web analytics

Electric Mind: A Screenplay (excerpt)


Notes: Artist Project from the Journal of Neuro-Aesthetic Theory #2

Page 20

INTERNATIONAL NIVERSITY SCIENCE LAB – NIGHT – FLASHBACK

Aaron , years younger, sits working at a computer.
Images of the human brain spiral on his computer screen. On his desk are stacks of printouts.
DR. ROPER enters. He is tall, thin man and wears a button-down shirt and khakis.
ROPER
Oh good, you are still here.

Aaron continues typing. He does not look up. Roper approaches hesitantly.

ROPER
Aaron, I have to talk to you.

Aaron is staring intently at the computer screen. Roper stands behind him.

AARON
(gestures to the computer) Let me finish entering this last equation.

ROPER
(bluntly) Aaron, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the Board has voted to cut your funding.

Aaron continues typing.

ROPER (louder)
Did you hear me?

Aaron stops typing and turns to face him. Roper clears his throat and looks away.

ROPER
The department is cutting the funding for this project.

AARON (in disbelief)
What?

ROPER
We’ve talked about this before. Your research is too controversial. And that last publication pushed the board over the edge.

AARON
Richard. You know how important this is.

ROPER
Electrical imprints cannot be taken from human brains, Aaron, no matter how much money we pour into this project… Maybe you should have consulted me… consulted me before publishing… What was the title of the article?

AARON (growing angry)
“A Case for the Electric Mind: Recent Neuro-Physiological Developments in Mapping Electrical Stimuli in the Cerebral Cortex”

Roper looks long at the computer screen.

ROPER
We’ve become ridiculous.

AARON (reddening)
It means nothing when they call my work ridiculous, but when they do…
(looks away)
You’re my friend and you agree with them.

ROPER (his voice rises)
I am your friend and I believe in you, Aaron. Isn’t it obvious? You’re coming up for tenure next term and you’re not going to get it again because everyone thinks you’re nuts. I don’t want people to see you that way.

AARON
I don’t give a damn what everyone thinks or how they see me, as long as no one tries to stop me from doing my work.

Roper places his hand on Aaron’s shoulder.

ROPER
And what about Beth and Rachel?

AARON
They’re the only ones who don’t question me.
(quietly)
It’s my giving up that would hurt them.

ROPER (firmly)
You cannot continue in this lab without the Board’s OK. They’ll close my whole department.

Aaron looks at the computer screen. He presses a button on the keyboard and the human brain disappears.

ROPER (pleads)
I wish you would listen to me but I know you… and you’re already trying to find a way around this… But, trust me, Aaron, there isn’t one.

Aaron stares moodily ay the floor.

ROPER (resigned)
Please… For the sake of the department, Aaron, just go home to your family.

Roper turns and walks out. Aaron turns back to the darkened computer screen.

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM – PRESENT

Aaron still sits at Rachel’s bedside. He stares off into space.

AARON (earnestly)
You see, what the father was working on had never been seen before and most people couldn’t even comprehend it… that each individual human brain has its own pattern of fields, just like a finger print.
(looks down at Rachel)
And you know what it’s called?

RACHEL (drowsily signs)
The electric mind?

AARON
Yes, the electric mind.

INT. TOWNHOUSE – DAY – FLASHBACK

AARON (VO)
But the other scientists were jealous and when the father continued to thaw research on his own, they found out.
(pauses)
So they fired him… and closed the department.

Aaron carries a heavy box down a flight of stairs. The hall is full of packed boxes. On top of one sits RACHEL, a nine-year-old girl with long, sandy hair. She is pouting. Aaron sets the box down next to her.

AARON (pants)
Still? Are you still mad at me?

Rachel starts to cry.

RACHEL
I don’t want to go. Please?

AARON
But you’ve never been to Arizona, sweetheart. We’re going to live in a big house there – just the three of us. Then I can do my research in peace.
(smoothes her hair)
Isn’t that great?

Rachel continues crying.

BETH, an attractive woman in her mid – thirties, enters from the kitchen hurriedly. She puts a bag of stuff inside a box then reconsiders and takes it out. She puts it in another box. Satisfied she turns to Aaron and Rachel.

BETH
(Cheerily)
Isn’t moving fun? Don’t you think?
(to Aaron)
No?

Aaron shakes his head. Beth peeks over Rachel’s shoulder.

BETH
Anybody there? Anybody at all?

RACHEL (sniffles)
Nobody home.

Beth looks at Aaron. He shrugs.

AARON
She still doesn’t want to go.

BETH
Not go? What do you mean not go?

Beth turns back to Rachel dramatically.

BETH
Why Rachel, we’re going to live in the middle of the Painted Desert, as beautiful a place as you’d ever wanted to see… and…there’ll be animals everywhere!

AARON
Oh no.

Beth looks fiercely at him.

RACHEL
(tearfully)
What kind?

BETH
(Wildly overacting)
Why all kinds! … A veritable menagerie! … A perfect zoo! …And it’ll all be yours! Think of it!

Rachel wipes her eyes.

RACHEL
What kind?

BETH
(stumped)
Why … the furry kind, of course! You just wait and see … The desert is full of …

AARON
(trying to be helpful)
Snakes and coyote.

Rachel starts crying again.

RACHEL
Snakes and coyote?

Beth glowered at Aaron. He shrugs.

BETH
(faltering)
Yes … but they’re just there to keep the … elephants … and tigers … and giraffe company.

AARON
Giraffe?

BETH
(ignores him)
But you know what they have the most of?

Rachel wipes her face, barely listening. Beth leans in conspiratorially.

BETH
(whispers)
Hey, you know what they have the most of?

RACHEL
What?

BETH
(in triumph)
Kittens!

Aaron shakes his head in disbelief. Rachel looks up.

RACHEL
Kittens?

BETH
(satisfied)
Kittens grow there like wildflowers. I’m sure.

Rachel climbs down off the box.

RACHEL
Will Daddy catch me some?

Aaron picks up the box she was sitting on and heads toward the door.

Beth picks up Rachel.

BETH
He’ll do whatever we tell him.

AARON
We can just go out in the yard and pick ‘em.
They all head out the door.

INT. RANCH HOUSE – BASEMENT LAB – DAY – FLASHBACK

AARON (V0)
So the father continued his research in Arizona undisturbed …

Rachel now a slight, shy 16 –year –old, sits in a chair. Electrodes are attached to her forehead. She wears a head monitor hooked up to a beeping machine. The electrode wires lead to a complicated computer with a spinning image of a human brain on it.
Aaron leaves the computer typing in commands. A big orange cat sits on the desk. The room is filled with tables, on top of these sit cages of various experimental animals: white rats, mice, and rabbits.
Beth leans against the wall, a coffee mug in her hand, watching nervously.

AARON
(patiently)
Now, Rachel, what I’m going to do won’t hurt. I’m just going to record an image of your brain on the computer.

RACHEL
It’ll take a picture of my…mind?

Aaron adjusts the electrodes.

AARON
Your electric mind. See the electric mind is determined by habitual patterns of thoughts and emotions. Record those patterns and you capture an individual’s personality.

BETH
It won’t hurt her?

AARON
No, Beth, it’s like a fingerprint. Taking it can’t hurt the subject.

BETH
What’s the worst that can happen?

AARON
(pauses)
The worst? Well … it won’t work …
(shrugs)
Nothing will happen and I’ll have to review my calculations.

BETH
What will you do with it?

Aaron is preoccupied with the electrodes.

AARON
Study it.

Rachel wiggles in her chair. Aaron smiles at her.

AARON
First you …
(to Beth)
then your mother.
Beth turns rapidly and heads up the stairs.

BETH
Don’t come near me – I’m keeping my electric mind to myself.

Aaron watches her retreat in amusement. He turns back to Rachel.

AARON
We only need one anyway.
(smoothes Rachel’s hair)
One perfect subject.
(smiles)
OK?

RACHEL
(smiles faintly)
OK, Dad.

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM – NIGHT – PRESENT

AARON
The experiment worked. It worked perfectly, just as the scientist always knew it would.

Rachel sleepily holds his hand. Aaron looks down at her.

AARON
They were so happy.
(quietly)
But then one day, when the mother and the daughter were out driving, a truck coming down the mountain lost its breaks and went out of control …

This part of the story catches Rachel’s attention. She clutches Aaron’s hand. Her eyes open wide with fright.

AARON
It met the car head on.

Rachel covers her face.

AARON
They were both killed instantly.
(turns away)
The beautiful mother, and the beautiful daughter … the scientist was alone.

Aaron turns back to Rachel. He pulls her hand from her face and holds it again.

AARON
(whispers)
But all was not lost …

INT. BASEMENT LAB – NIGHT – FLASHBACK

A weary and aged Aaron sits staring at the swirling brain on his computer. The upper right hand corner reads: “RACHEL JACOBS: AGE 16.”

AARON (VO)
Remember now, the father had recorded the electrical patterns of his little girl’s brain. And since then, he had been experimenting with magnetic fields and had successfully imposed the patterns from one animal onto the brain of another.

In the corner of the lab sits a little brown chimpanzee in a cage.

Aaron approaches the chimp. He reaches between the wire bars and injects something into her arm. She screams and rubs her arm furiously. Soon she becomes sleepy and Aaron opens the door.
He gently lifts her out and places her in the same chair that Rachel once sat in. He attaches the electrodes to her head and the monitor to her chest. She stares at him in fear, but is too drowsy to act.

AARON (VO)
He boosted the speed of neural processing in the animal’s brain, and then he imposed the pattern of his daughter’s mind upon it. He combined their two minds after his own fashion …

INT. RACHEL’S BEDROOM – NIGHT – PRESENT

Rachel is dropping off to sleep.

AARON
(whispers)
You see – he saved his daughter the only way he knew how. And the little chimp’s brain is all that remains of Rachel Jacobs.

Rachel’s eyes close.

AARON
So he taught her to read and write and since anatomically she could not speak, he taught her sign language and to read French, and many things. They are the best of friends.

Rachel is fast asleep with her dolls and cats. Aaron stokes her hand. He looks at the photo.

AARON
The scientist, whose name is Aaron Jacobs, and the chimp, whose name is Rachel, lived happily ever after.

He turns out the light.

page 35