This excerpt is from the beginning of a
feature length screenplay is based on the life of Nottingham poet: Vicki Feaver.
Similarly, to one of her poems, I titled it ‘The Witches’.
This screenplay is set in Calverton, Nottingham and it describes the events that occur in the poem, her upbringing in a house “of quarrelling women”. The text in bold is either a direct quote from the poet herself, found from interviews or forums, or most likely a quote from the original poem.
EXT. NOTTINGHAM CITY CENTRE – DAY
NOTTINGHAM, AUTUMN 1951
In the heart of Nottingham, the sun beams down onto two little girls, with their matching smocks and knitted cardigans, drowning their tiny frames. Skipping hand in hand down the cobbled streets of Nottingham’s lace market. JUDITH, the eldest sister is clutching a ruby red book, gleaming in merriment.
As the bus arrives, LINDA reaches into her empty pocket, takes a deep breath in and straightens her coat.
Sorry girls, we will have to walk home today.
EXT. CALVERTON COUNCIL ESTATE – AFTERNOON
Rain drops start to fall on the family as they approach their run-down two-bedroom house. LINDA, a pragmatic yet struggling single mother of three, ushers the sisters in. JUDITH scurries straight up the stairs grasping her new book, staring at it in awe.
INT. JUDITH AND CAROL’S BEDROOM – AFTERNOON
It is a Saturday afternoon and JUDITH is sat on the carpet of her small bedroom. The overwhelming number of books that fill the room act as a distraction from the out-dated decor. JUDITH has always loved reading, she uses it as a way to escape from the “quarrelling women” she lives with.
CAROL toddles up the stairs and heads straight into her shared bedroom. JUDITH is sat cross legged on the floor, deeply engrossed in her new book. Being a typical five-year-old, seeing her sister so intrigued in something sparks jealously in CAROL, she wants to have a look at the book herself. CAROL stands suspiciously, plotting what to do in her head as she proceeds to snatch the book out of JUDITH’s hands.
JUDITH’s body fills with rage. The child rises as everything around her comes to a standstill. Her head fills with voices and images of witches, witches that once came to her in a dream.
CAROL give that back to me.
INT. UPSTAIRS LANDING – AFTERNOON
The sound of crying fills the house. LUCY, lying in her pram downstairs can be heard weeping. CAROL begins to cry as JUDITH latches onto the book, twenty fingers trembling as they begin to fight over it. The sisters’ edge towards the door as they tug back and forth. Edging closer and closer to the top of the staircase.
Being a household of such a low income, the girls have had to get used to the idea of sharing. This ruby red book with its gold detailing and glistening spine was not something that JUDITH was prepared to share. JUDITH may be the owner of many books, all of which are preowned and in bad condition, but this book was special. The first book that is truly hers.
(With anger building in her voice)
Give, it, back.
CAROL is hurled backwards, clambering down the stairs as JUDITH releases her hold on the book. Silence emanates through the house as the deafening sound of CAROL’s body tumbling down the stairs brings everything to a halt. JUDITH stands, fixated on her sister’s lifeless body. JUDITH’s sister’s screams brought her mummy running.
INT. BOTTOM OF THE STAIRCASE – AFTERNOON
(With tears streaming down her face)
Did you push her?
JUDITH’s unremorseful silence leads to LINDA’s emotional break down. Her mother didn’t need an answer, that was enough of a confirmation.
It becomes hard to focus on anything but the pool of blood that is surrounding CAROL’s head.
LUCY is shrieking in the living room.
CAROL is laying lifeless.
LINDA is inconsolable.
JUDITH is emotionless.
Leaving CAROL at the bottom of the stairs alone, LINDS sprints out of the house, frantically banging on her neighbour’s door.
Please, help, its CAROL.
LINDA works as a part time cleaner in a local school and she cannot afford to run a car. The estate in which they live in is know for their community spirit.
Get CAROL. I’ll start the engine.
Everyone within this community has one thing in common: poverty.
LINDA scoops CAROL up into her arms, and hurries to the car. They make their way to Queens Medical Centre, LINDA cradling her precious daughter on the back seat. They drove to the hospital leaving JUDITH alone in the house.
As the front door slams, JUDITH cautiously creeps down the stairs, tiptoeing until she reaches the living room window. She perches on the window ledge as she watches the car drive away. Still clutching the book as if it was her prize.
She opens the novel with a face of no remorse. She read by the window until she couldn’t see the words. She was too scared to turn on the light. The room filled with darkness.
JUDITH sits trembling as she speaks to herself, fists clenched, eyes closed.
(In an eerie whisper)
Once in a fever, I’d dreamed of witches who lived in the loft, flying through the hatch. Now they crouched behind the wings of my chair.
She tried not to breathe, pretending to be dead. The witches, glowing with a white hue float towards the young girl. The silence which once filled the room is taken over by the harrowing cackle of these mysterious beings. JUDITH begins to reflect on what happened, not only does she feel no repentance, she starts to giggle.
These witches know the truth – they can smell my wickedness.
This was no accident. Literature never has any kindness at all.
By Emily Braeger