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Ritual | Episode 1"Fresh Meat" - scene 1



Scene 1 - The Morcombe family sit down to dinner

Characters in this Scene

For full characters and synopsis, click here (WARNING spoilers, as this contains the plot outline)

 

In a modest looking Queen Anne in West Hollywood, the Morcombe family are seated around the table for dinner. It is the summer of 1974, and a heat-wave has enveloped the city making the night air feel heavy and claustrophobic. Helen Morcombe, the mother, fills acrylic water glasses with orange Kool-Aid. She takes off her apron before seating herself at the opposite end of the table to her husband. The teenage boy and his younger sister are seated either side. The family all bow their heads in prayer as the father, Bryan Morcombe, begins.


"Dear Lord, we thank you for putting food on our table, and-" the father pauses to look up as noises can be heard coming from the ceiling, he continues- "and, we are grateful for the bounty we are about to receive. Amen." He finishes hastily as the lights flicker.


The mother dishes out globs of potato salad, but pauses mid-spoon while serving her husband. A louder noise can be heard now, like furniture scraping across the floor followed by footsteps. The family glance hesitantly at one another.


"She's awake. I should fix her something to eat," says the mother. The father nods his assent and his wife busies herself in the kitchen preparing a tray. The rest of the family continue to eat in silence, glancing up at the ceiling and listening to the noises – shuffling, thumping and grinding. The mother returns from the kitchen with a dinner tray and turns to her daughter. "Tracy, will you go up and give this to your sister?"


The girl jumps, wide-eyed. "Me? I don't want to, Mom. Joanie is so mean!"


The father leans over and touches her arm reassuringly. "Aw, don't say that honey, she's your sister. She's just sick, that's all. We all get cranky when we feel unwell." He smiles weakly.


"Tracy," says her brother, "I'll go up with you, it will be alright, I promise." Placated, the girl takes the tray and her brother follows her up the stairs, his hand resting protectively on her shoulder. Together they walk the length of the hallway to Joanie's room. The door is locked from the outside, and the boy has to jiggle and twist the old-fashioned key in the lock to open the door. No loud noises now, just scratching sounds. They enter warily.


"Joanie? We brought you some dinner. Its meatloaf and potato salad," says the girl eagerly. She wrinkles her nose as the stale, primordial stench in the room hits her nostrils.


Their older sister is squatting in the corner, scratching the floor with her fingers which are now red-raw and bleeding, the nails jagged, the index missing. She looks over her shoulder at her siblings with disdain. Dark eyes glitter in a pale face. Her hair hangs limp and greasy, plastered to her skull. Her nightdress is half hanging off, the bumps of her spine prominent against her wasted frame. She notices her brother staring in horror at her exposed breast.


"What's the matter Sam? Come to have another look at my boobs. I saw you, peeping through the door at me when I was in the shower. In fact, I let you look." She smiles salaciously through cracked lips.


"Wha-a-at?" Sam stammers nervously.


"You like boobs, don't you Sam. You jerk off practically every night on those magazines you stole from Uncle Joe, you know, the Jew-porn ones you stash under your mattress."


Sam instinctively places his hands over his younger sister's ears, just as he has seen his mother do countless times when someone is using cuss-words. "How...how, could you know that?" he croaks almost in tears, "It's a lie!"


Joanie's voice deepens a few octaves and in a guttural growl she says, "I-SEE-ALL!" She suddenly charges at her brother and sister, running across the floor on all fours like a dog. Shocked, they frantically back out of the room as the dinner tray drops to the floor with a clatter. The door slams violently of its' own accord and Tracy begins to scream hysterically.


The father and mother race up the stairs, white-faced and panicked. Tracy clings to her mother who steers the sobbing girl away from the scene, cooing to her gently. The father tries to open the door and can't get in. He looks quizzically at his son.


"It's not locked," says the boy.


"Joanie!" the father yells sternly, banging his open palm against the door, "Joanie, open up!" The door flings open and he is bowled over on his backside by an invisible force that knocks the wind out of him. Simultaneously, the family photos hanging along the hallway fly off their hooks one by one in a bizarre Mexican wave, and a light bulb shatters spraying shards of glass. Stunned, the father crab-crawls down the hall to where his son is pressed up against the wall in terror. They both stagger down the stairs supporting each other.


The family are sitting in the lounge room now, like refugees in their own home. No one says a word as they try to process what just happened. Tracy is on her mother's lap, head on her shoulder, sobbing softly. Sam is sitting on a stool, his hands are clasped about his knees, he rocks gently back and forth in an effort to soothe himself. Bryan Morcombe runs his hands through his hair in anguish, rivulets of sweat stream down the sides of his face. He is the decision maker in this family, and yet he is damned if he knows what he should do about this.


"I think I'll take the kids to Susan's for a while," his wife says suddenly.


"That's probably a good idea." He picks up the phone and starts dialling a number he finds in the Teledex.


"Are you calling Doctor Grey?"


"No," his face was ashen. "I'm calling Father Deakin."



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