM HALLWAY - DAY
Alex makes her way quickly down the hall, turning a corner and passing a
SECURITY GUARD. She waves at him, her smile fading as soon as she's
INT. R&D LAB - DAY
Albert is just pulling the last printed copy of the schematics from a
laser printer. He turns and hands them to Nick.
Here you go. Happy hunting.
Nick takes the schematics and tucks them inside his jacket.
And with that, Nick pulls back his fist and punches Albert square in the
Albert goes down, more stunned than hurt, and Nick springs into action.
He scoops up the CyberHelmet in his free hand, kicks open the doors, and
tosses his skateboard into the hallway...
INT. SLIP-STREAM HALLWAY - DAY
Nick leaps on the board and starts pumping his foot like a bandit, picking
up speed like mad...
He's racing down the hallway, maneuvering between startled EMPLOYEES. And
here comes a MAN with a mail cart...
WHOOSH! Nick zips by him. And now an ALARM is ringing.
INT. ANOTHER HALLWAY - DAY
Nick comes SCREECHING around the corner, narrowly missing a collision with
two SECURITY GUARDS.
But Nick's already past them. He puts his foot down again, pushing for
are after him now, CHARGING down the hallway.
A set of double doors labeled "EMERGENCY EXIT" blocks his way.
Nick spins out, sweeping the back of the board forward and SCREAMS to a
stop just before the doors. He kicks the board up into his free hand
WHAM! He hits the doors running. Now the FIRE ALARM is blaring in
addition to the other alarm. A VOICE is squawking over the P.A. and it's
a hell of a racket.
SECURITY BREACH IN R&D. SUBJECT HEADING
TOWARDS EASTERN EXIT...
INT. STAIRWELL -- DAY
Nick is charging down the stairs four and a time... One level, two...
Now he's reached ground floor...
INT. GROUND FLOOR HALLWAY - DAY
BOOM! Nick tumbles out of the stairwell only to see a trio of GUARDS
heading straight for him.
Nick drops his board to the ground and heads right, pumping his foot...
One of the GUARDS leaps at him and...
...misses by a foot or so, CRASHING to the tile floor.
SCREECHES to another stop, TWISTS, and starts pumping down another
INT. LOADING AREA -- DAY
Nick plows into the loading area like a bullet, whipping around stacks of
boxes and lumbering forklifts. A few WORKERS attempt to stop him, but
he's moving too fast.
is a loading dock, raised four feet from the ground to accommodate semis.
Nick's heading for it. The loading door is open, and outside is freedom.
the steel loading door begins to GRIND and lower. Some genius has hit the
pumps like mad, and he's really moving now. Either he'll make it, or he's
going to hit that steel door at about forty miles and hour...
is quickly closing off Nick's escape route. He's only got about four feet
Nick ducks low and clears it!
EXT. LOADING DOCK -- DAY
Nick ROCKETS off the loading dock, through the air and down, hitting the
concrete driveway. The driveway peels off to the left and slopes
Nick hangs tight, hugs the curve, and picks up more speed.
the driveway splits off. To the left, SLIP-STREAM's main building, and to
the right, the parking lot.
are piled into an electric cart, SPEEDING up from the left to cut Nick
off. It's going to be close...
Nick forks off to the right dust before they reach him.
It's clear sailing now, and up ahead, Nick can see Alex pulling up to the
end of the driveway...
WHOOSH! Nick scrapes the board forward, grinding the wheels sideways in
order to slow his speed...
He leaps. picking the board up with him. and dunks himself smack-dab in
the back seat of the Skylark.
guns the engine and tears away in a cloud of exhaust.
EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- DAY
Nick is in the back seat, LAUGHING. The sun is beginning its descent and
the sky is taking on a reddish tint.
I can't believe you made it!
Nick climbs into the front seat next to Alex, and for a second, he's
pretty close to her. He kisses her on the cheek...caught up in the
moment. Then he sinks back, catching his breath.
You got the schematics?
Neither one speaks for a moment as the mood dampens once again. Driving.
Wind whipping Alex's hair around. She stares at the road ahead.
So where do we play the game, Nick?
Nick doesn't answer at first. For a second there, he'd managed to forget
I've been thinking about that.
ARCADE's like a virus, so it seems like the
place to hit him would be where the virus
started. You know, like his point of origin?
as we watch Alex's Skylark speed away from us. Shadows are creeping
across the landscape now. Streetlights are flickering, sputtering on.
And night is falling.
EXT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- NIGHT
Sweeping down from the sky, we follow The Skylark. As Alex and Nick near
The Inferno, streetlights blink off in succession... progressive darkness
working its way towards their destination.
We move past the painted walls, the various demons illuminated by
Alex and Nick rush to the front door. It's gated. Inside, The Inferno is
totally dark. Shadows.
The windows are barred...
There's a skylight. We can get in through
EXT. DANTE'S INFERNO ROOF - NIGHT
Alex and Nick creep over the roof, and sure enough, there's a skylight in
the center, caked with grime.
Nick stands and plants his foot through the skylight. It SHATTERS,
raining down glass into the darkness below.
Nick pulls off his belt and hooks it around one of the iron sash bars.
Gripping the belt, he lowers himself down. After a moment, he disappears
Alex leans over the skylight. She can't see a thing.
For the longest moment there's no response. Then...
Okay, your turn.
Alex climbs over and grasps the belt tightly, lowering herself down into
INT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- NIGHT
Alex dangles from the skylight, a good eight feet from the floor.
Are you there?
The Inferno is a world of threatening shapes and shadows. And Nick is
nowhere to be seen.
Alex steels herself and drops to the floor.
She stands, a bit shaky, and cautiously moves around a cluster of video
is standing on the other side, staring at a game screen which pulses with
a DIM LIGHT.
Alex approaches, putting a hand on his shoulder. He turns.
You didn't hear me?
Nick shakes his head. Alex leans forward to see what he's looking at.
ON THE SCREEN
fractals are unfolding. It's mesmerizing.
Stop looking at it.
Nick shuts his eyes, pulling away from the screen. He shakes his head,
trying to clear his thoughts.
Shit...it's like a trance or something...
Okay. I'm fine. Really.
It's at that moment that Nick and Alex hear the VOICES.
all around them flicker on, static-laced IMAGES fading in. They are the
faces of their friends...Greg, Laurie, and many others. All those that
have disappeared. The VOICES fade in and out, merging with one another,
tinged with the same mechanical edge of ARCADE's voice.
Nick grabs Alex and pulls her into the canter of the room.
Put it out of your head, Alex. It's just
trying to psyche us out.
Despite Nick's words, we can tell that the VOICES are having a
disheartening effect on him.
prototype stands in front of them now, and surprisingly, the machine is
not on. The eyes in the leering black face are quite dead.
Around Alex and Nick, the faces of their friends continue to fade in and
out, casting the whole room in a strange shimmering blue light.
Nick moves to the back of the machine and opens the access panel,
revealing the internal circuitry. He pulls a small penlight from his
pocket and flips it on.
What are you looking for?
A way to hook this helmet into the game.
I'm sure there are interfaces...
And indeed there are. Parallel interfaces, where you might hook a printer
cable into a computer. Nick takes the cable from the CyberHelmet and
secures it into one of the interfaces.
There. Now we're wired in.
He stands and moves around front, pressing the "START" button of the game.
He presses it again. Nothing.
Is the game plugged in?
Nick checks. It is.
I don't understand. It wants us to play
the game. It's been taunting us ...
Put in a quarter.
It can turn itself on, Alex! It doesn't
need a quarter.
Yes it does. Don't you see? We have to
play by the rules. That's what it wants.
Nick rifles through his pockets. He doesn't have a quarter. Neither does
Nick moves over to the change machine and picks up a nearby chair. He
SMASHES the chair into the face of the machine again and again,
obliterating the lock. Nick opens the front of the machine and tears out
the coin box, spilling quarters all over the floor. He grabs a handful
He shoves one in ARCADE's coin-slot and pulls on the CyberGloves.
Two players, Nick. You need to put in
Nick straps the goggles over his eyes.
You're not coming, Alex.
Yes I am...
I know how to do this! I'm good at these
games. You never play, you'd be nailed in
And what if something happens to you? Am I
suppose to go in after you alone?!
No. If you're smart, you run like hell.
Alex grabs a second quarter and shoves it in the coin slot.
Nick stares at her a moment, then nods tiredly. She reaches for the
second pair of CyberGloves and pulls them on.
You don't get it, do you?
(strapping on goggles)
I don't want anything to happen to you. I
care about you.
I already have a boyfriend, Nick.
The two of them stand there a moment, looking at one another. After a
moment, Nick laughs tiredly.
What can I say?
(pulls on the CyberHelmet)
Tough being a hero, isn't it?
Nick reaches out for the joy-stick and hits the "START" button.
Here goes nothing.
As before, the screen comes to life. Darkness and sparks. Then we hear
spins into view, grinning at Alex and Nick.
NICK. ALEX. I MISSED YOU SO MUCH. ALL
YOUR FRIENDS ARE HERE.
We know what you are.
A HEARTLESS MONSTER, OF COURSE.
OH SAVE ME, ALEX, SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.
ARCADE laughs and it's not a sound you'd want to hear twice.
clicks on, playing over their faces and analyzing their features.
ARCADE'S face spins away and computer-generated versions of Alex and Nick
appear. As before, they are suited up in video game armor, each carrying
a thrasher board.
KISS REALITY GOODBYE.
The video versions of Nick and Alex hop onto their thrasher boards and the
world around them curls in upon itself.
The process is similar to what we've seen before, but even more extreme.
LIGHTS and SOUNDS are pouring out of the ARCADE machine in almost
unbearable intensities. It seems as if the "real" world is going to be
SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE.
ANOTHER FLASH OF LIGHT AND...
Alex and Nick disappear from the real world completely. Their equipment,
gloves and goggles, fall to the floor, empty. They've been physically
sucked inside the game!
The light from the screen dies down now and everything is oddly quiet.
BOOM! Suddenly a circuit grid is rushing up to meet them!
(Note: As we move through each level, video legends will appear on the
screen as title cards, enhancing the effect that we are actually inside a
The words "LEVEL ONE -- BLOOD RED SKY" flash across the screen and we...
EXT. LEVEL ONE, THE PLAINS -- DAY
Alex and Nick slam into the ground like twin meteors, splashing up water
THE RED SKY
crackles with LIGHTNING. Smoke obscures everything. Alex and Nick pull
themselves up, a bit dazed.
You feel it? It's different this time.
We're actually inside, aren't we?
Give us a kiss?
(after a moment)
One. In case...
Don't even say it.
Nick leans over and gently kisses Alex on the lips. It's over in a
moment, but he'll savor it the rest of his life.
Thanks. Always wanted to do that.
Yeah, well I figure these are unusual
That's what I was hoping you'd say.
Nick flips the visor on his helmet down and checks the digital read-out on
his CyberGlove. When he speaks, his VOICE is filtered through a radio
headset. Nick looks good in his armor, tough. Hell, they both do.
I'll take the lead and handle the physical
threats. You watch the elapsed time and
look for exits.
Nick tosses his thrasher board down and it hovers above the water. He
steps onto it, comfortable. Alex does the same. She's a little shaky, but
she maintains her balance.
You steer by pivoting your back foot...
Nick turns, looking around. The land seems identical in every direction.
Which way do you think Level Two is?
You've got the schematics, check.
Nick panics for a moment, patting his uniform, checking pockets. He can't
Oh shit! What if they didn't come with us?!
He stops. Reaches into a pocket, and pulls out the schematics. Breathes
a sigh of relief.
(looking at them)
Okay. It's West.
The keys are supposed to be at the end of
each level. Once we get all the keys, we
can unlock ARCADE's heart. And then...
She looks at Nick, uncertain.
...and then we go to the Final Level.
(off her look)
Hey, don't worry about it. It's a game.
How bad could it be?
Alex glances at her wrist display. The "ELAPSED TIME" bar is made up of
ten blocks of light stacked upon each other. The top block has
disappeared. One tenth of their time is gone.
The clock's already ticking.
Nick leans forward and the board starts to float. Alex does the same, and
in seconds, they're gliding over the plains.
as we see their forms disappear in the smoke.
EXT. LEVEL ONE, PLAINS -- LATER
Nick and Alex pull to a stop.
stands in the plains, seemingly leading to nowhere. Nick reaches out and
opens it. It's just plains and empty space beyond...
...but hanging from the top of the doorway is a golden key.
She reaches up and pulls it down.
I don't get it. This is supposed to be the
end of the level, but it doesn't go anywhere.
Alex puts her hand through the doorway and her hand disappears.
It only looks like it leads to nowhere.
Nick glances at his wrist display.
And we've still got time left. This was a
piece of cake.
Yeah, that's what worries me.
She steps through the doorway and disappears. Nick follows.
We hold on the empty doorway. Hold for a moment, and then...
We hear a distant, high-pitched RINGING. It's grating, seeping inside our
brains and mucking around in there. On the horizon there is a quick FLASH
Something is coming.
The words "LEVEL TWO -- DEADLANDS"
EXT. LEVEL TWO, SALT FLATS -- DAY
Alex and Nick are cruising along salt flats. Sporadic pools of water and
strange ROARING sounds in the mist. So far so good. Nick glances at his
wrist display. His "STRENGTH" only has a few blocks left.
Hey, my strength's low. Look out for
She points North. A small BALL OF LIGHT is streaking across the sky, just
above the watery plains.
Alex and Nick swerve towards it, gaining ground. As they near it, Nick
swings out his hand, scooping the Firefly up. As soon as he touches it, it
bursts like a bubble.
Check your read-out.
Nick does. His "STRENGTH" is back to normal again.
You're right. It worked.
Nick and Alex slow their boards to a stop, stepping off them.
She sweeps left and scoops the second Firefly out of the sky. Off in the
distance we can hear that RINGING again, just at the edge of our vision.
Alex and Nick don't hear it yet.
Nick is glancing down at his schematic of Level Two.
According to this, the doorway should be
somewhere around here...
The salt flats have gradually diminished, replaced by more and more water.
Ahead of them, there's no longer anything solid to stand on...just water,
muck, and strange reeds poking through the mist.
Alex's wrist display begins to BEEP. She glances down.
Only one block of time remains and it's pulsing on and off. The RINGING is
a little louder now.
Our time's up.
What?! There's nothing here!
The two of them stumble through the water, not even sure of what they're
(starting to panic)
I don't see the doorway!
Alex and Nick's wrist displays are BEEPING like crazy now. The beeps come
closer and closer until they meld into one piercing high-pitched TONE.
the RINGING turns into the SHRIEK/SONIC BOOM of the Screamer. A burst of
light on the horizon shatters the sky.
What the fuck is that?!
plunges into the marsh-like water, waist-high, and it's then that she sees
a glow emanating from beneath the water. She dives forward...
BENEATH THE SURFACE OF THE BRACKISH WATER
Alex swims towards the GLOW. Ahead of her, the depths drop off sharply,
perhaps some hundred feet or so.
She can just make out a doorway...down, down, down...
Alex bursts up from the water, gulping in breaths of air. Nick is nearby.
is beginning is vibrate now, heralding the Screamer. The SHRIEK is
Nick! It's beneath the water! We have to
Nick stumbles in up to his neck. He can see the GLOW now too.
We can't reach that!
(over the noise)
We don't have a choice!
Alex dives beneath the surface again.
Nick glances back towards the horizon and gets one fleeting glimpse of...
A nightmare creation rocketing in from the East... That's it for Nick. He
Nick follows Alex into the shadowy depths. He swims madly, but the GLOW
seems impossibly far away. Even under water, the Apocalyptic sound of the
Screamer can be heard.
peddles his arms and legs furiously. Down, down, down...
He knows that they'll never have enough air to make it back to the
is more clearly distinguished now. It's a DOORWAY. And set in its side
is a golden key. Alex reaches it. She grabs the key and turns to see how
far behind Nick is...
doubles his efforts, but his lungs are straining...
has plunged into the water above, shooting towards Nick like a torpedo, a
swirling jet-stream of bubbles trailing around it.
Nick panics, and what little air he has left escapes him.
Alex is reaching for Nick...
Nick is blacking out, one last lunge at the doorway...
The Screamer is there now. No time.
The words "LEVEL THREE -- THE BLUE DESERT" flash across the screen and
EXT. LEVEL THREE, DESERT -- DAY
Alex and Nick fall from the sky onto the dunes. They lie there a moment,
gasping for breath. They're an odd sight, two people soaked from head to
toe, dropped in the middle of a bone-dry desert...
...and a blue one at that. There's an eerie stillness about this Level,
even the clouds above are frozen. Nothing lives here now, and nothing ever
Nick coughs, sucking in air.
Alex rises halfway, pulling up her visor. She stares at the golden key
which she clutches in her hand. Her wet hair hangs about her face in
strings and she shivers.
(looking at the key)
So that's what we almost died for?
One of them, anyway...
Did you see it? The Screamer?
I don't want to talk about it.
Nick glances at his wrist display.
Even as he watches, the first of the ten "TIME ELAPSED" blocks blinks
There never is.
Nick heaves himself up into a standing position and looks around. They
are on the top of a massive dune.
THEIR THRASHER BOARDS
now looks like snowboards. It doesn't take Nick long to figure out what
We can take the dunes down like a ski slope.
Pretend you're on a snowboard.
(snapping down her visor)
Never been on a snowboard.
Nick steps on the board and edges it over the crest of the dune. He
begins to slide down, slowly picking up speed.
A SERIES OF SHOTS...
...as Alex and Nick negotiate the dunes. They glide over the sand
gracefully, cutting back left and right to keep their speed down, sweeping
in wide arcs...
Under any other circumstances, they'd be having the time of their lives.
Alex has adjusted to the environment quickly, at ease of the
The dunes gradually level out. Alex and Nick slow to a stop.
Alex flips up her visor. Her face is covered with grime now, hardened.
I guess we're walking from here on out.
They pick up their boards and walk.
EXT. LEVEL THREE, DESERT -- LATER
Alex and Nick have been walking for a long time. Nick is silent, just
staring straight ahead at the endless sand. He looks wasted. Zoned out.
His face is beaded with sweat.
Once again, their wrist displays begin to BEEP.
(almost a whisper)
Nick starts to LAUGH, sinking to his knees.
We're fucked. That's it.
Alex pulls on Nick's arm, forcing him to his feet.
Get up, Nick...
Nick isn't going anywhere fast. Alex tries to drag him forward, but she
slips in the sand.
And then, from off in the distance...
Alex turns. She focuses on the horizon and sees a tiny speck. She taps a
control on her helmet and her view is magnified.
Benz is up ahead. buried up to his waist in the blue sand and sinking
quickly. He waves his hands for help. and clutched in one of them is the
Alex breaks into a run, and after a moment, Nick follows. He's walking,
though...in no hurry to reach Benz.
The desert is swallowing him up. Only his head and arms remain. He's in
a state of total panic.
Get me out of here! Oh God!!!
is running at top speed, half-stumbling across the dunes. Her
wrist-display is BEEPING furiously.
His head starts to disappear beneath the sand and his cries are choked
Alex reaches the spot and now, only Benz' clutched fist remains. The hand
opens and the gold key falls onto the sand.
Alex DIVES for Benz' hand, but it sinks just before she can reach it. She
SCREAMS and claws at the sand, trying to find him. She digs and digs, but
all she finds is more sand. With each second she becomes more frantic.
Finally Alex stops, noticing the key and idly picking it up.
around Alex ERUPTS and BONES come flying up into the air, Benz' bones!
Alex SCREAMS. The bones rain down around her in bloody fragments. It's
as if the Earth has chewed Benz up and spit out the nasty bits.
At that very moment, the BEEPS on her wrist-display meld into the single
As if on cue, it enters Level Two, breaking the Sound Barrier.
As he stands some hundred feet away, oblivious to everything. We can hear
Alex SCREAMING, but the sound is muffled, distant. Nick is staring down
at his feet at an area where the sand has hardened like glass. Inside the
sand/glass, Nick can make out fractals. He smiles.
streaks across the sky towards them, blowing up a maelstrom of sand as it
crosses the dunes...
as she sees that a rabbit hole of sorts has been created where the bones
were ejected. Actually, not a rabbit hole, but a circular, pulsing mouth
with razor sharp teeth. Alex realizes, much to her horror, that this is
the doorway to Level Three!
Alex shouts at Nick, trying to break the spell over him.
But the Screamer is bearing down on him, like a heat-seeking missile...
as he watches the fractals. ARCADE'S face appears in the mirrored sand,
smiling back at him.
At the last possible moment, Nick seems to wake from his trance. He sees
Alex, hears her, then turns. He has about one fear-wrought second to
realize that the Screamer has reached him when...
The Screamer SLAMS into Nick at about 200 miles per hour. Nick, literally,
liquefies. The human body is 95% water, and Nick EXPLODES like a water
balloon on high impact, blood spraying in a fine mist across the dunes,
Alex, and everything for a good fifty yards.
Alex is frozen with terror. You remember your worst childhood nightmare
monster? The one you'd see in your room at night as your brain cooked
with fever? Too paralyzed to call out for Mom? Well that's the Screamer.
stands where Nick used to be (a red mess on the blue sand now). Black as
night. Like living, roiling lava. Smoking, charged RED EYES. One third
demon, one third Balrog, and one third rotting corpse. Clad in chains and
samurai armor, CLINKING as it moves. It rear back its head, opens a
fanged mouth, and lets loose a ROAR designed to shake the stars from the
Then it focuses it's eyes on Alex. And it charges.
unfreezes. She's got seconds to make up her mind, the doorway/mouth or
the Screamer. It's really no choice at all. Alex turns and dives
straight down into the pulsing mouth.
The jaws of the rabbit hole SNAP shut around her. Darkness consumes
These words appear on screen, "LEVEL THREE -- TOWER OF GHOSTS"
EXT. LEVEL FOUR, VOLCANO -- DAY
We are looking at a steep cliff face composed of black, volcanic rock.
This world is desaturated, gray, and harsh. The rocks looks sharp as
As we will discover, the cliff face is also composed of skulls, old and
blackened, set inside the rock.
We hear a HUMMING and Alex "fades in", appearing on the side of the cliff
face. Immediately she starts to fall, realizes where she is, and hugs the
cliff for dear life. Rock shards crumble away beneath her feet. Alex
looks down ...
She hugs the cliff face tighter, tears and grime streaking her face. She's
alone now and she knows it. She looks up ...
It's a long way to go.
Alex reaches a hand upward. Ouch! The rock's hot. She jerks her hand
back and almost loses her perch.
Her gloves are smoking and singed.
Alex starts to cry freely now. She reaches inside her chestplate,
fumbling, and pulls something out...
It's the Polaroid of her and Greg. But then the wind catches it and tears
it from her hand.
twists downward, round and round into infinity.
Alex stares after it a moment. Then she lets out a tired little laugh and
starts to climb.
A SERIES OF DISSOLVES...
as Alex climbs, sometimes using a skull itself as a hand or foothold.
We see her "TIME ELAPSED" blocks blinking away.
Time running out and more climbing. Then...
EXT. LEVEL FOUR, VOLCANO RIM -- DAY
Alex stands on the rim of the volcano. At her feet is a golden key. And
before her, a big drop.
ALEX'S WRIST DISPLAY
Her final block of time disappears. The BEEPING starts.
Alex doesn't even pause. She steps off the rim into empty space...
...and just as she's about to fall, a doorway of light appears in the air.
Alex falls through it, vanishing.
"LEVEL FIVE -- KINGDOM OF THE BLIND"
EXT. LEVEL FIVE, ARCTIC WASTES -- DAY
Snow whips across a world of white in wraith-like sheets. We move in on
one particular bank...
Something is buried there. The wind gradually blows the snow away,
She rises from the snow bank, disoriented. Everything is impossibly
bright, blinding. Alex stands. She draws up her hand to shade her eyes
Music begins. CELLOS. Like before.
Alex, snowboarding for real this time, over slopes of powder...
Alex's "STRENGTH" diminishing...
Alex catching Fireflies...
Alex jumping across a crevice on her board. (Warren Miller stuff
"TIME ELAPSED" growing with every moment...
Alex gliding down mountainsides...
A flash of Greg, of Benz, of Laurie...
A flash of Nick...
NICK'S VOICE (V.O.)
I know how to do this. I'm good at these
games. You never play, you'd get nailed in
And a flash of Nick's horrified face at the Screamer reaches
Alex's face, grim and determined...
EXT. LEVEL FIVE, ARCTIC WASTES -- LATER
Alex glides to a stop even as her wrist display starts to BEEP. This time
a wooden doorway is standing directly in front of her, the golden key
sticking out of the lock.
As Alex reaches for it, the Screamer enters Level Four. Alex slowly opens
ALBERT'S VOICE (V.O.)
You can get a free life on Level Four, but
you have to wait for the last possible
Alex turns and waits calmly for the Screamer.
is a black speck on the horizon, then a bullet, then a nightmarish face
bearing down on her...
flare open to engulf her.
Alex doesn't flinch at all. And at the last possible second before
BLINK! A stylized figure appears on her wrist-display next to the "TIME
ELAPSED" meter. Beneath the figure it says "FREE LIFE".
Alex feels the breath of the Screamer on her face and falls back through
"LEVEL SIX -- SHOCK CORRIDOR"
INT. LEVEL SIX, SHOCK CORRIDOR -- NIGHT
Alex steps out of a doorway into a long, narrow hallway. The hallway is
mirrored on one side. It has no doors or windows, and up ahead, it
branches off to the right and the left.
Alex turns and looks behind her. The doorway she came through is gone
now. A mirrored wall stands in its place, with her own reflection staring
back at her.
There are subtle changes. They shouldn't be noticeable at first, but the
reflection seems somehow more threatening.
Alex starts down the hall, her reflection keeping pace with her. Up
ahead, she hears a BUZZING noise, drawing closer.
LIGHT flickers in the hallway to the left, presumably whatever it is
that's BUZZING. Suddenly a streak of light, running along the floor,
turns the corner and heads down the hallway towards Alex.
The light hits her feet and SPARKS fly. Alex SCREAMS and is thrown back
against the wall, shocked. The streak of light continues past her and
disappears into the mirror at the hall's end. It's like a moving
She's been given a pretty good jolt. Her hands shake for a moment, an
after-seizure of sorts, and she stands...
HER MIRRORED REFLECTION
is watching her, arms crossed. This wouldn't be a problem were it not for
the fact that Alex currently doesn't have her arms crossed!
(to her reflection)
The reflection grins and its/her eyes GLOW with fractals.
(in ARCADE'S voice)
ANY TIME, BITCH.
Spooked, Alex continues down the hallway, reaching the end and turning
Alex moves quicker now, glancing left as her reflection follows.
BUZZZZZ!!! Here comes another streak of light, rushing in along the floor
from a side corridor...
Alex LEAPS over it, and it passes harmlessly under her. Now she's getting
the hang of it. She starts forward again.
BUZZZZZ!!! Here come two at a time from opposite directions...
Alex has to jump left to avoid the first streak and lands directly in the
path of the second. Then she jumps back to the right again...
THE TWO STREAKS
pass by, zipping away from each other.
The pace quickens, with Alex racing down the corridors. She turns corner
after corner. It's become a virtual maze.
We cut back to Alex's "STRENGTH" and "TIME ELAPSED" meters again and
again. Both are shrinking away to nothing.
And all the while, her reflection keeps pace with her, growing
increasingly more nightmarish in appearance. As Alex tires, the
reflection seems to gain more strength.
BUZZZZZ!!! BUZZZZZ!!! The streaks are shooting towards her with more
frequency, and now they're racing along the walls too. Alex is jumping
left and right, with SPARKS exploding around her.
seems to be metamorphosizing. Each time we see it/her, she looks a little
different. What's gradually happening (as time elapses) is that Alex's
reflection is turning into The Screamer.
Alex moves with increasing urgency as the streaks converge on her. The
corridors are filled with a constant BUZZING and flickering of light.
SPARKS fly and Alex is shocked over and over.
She stumbles, falls to the floor, and rolls to the right, just missing a
streak. It cuts past her face, centimeters away.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Off goes her wrist display! Alex is up and running
We cut faster and faster Alex running, the streaks of light, the
She's back where she started. And the corridor dead-ends in a mirrored
Dozens of light streaks are dogging her heels, literally just behind her.
They're so thick that she couldn't possibly leap over all of them.
Seconds before they reach her.
AHEAD OF ALEX,
the mirror shows her own reflection, rushing closer. Her wrist display
indicates that time is up with a prolonged BEEP and her own reflection
vanishes. It's the Screamer in her reflection's place. Only it's
rocketing towards her in the mirror. It's in front of her this time,
instead of behind her.
Rock and a fucking hard place. Light streaks or Screamers?
It's really no choice at all. Her guts says "Screamer".
Alex leaps and SMASHES into the mirror at full speed. The world is filled
with SHATTERING GLASS and a shower of infinite reflections and then we...
EXT. LEVEL SEVEN, PIER -- DAY
The sound of SHATTERING GLASS carried through as Alex EXPLODES out of the
sky. And it's the sky itself that seems to be shattering...
Title reads "LEVEL SEVEN -- SEA OF DARKNESS"
continues her fall. She lands hard. No blue desert sand to cushion her
here. It takes her a moment to rise...
Alex is on a slat-board pier extending out into a sea of black water. The
shore is completely desolate with the exception of the pier. Storms
clouds have gathered above, and if you've seen a storm blowing in on the
open sea, you know what it looks like...
...the and of the world. A strange and scary yellow/green sky presses
down on us. It's a hurricane sky. The calm before the storm.
ON THE HORIZON,
TWO CITIES can be seen. Techno-cityscapes, angular and metallic-looking,
towers jutting up from the sea like knives.
AT THE END OF THE PIERS
are two boats. Standing in them are two pale-faced, cloaked FIGURES.
Like Charon, the boatman on the river Styx.
Somewhere off in the distance, the RINGING can be distinctly heard now.
But Alex is preoccupied now. As she moves down the pier, recognition
dawns on her.
It's Laurie and Stilts. They are dressed completely in black, hair
slicked back and eyes empty. White-faced Gothic harlequins. Each is
holding a wooden staff, staring into space.
Guys! Oh my God...
Alex rushes forward, excited, but as she sees their faces excitement
fades. A chill wind picks up and the sea laps at the pier like a
metronome, lulling the world into stillness.
Neither of them acknowledges Alex with their eyes.
You may ask one of us a question.
One tells the truth, and the other lies.
Who you ask, remains your discretion.
But if the answer is wrong,
the questioner dies.
Laurie motions to the techno-cities behind her.
One of these cities, is the place you seek.
The Teller of Truths will take you there.
But the City of Lies, is dark and bleak.
And death is certain if you enter, beware.
I am The Liar. Where should I take you?
I am the Truth Teller. Where should I take
Alex stares at them a moment, utterly confused. The sky above darkens,
and the wind picks up. She looks to the horizon, from one city to
another, then back at her friends.
What did he do to you?
Is that your question?
Wait! No! That's not it!
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alex doesn't even need to look at her wrist display
anymore. She begins to pace on the end of the pier, nervously glancing at
the horizon. And yes, there's the FLASH followed by the SHRIEK/SONIC
Think! I want to go to the City of Truth,
and the Truth Teller is from there...but
which one is which? The liar...think!
You have no time. What is your question?
You have no time.
is visible now, arms opening to engulf Alex. Talk about pressure.
(she stops pacing)
The liar...Truth Teller...liar...liar...
Alex rushes over to Stilts.
Liar. Did you come from the city on the
left, or the city on the right?
I came from the city on the left.
But you always lie, so you didn't come from
there. That means the city on the left must
be the City of Truth.
has reached the pier now, rocketing over the wooden slats and shaking the
Alex turns to Laurie.
Take me to the city on the left!
Laurie nods and steps aside, making room for Alex to climb into the boat.
She does and...
dissipates just before it reaches Alex. It turns into mist and vanishes,
the HOWL lingering as an echo long after the Screamer itself has gone.
At once, the boat begins to glide through the water, away from the pier.
Alex gets a last glimpse of Stilts standing in his boat, diminishing as
Alex and Laurie move away from him. He looks like the loneliest person in
"LEVEL EIGHT -- CITY OF TRUTH"
EXT. LEVEL SEVEN, OPEN SEA -- LATER
As Alex and Laurie near the city, its features become more apparent. It
is truly a Necropolis, black and angular. It's a shadow on the sunset
horizon, empty of all life and looming above them.
Just then, Alex hears a tiny VOICE.
A SMALL FIGURE
bobs in the water about fifty yards in front of them. It waves it's hands
frantically, sinking below the water's surface, then rising once again.
It's a little BOY.
Alex's boat is going to pass right by the boy. She grabs hold of the
gunwale and reaches out for him...
Grab my hand!
Their hands lock and Alex YANKS the boy out of the water as the boat
can't be more than seven or eight. Small and frail-looking, he shivers in
Where are we?
Just then the boat comes to a CRASHING stop, slamming into the black rocks
which the city rests on. Alex and the boy are violently pitched forward
and out of the boat.
They land roughly on a beach of black gravel. Alex turns.
stands in the boat. In an instant, night has fallen. She is a silhouette
in the moonlight.
(in a voice like Death)
The City of Truth.
And Laurie literally fades before their eyes. In her place, is a small
Alex snatches up the key. Alex turns back to the boy and...
INT. LEVEL EIGHT, CONCRETE WASTELAND -- NIGHT
...Alex and the boy are now standing on the top of a concrete incline. It
extends downward into a system of tunnels and viaducts. The RINGING
starts immediately, followed by the FLASH on the horizon. Time's already
up. The little boy reaches for Alex's hand, frightened.
How did you get here? Did you play the
Alex removes pulls her Thrasher board from her back and drops it on the
lip of the incline. There's a FLASH and the board has changes into a
motorcycle. A sleek black one.
Can you hang onto my back?
The little boy nods. He knows that Alex is his only chance of getting out
of here. Nevertheless, we can tell that he's terrified. Alex kneels down
next to him. The wind around them has picked up and the RINGING
increases. High-pitched, stabbing into our brains.
There's a monster here. We have to kill it
before we can leave. That's what we have
to do. I know it's scary, but I won't let
anything happen to you. Okay?
The boy nods again.
Then we'll go home?
Then we'll go home.
Alex's wrist display starts BEEPING and...BOOM! The RINGING is replaced
by the Screamer's shriek. In the distance, the Screamer is a fireball
spiraling towards the city.
Alex jumps on the motorcycle and pulls the boy up. He crawls behind her
and hugs her back tightly.
(pulling down her visor)
Here goes everything.
She fingers the throttle and the cycle ROARS to life. It rockets off the
incline and down into the tunnels.
A SERIES OF SHOTS
as Alex maneuvers the cycle through a forest of concrete. It's a harrowing
ride, as her headlight reveals little of what's up ahead. Somewhere above
the tunnels, the Screamer has arrived. In the course of the chase, it's
SHRIEK will become louder and louder as it draws closer, locating Alex.
appears out of side tunnels and a chase is on. The RIDER is dressed in
black with glowing death's head masks.
Dark Riders! If they touch us, we're dead!
The tunnels get narrower and narrower, as Alex keeps pushing the limit off
Rider #1 tries to cut Alex off, charging forward and ramming her bike...
Alex almost loses it, but finds balance once again, sweeping left and up
the side of a circular tunnel...
bites it. His cycle careens into the wall and EXPLODES in a shower of
GREEN LIGHT. The death's head tumbles away, spinning end over end. The
Screamer BLASTS over the remains of the Rider, having entered the tunnels.
TWO MORE RIDERS APPEARS
gaining on Alex. Rider #2 pulls a staff from his back and thrusts it
forward like a lance. CHINK! The staff hits Alex's rear wheel, nearly
throwing her. The rider pulls off a gloved and reaches a glowing,
skeletal hand towards them. Death touch. The boy SCREAMS in terror.
a wall is rushing to meet them. Alex jams the breaks and slides/skids
sideways, cutting right at the last possible moment...
WHAM!!! Rider #2 slams into the end wall, not able to negotiate the turn.
Another EXPLOSION of green and the second death's head comes tumbling
Alex looks back. There should be one Rider left, only now their are
three! Alex guns the bike and cuts sharply to the right...
NEW TUNNEL --
Alex SCREECHES to a stop, having found yet another fork. The tunnel
branches off into two directions. Two neon signs with arrows point in
They read, "THIS WAY" and "THAT WAY". Alex checks her wrist display. Not
much time left.
Alex backs up the cycle and heads down the tunnel marked "THIS WAY"
It narrows almost immediately. Alex hears a ROAR, glances behind her, and
sees four death's head RIDERS on her tail. She makes another turn...
is a crumbling brick wall with the words "WRONG WAY" painted in blood-red.
It's the wrong way!
(over the noise)
In this world, wrong is right!
the tunnel behind them flares with light, shaking like an earthquake. The
Screamer has found them.
hangs out from the wall, sort of like the brass ring on a merry-go-round.
Alex snags it as she sweeps by.
rockets around the corner, twisting down the narrow tunnel.
Alex grinds the motorcycle forward for all it's worth, and the Screamer is
literally breathing down her neck. She turns corner after corner, faster
and faster, scraping the bike into the scum-covered walls and shooting out
showers of SPARKS. If she takes one second too long to negotiate a turn,
pauses for even an instant, the Screamer will be on them...
A CLAWED HAND
lashes out and tears away the cycle's tail-pipe. Another hand takes out a
chunk of the seat...
is WAILING, curling low to avoid the Screamer's claws...
the tunnel narrows to a dead-end. Alex and the Screamer are on a
collision course. A hundred miles an hour and gaining...
The Screamer LASHES out again, gouging a bloody gash in Alex's shoulder
and cutting clear through her armor. It's claws sink into her flesh,
latching on. Alex CRIES OUT in pain, her face contorted into a mask of
agony and fear. She pulls out a knife with her left hand a stabs blindly
into the monster...
LURCHES forward onto the motorcycle and opens its jaws wide. Black saliva
and ooze flow from it's mouth splashing over Alex's shoulder's and neck.
It's going to bite her head off. It's going to...
Alex and the Screamer SLAM into the dead-end and a spectacular fireball of
GREEN LIGHT consumes the screen.
"LEVEL NINE -- THE GHETTO OF GREED"
EXT. LEVEL NINE, CRUMBLING HONG KONG GHETTO -- NIGHT
We're on a dark, crowded street lined by decrepit tenements which are
caving in upon themselves.
There is a flash of GREEN LIGHT. Alex and the boy suddenly appear on the
street in a whirlwind of papers, sans motorcycle, but still sliding
forward at a good thirty miles an hour. Were it not for their armor,
they'd be torn to shreds. They skid to a stop under a sputtering
Alex and the boy are still SCREAMING. Anguish is the word for Alex. She
clutches her shoulder which is gushing blood and stumbles to her feet.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!!!!!!
It's her fucking wrist display again and TIME-IS-FUCKING-UP!
Alex SCREAMS, pushed to the absolute breaking point.
BOOM! Once again the streets begin to vibrate as the Screamer enters the
Oh God...oh god...
THE STREETS --
Impoverished PEOPLE bustle back and forth everywhere. Alex grabs the boy's
hand and all but drags him down the darkened streets. It becomes a mad,
blind dash through Hell. She SMASHES into peddlers, stalls, tripping over
or knocking down everything in her path...
The SHRIEK/SONIC BOOM of the Screamer overwhelms everything else. With
each level, it's gotten louder and louder. Wind is tearing down the
A BLACK-CLAD FIGURE
spins out of the shadows, landing in front of them. It's a Ninja, two
swords spinning in its hands.
Instinctively, Alex reaches to her side, and sure enough, there's a gun
there now. She unholsters it and FIRES in a blind panic.
BLAM! Down goes the Ninja #1, spouting blood from its chest.
THWUNK! THWUNK!!! Two throwing stars imbed themselves into Alex's
...and Jesus-fucking-Christ, Ninjas are crawling out of the wood-work!
They dive out of the shadows, weapons spinning and glistening in the
moonlight. Throwing stars are flying like hail now, CLINKING! into the
concrete walls behind Alex and the boy...
spins around, shooting indiscriminately into the crowd of bodies. BLAM!
BLAM! BLAM! Ninjas fall right and left, but in no time, twice as many
move in to take their place. They're like the hornet's nest of Alien
monsters, black-clad shadows creeping towards them.
A shot hits the streetlight above, casting a sputtering, strobing light
over the whole scene and adding to the chaos.
The world is shaking apart. It's the end of everything. It's flashes of
light and noise, nightmares and blood, chaos heaped on chaos...
Alex FIRES her gun again and again and again...
...and in the midst of this mess, here comes the Screamer again. It
shoots down the street like a guided missile.
Alex stumbles. The Boy drags at her arm, trying to pull her up...
Alex is crying, hysterical. She turns and sees the Screamer bearing down
on her, just like Nick did before her was ripped to shreds.
The boy is yelling something. Alex focuses...
The doorway! It's here!!!
is pulling back a manhole cover. BLUE LIGHT issues up from below.
Before Alex can stop him, the boy disappears down the hole.
Alex has one last chance. She throws herself at the hole even as the
Screamer reaches her. A clawed hand wraps around her leg. Alex FIRES
into the hand. The hand is severed! She's falling! Falling into
"LEVEL TEN -- BAD BRAINS"
EXT. LEVEL TEN, TECHNO-SKYSCRAPER -- NIGHT
ON ALEX AND THE BOY
as they blink into existence on this level. Alex rises, shaking badly.
Her armor is battered, burnt, covered with grim and blood...it's
impossible to tell who's blood, though. She looks like she's just walked
out of a slaughter-house.
A bone-jarring HUMMING is heard. Alex turns...
looms over her, all glass and black steel. It reaches into the sky and
keeps on going. Massive. Tendrils of crackling ENERGY race up and down
it, BUZZING. And as impossible as it may seem, this thing definitely
appears to be alive.
TWO GLASS DOORS
swing open in invitation. A red carpet rolls out from within the
building, rolling by itself. Emerald City time. The carpet unfurls
completely, ending just at Alex's feet.
Above the doors, a neon sign blinks on, one word at a time,
Alex offers a tired, near-maddened laugh. It's all she can do anymore.
looks up at Alex, frightened.
We have to go in there, don't we?
Alex nods. She takes his hand and together, they walk down the red carpet
towards the entrance of ARCADE'S brain.
INT. LEVEL TEN, ARCADE'S BRAIN -- NIGHT
Inside, the lobby is a cacophony of LIGHT and SOUND. We hear HUNDREDS OF
VOICES at once...whispering...fading in and out... It's like channels
being changed. A snippet of an opera here, maybe Bugs Bunny's voice
there...RAP MUSIC, COUNTRY MUSIC, a woman in the throes of orgasm, Nazis
screaming "HEIL HITLER!", anything and everything.
SIGNS BLINK ON AND OFF...
Catchy phrases like, "THIS IS MY BRAIN AND WELCOME TO IT", and "I THINK,
THEREFORE, I'M FUCKED" flash before us.
are everywhere, displaying an endless array of STATIC. And now the
monitors are displaying FRACTALS. Every single one of them. We hear the
CELLOS, like an orchestra tuning up.
throws her hands over her ears as the SOUNDS become unbearable.
(top of her lungs)
She pulls out her gun at FIRES into the SOUNDS and IMAGES. Shooting the
fuck out of everything. Monitor screens shatter, glass flies and...
...just like that, total silence descends. One by one, the lights blink
off, and it's dark once again.
INT. LEVEL TEN, THE NIGHT ROOM --
comes on, isolating Alex. The boy stands behind her, and everything else
is dark. It's impossible to tell how large the room is. It might go on
come on now, pin-point spots illuminating the faces of her friends.
They're all there...Stilts, Laurie, the others. Even Nick. They sit in
rows, motionless...a peanut gallery. It's eerie as hell.
And now, Alex sees something else, Greg. He's encased in a block of ice.
A frozen prince. And in his hands he holds a sword. The sword is very
unusual. The hilt is shaped like a heart and it glows RED as if it had
just pulled from a furnace. Alex realizes that the sword is ARCADE'S
Alex moves towards Greg. As she gets closer, she sees a keyhole carved
into the ice.
Alex knows what to do. She withdraws her belt on which the nine golden
keys are attached. Removing the keys, Alex begins to fit them
together...one, two, three...until they combine to form the shape of a
single, greater key.
Alex fits it into the keyhole and turns it.
THE CASE OF ICE
splits in half, opening up with a cloud of frosty air. Inside, Greg is
frozen still, clutching the sword. Alex pulls the sword out of his stiff
grip, lifting it up.
Okay. I'm here, ARCADE. Where are you?
No answer. Alex turns, eyes searching through the darkness.
Where are you, damnit?!
Her voice echoes in the cavernous room.
RIGHT HERE, BITCH.
Alex spins around and...
stands before her. He grins and his eyes pulse with an internal light.
We can hear him BREATHING now, just like before. Just like the game.
You...you're ARCADE? But the donor...
...WAS AN EIGHT-YEAR OLD BOY. YOU SEE,
MOMMY USED TO BEAT ME. MOMMY THREW ME DOWN
A FLIGHT OF STAIRS. THEN I WENT TO SLEEP
FOR A LONG, LONG TIME, AND WHEN I WOKE UP,
I WAS HERE, AND I WASN'T ME ANYMORE...
...AND I FUCKED MOMMY UP GOOD...
ARCADE begins to change, shaking and ROARING as something black and
insect-like bursts out of the boy's skin. It claws at its face, ripping
the flesh away and revealing something altogether awful underneath.
Nothing could have prepared Alex for this. It/ARCADE rises above her and
it takes every ounce of her courage to keep from screaming. Somehow, Alex
finds a reserve of strength.
Alex swings the sword and...
ARCADE SMASHES it aside. It CLATTERS to the floor, useless. But that's
academic now as a gnarled hand clamps around Alex's throat.
ARCADE lifts Alex into the air and SLAMS her against a wall, pinning her
there. He thrusts his face into hers.
YOU'RE TOO LATE, ALEX. YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN
TOO LATE. AND NOW YOUR TIME'S UP. YOU
SEE, I NEEDED SOMEONE TO RETRIEVE MY HEART
FOR ME. I COULDN'T DO IT MYSELF. THOSE
ARE THE RULES. BUT NOW THAT I'VE GOT IT,
I'LL DESTROY IT. AND I'LL BE FREE OF MY
PROGRAM, AND I'LL BE GOD. THANK-YOU, ALEX.
THANK-YOU SO MUCH.
ARCADE slowly squeezes her throat and Alex chokes, gasping for air that
isn't forthcoming. Tears well up in her eyes and her face turns red. She
tries to pry the bony, black fingers from her throat, but she can't...
as she sees the faces of her friends. Frozen. Unable to help. Then the
images swirl and Alex begins to lose consciousness.
YOU'RE NOT DYING YET, ALEX. YOU HAVEN'T
BEEN TO THE FINAL LEVEL. LEVEL TEN.
ARCADE drops Alex to the ground, then wraps a hand into her hair and drags
her across the floor...
stands in the darkness. ARCADE rips it open, revealing absolute emptiness
beyond. It's like a doorway into space, a hole in the fabric of reality.
It sucks the air into it, light...everything. It touches some sort of
primal fear. Gut instinct. You don't ever want to go to this place. Ever.
She twists madly, trying to pull away, but ARCADE is too strong. He
shoves her through the doorway. Her hands briefly latch onto the
doorjamb. ARCADE violently kicks her and her hands slip away. They slip
and she tumbles through.
ARCADE slams the door shut.
GOODBYE, ALEX. IT'S BEEN REAL.
These words appear on the screen, "FINAL LEVEL -- THE REAL WORLD"
INT. MANNING HOUSE, HALLWAY -- DAY
Alex lands on the hallway floor, disoriented. Somewhere, we can hear a
clock TICKING. But other than that the house is silent, in stark contrast
to the storm of sounds a moment ago.
looks just like the dream/flashback we saw earlier. Everything is white.
Bright and dreamlike. Hyper reality. Alex looks up and...
is sitting in a chair nearby, back straight, hands clasped in her lap.
Time. That's all I ever think about
anymore. It's like there's never enough of
it, you know?
The other Alex vanishes. Now the chair is empty. Alex turns to look down
the long hallway. At the end of the hallway is the open door. A door
we've seen before. The words fade in like phantoms...
So where are you then?
I'm in the past.
No ... oh no ...
With a building sense of dread, Alex moves towards that doorway. She
stops at the threshold, terrified.
INT. MANNING HOUSE, BEDROOM -- DAY
Everything looks normal at first. A typical bedroom with sunlight
streaming in through the windows. A bed, made-up. Flowers in vases.
Everything looks perfect.
We turn with Alex. Ever so slowly. Over to the right and the entranceway
of the bathroom. Over to where her mother is...
...seated on a chair. dressed in white and radiating warmth!
looks beautiful. Eyes sparkling. Alive and vital.
Alex can't believe what she's seeing. Immediately, tears come to her eyes
and her voice falters...
Of course I am.
But I don't understand...
I miss you so much, Alex. I want so much
to be with you...
Tears are running freely down Alex's face now.
I love you, Alex. I never wanted to leave.
You know that, don't you?
Yes...but...how did you...
Her mother looks ecstatic. And now there are tears in her eyes. Joy,
reunion...it's unclear which.
Magic. We'll be together again.
I know you don't believe in an afterlife,
but there is one. Heaven is real.
Alex looks around her. It's all too much to take in. Her mother. Back
in her own home. Sunlight is streaming in, bathing everything around her
in gold and the moment is crystallized. A still-life. Forever.
Is...is that where we are? Did I die?
Not yet, honey...
Her mother stands and Alex sees that she is holding a gun...no, the gun,
in her hands. She raises at Alex.
...but I can fix that.
Alex has no time to respond. A still-born scream is frozen in her throat.
A split-second of realization. And then her mother FIRES the gun...
CRACK! The bullet hits Alex square in the forehead, snapping her head
back as an are of blood and brain matter trail outward. The world spins
to a stop, like a record player running down.
Alex is killed instantly. Her body collapse, head thumping
unceremoniously against the carpeted floor.
open and fixed on infinity. No life here. Seems hard to believe that
there ever was.
INT. LEVEL NINE, THE NIGHT ROOM --
ON ALEX'S FACE
There is no bullet-hole in her forehead, but her eyes are just as
THE PEANUT GALLERY
Row after row of frozen faces. Are they aware that Alex has died? Is
there consciousness inside those skulls?
as he crouches over Alex's body. A smile creeps across his face.
OH ALEX. SO SORRY. BUT DON'T YOU WORRY,
I'LL BRING YOU BACK IN THE GAME. MAYBE
I'LL EVEN GIVE YOU HEAVEN.
begins to decompose in front of us, skin sinking in and shriveling up. In
moments, she's just a husk.
ARCADE rears back, and is about to turn away, when something catches his
eye. He hears a tiny BEEPING.
ALEX'S WRIST MONITOR
Remember the stylized symbol of a woman? The one that said "FREE LIFE"
beneath it? Well it disappears now.
There's a sudden FLASH behind ARCADE and he spins around..
is standing behind him. and she's got the heart/sword in her hands!
Guess what, ass-hole? You forgot about my
She DIVES forward, thrusting the sword with all her might. It sinks into
ARCADE'S chest and she pushes further, burying it up to the hilt.
ARCADE lets loose the most terribly SCREAM we've ever heard. It literally
is glowing like molten lava. The heart-shaped hilt burns into the
monster's chest, spreading crackling fire over his entire body. His body
is immersed fire now, vibrating like mad and suddenly...
...ARCADE EXPLODES IN A FIREBALL OF GREEN LIGHT AND...
...he's gone. Like he never existed. The sword drops to the floor, a
gun-metal gray now.
Alex stands there a moment, stunned, not quite willing to believe that
A NEON SIGN
above her drops down. It flashes "CONGRATULATIONS" over and over again.
looks down at herself. She feels odd. Something is happening. She's
fading out, as if she were a signal being lost. Her image stutters,
INT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- NIGHT
Alex FLASHES back into the real world. And then one by one, so do the
It's a glorious sight. Each one is heralded by BUZZING STATIC, and then a
rippling in space, an image stuttering in and...
POP! POP! POP! One after another come FLASHING back in bursts of light!
There are dozens. The Inferno is filled with them, like a flurry of
flashbulbs going off. Familiar faces and people we've never seen. Benz,
Laurie, Stilts, DeLoach...
POP! And there's Nick! And more, and still more! Forty, fifty... Just
how many people did ARCADE take?
Everyone is grinning, crying, hugging one another.
just before Alex. SOMEONE else is trying to fight their way back. It's
Greg. He's blinking back into reality.
He flickers for a moment, tentative...
(fading in and out)
Alex! You did it!
...and then he's back for good. He wraps his arms around Alex, grabbing
her so tight that it's almost painful. Both of them are sobbing.
(in between kisses)
You did it...
Together, the two of them start towards the door, eager to leave this
In groups of twos and threes, the others follow.
EXT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- DAWN
Outside, light is just beginning to creep its way back into the world.
Alex glances up and can't help but notice the streetlight fading out as
the sun returns. She points and laughs.
WE BEGIN TO RISE UP,
as Nick and the others join them. Everyone is laughing now. It's
uncontrollable. This is positive. Life affirming. And hell, we should
probably wrap this thing up on that note.
...but we won't.
as a series of dissolves portray the crowd of people leaving, bit by bit,
until only our original group is left.
as they make their way down the street and away from The Inferno.
So how did you do it, Alex?
Well, it's a long story...
Alex catches Nick's eye briefly, and he smiles. Whatever happened between
them is over now. Friends again.
Suddenly Alex stops in her tracks, a look of concern washing over her
What is it?
I just thought of something. If we came
back from the game...
(turning to Nick)
...what if ARCADE did too?
A beat as the group mulls it over. Then Greg shakes his head.
Nah. You won, right? You played by the
Greg's right. Alex grins and dismisses the thought.
Okay. Forget I ever said it.
The group moves away from us once more.
So start at the beginning...
Give her a chance, will you?
I am giving her a chance. Why don't you
get off my back?
INT. DANTE'S INFERNO -- DAY
We are moving slowly through the empty arcade, ducking around and between
video machines until we reach the silent ARCADE prototype.
SPARKS appear on the ground nearby, chasing each other around and
coalescing into a ball. ENERGY crackling. SOMETHING is flickering in and
out at an incredible rate. BUZZING. STATIC. And...
WHAM!!! A FLASH OF LIGHT EXPLODES OUTWARD.
rises up from the floor, still trailing tendrils of smoke. It lifts its
stares directly at us, eyes glowing like nuclear reactors. And inside
those eyes we see the swirling fractals. He grins, flashing a mouthful of
perfectly white teeth.
KISS REALITY GOODBYE, SUCKERS.