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Soul Memory: A Short Sci-Fi Screenplay About Letting Go

After deciding I wanted to write a short science fiction screenplay with a romantic edge, I wrote every weekday morning for an hour before starting my full-time job. These mornings were special but challenging. I wanted to make this sci-fi script different from my “practice scripts” that came before it, full of intention if nothing else.

Karma and unconditional love — topics that carry the screenplay — often left me in a freeze, staring out my apartment window like the character Mark staring out the car windshield at the beginning of the script. I often became him — thinking about a beautiful wife, the fear of losing her, and learning how to let her go. Little writing got done, but it was for the writing to come.

When I was not him or the other characters in the script — feeling the PTSD of Mary, the savior complex of the doctor, the brute strength of the guard, or the self-realization of the space shifter — I was no one. I was the essence of the story. I returned to this essence, again and again. Impatience to essence. Excitement to essence. Frustration to essence. And on and on.

What is the essence of this sci-fi script? I wanted it to be about us all having a soul memory, inspired by the movie scenes in this tweet.

That idea makes an appearance on the final page of the screenplay, but the screenplay is not about that. It’s about letting go. Mary lets go of suffering. Mark lets go of Mary. The space shifter lets go of an agenda — and his life — to deliver a simple message to Mark: to love means to let go.

Inspiration for the sci-fi screenplay

The screenplay was inspired by some of my favorite popular movies:

  • The Matrix — The hindu space shifters and the green color of their dress, the digital representation of Mary’s brain that burns green on the doctor’s laptop, and the doctor punching code into the laptop’s command line are inspired by the green-filtered, hacker-like quality of The Matrix.
  • The Shawshank Redemption — The interview playing on the car radio as Mark watches the exterior of the old country store where Mary is undergoing the “Neural Wipe” procedure is inspired by the car scene with Andy Dufresne at the beginning of The Shawshank Redemption. The radio was also a means to add exposition to the beginning of a short script in an efficient manner.
  • Looper — The action in the script — like the guard breaking down the country store’s doors — was inspired by Looper. One version of the science fiction screenplay had the doctor cutting a hindu space shifter in half with a shotgun similar to the blunderbuss in Looper, but I decided to make the scene less messy. The blood would have distracted from the essence.

Read and option the sci-fi screenplay

You can read and download the formatted script here and the unformatted script below. If you’re a filmmaker or producer and want to option this script, you can contact me at scenelift@gmail.com. I’m also open to rewrites, expansions, and screenwriting for other projects.

FADE IN

EXT. COUNTRY STORE PARKING LOT - NIGHT

We’re in a dirt parking lot off a rural road. Two cars are in the lot, one idling. A bull-like man stands guard on the porch of an abandoned store the lot was once used for. A half-covered window behind him glows with candlelight. He’s a silhouette. A faceless figure in the dark night.

INT. CAR - NIGHT

Inside the idling car is MARK. He looks out at the glowing window past a keychain photo of a smiling woman hanging from the rearview mirror.

The car dash makes his tired face shine blue. He looks as if he’s been parked here for eternity, and what he’s been waiting for is finally happening.

The radio plays an interview on a news station between a male radio host and a woman with an Indian accent.

RADIO (HOST)
It’s like time travel, like going back in time. Others say it’s like abortion.

RADIO (INTERVIEWEE)
What we’re doing is a good thing, like removing a tumor. We’re not taking away life, we’re saving it. This procedure lets people live again.

Mark takes the keychain photo from the rearview mirror. Behind it is a small cross. It waves back and forth.

RADIO (HOST)
But how they track you to interrupt the operation makes it seem like they’re sent by some higher power.

He brings the photo of the woman to his lips.

RADIO (INTERVIEWEE)
Greens are just men with siddhis who have lost touch with the everyday struggles of everyday people.

RADIO (HOST)
Siddhis?

The bull steps off the porch. Behind him, someone moves past the glowing window from inside. He lumbers toward the car.

RADIO (INTERVIEWEE)
Magical powers from advanced meditation. They use them to track wills to create breaks in karmic chains. That’s what they think we’re doing.

Mark slips the photo in his pocket, fixated on the window’s glow, anticipating more movement.

RADIO (HOST)
But karma cannot be broken. It just is.

Green light flickers from inside. The bull stops in front of the car and raises his hand with a turning motion to cut the engine. Mark doesn’t register, consumed by the window’s changing color.

RADIO (INTERVIEWEE)
Yes. But they don’t think so.

RADIO (HOST)
What do you think?

A long pause on the radio.

The bull BANGS on the car hood and TWISTS his hand.

RADIO (INTERVIEWEE)
I think we must follow what feels true and that’s different for all of us.

Mark cuts the engine and we...

CUT TO:

INT. COUNTRY STORE ROOM - NIGHT

Melted candles on splintered stools light the room. An open laptop on a cabinet by the half-covered window glows green with a digitized image of a rotating brain. A female DOCTOR (Indian) pounds some keys into a command line and hollowed block letters beneath the brain appear: NEURAL WIPE

The “N” starts to fill as a program loads.

DOCTOR
We’re almost ready.

She turns to her patient, MARY, the woman from Mark’s keychain photo. She’s seated cross-legged on an old Persian rug covering the room’s weathered floorboards. She cracks her knuckles and runs both hands through her hair. She adjusts her position to get more comfortable.

The doctor sits down next to her.

DOCTOR
I’m sorry about the place.

MARY
It’s fine.

The doctor opens a small case with a sticker on top that reads FUCK PTSD. Inside there’s a cotton swab, rubbing alcohol, a syringe, and vial with green translucent liquid.

“NE” finishes filling on the laptop screen behind her. Mary notices the progression.

DOCTOR
It’s good because they won’t come here. They think it’s haunted or something. They’re supernatural and also superstitious.

She wets the cotton swab with alcohol.

DOCTOR
You’re not superstitious are you?

MARY
I’m not afraid of ghosts or whatever. Just things inside me. Since I was a kid.

The doctor takes her wrist and brings her arm into her lap. She massages the crease where her vein is with the cotton swab.

MARY
After what happened it all came up again. I don’t know where from. I had a good childhood. I really think I did.
“NEURAL” finishes filling.

DOCTOR
It doesn’t matter. We’re going to give you a fresh start.

She takes the vial from the case. She shakes it up and thousands of tiny black beads whirl around like a mini alien snowglobe.

DOCTOR
This is all the love of me and my peers, just for you.

MARY
I like that.

She picks up the syringe and pokes the vial with the needle.

DOCTOR
You just need to feel the pain one last time so I can trace it. Remember what happened and I’ll do the rest.

She pulls back on the syringe. The black beads swim up in a flurry.

MARY
But what if what’s wrong is under what happened?

The doctor contemplates this—a question she’s never been asked before. But an important one.

DOCTOR
You’ll feel all of it. The serum is really a way to help you feel. Completely. I’m not supposed to tell you that.

MARY
What if I feel him? How he saved me.

DOCTOR
That’s why he’s out there.

She turns to look over at the laptop. “NEURAL WI” — almost show time.

DOCTOR
I’ll do my best to separate what’s good from the bad, but you have to focus on the bad parts. Go as deep as you can. It’s going to suck but this will take the edge off and help you hone in.

She places the tip of the needle at Mary’s vein.

MARY
I can’t forget him.

DOCTOR
We can’t forget the people we truly love.

“NEURAL WIPE” fills completely. The laptop beeps and a red modal blinks INJECT NOW.

DOCTOR
You can do this.

MARY
Okay.

The doctor presses down on the syringe and we...

CUT TO:

INT. CAR - NIGHT

Mark has the steering wheel gripped with both hands. He looks out into the parking lot. The bull is nowhere to be seen. A red flash mixes with the green light from the window.

The flash stops and the cross on the rearview mirror SWAYS the slightest bit. He notices it like a new object that has appeared from nowhere, holding a special message just for him. He relaxes into it. It speaks to him through silence.

His hands slide off the wheel and he takes the keychain photo of Mary from his pocket. He looks at her, like saying goodbye, then loops it over the rearview mirror, placing it back with the cross.

MARK
What?

He wipes his eyes to confirm that what he’s seeing is real.
A figure on the roof. Not the bull.

This new silhouette of a man moves more gracefully, with a wider profile that flares out by his legs. He moves like a palace guard riding a wind stream, crouched and covert. He holds at the ledge, more still than a tree.

MARK
It’s true.

He leans into the wheel to get a better look and the car horn HONKS. The roof figure reverses fast, almost floating, hopping back onto the wind stream.

Mark pushes the driver-side door open and exits the car.

EXT. COUNTRY STORE PARKING LOT - NIGHT

The door shuts. Soft stepping becomes jogging.

BULL (O.S.)
Get your ass back in the car!

The bull appears from the side of the house. Mark jabs his hand at the roof, pointing up repeatedly.

The bull charges to take him down.

MARK
The roof! A green!

This word cuts through the bull’s charge and the intended takedown becomes a violent hug. They grapple with each other for a moment. The bull pushes Mark away and rushes toward the porch.

Mark finds his balance and follows fast.

The bull shoulders the rotted porch door and SMASHES what’s left of any door jamb and lockset. The door swings back and forth freely. Mark enters, wobbly with adrenaline.

INT. COUNTRY STORE HALLWAY

We enter a dark hallway filled with rubble. Mark trips over a loose board and crashes into the wall. The bull hard-shoulders another door to the left. The door splits and splinters the silence of the ceremonial room.

INT. COUNTRY STORE ROOM

Mark pushes past the bull and drops to his knees by Mary whose face is wet with tears. Some trauma has transpired. She has done what the doctor asked: focused on the pain. He wraps her in his arms.

The doctor is back at the cabinet. The digitized brain on the laptop screen burns bright with a red cluster of neural activity.
The bull heaves by the door, his head with a bird-like twitch. It switches between the doctor and a candleless corner of the room. The doctor motions with her hand for the bull to hold steady.

DOCTOR
(to Mark)
You should not have come here.

MARK
What are you doing to her? You’re supposed to be helping her!
From the candleless corner, a calm voice cuts through the chaos.

GREEN (O.S.)
Only God can help her.

An Indian man dressed in a formal green hindu dress comes into the light. A green. He stands upright, hands cupped by his waist. His face is one of knowing. He almost smiles.

The doctor picks up the laptop with one hand.

DOCTOR
(to green)
Who do you think made this?

GREEN
That’s medicine. Good for some. Not her.

Mary unburies her head from Mark’s chest. She looks at the green like she’s heard his voice before.

DOCTOR
She doesn’t need your siddhis!

The bull bellows and lunges. The green pivots and twirls. He wraps his arms around the bull’s back and they DISAPPEAR.

We hear a THUD on the roof.

Mark and the doctor dart their heads up. Mary stares into the shadow, as if the green left behind truth itself.

The green FLASHES back into the room, calm as before. We hear the clambering of the bull on the roof.

GREEN
He needed a timeout.

The bull collapses like a tranquilized animal. Dust rains from the ceiling.

GREEN
Or maybe a nap.

DOCTOR
Mage!

GREEN
I am not like the others.

He walks toward Mary like strolling through a park.

GREEN
Your medicine is useful, but takes on karmic debt. You can’t rush through feeling something.

The doctor is outraged. She slides the laptop on the cabinet and rushes out the room.

Mark rises to defend Mary. The green puts his hand on Mark’s shoulder. Mark is neutralized by his touch.

GREEN
You idolize her. It’s what’s going to make the decision you have to make so hard.

MARK
Which decision?

GREEN
To love means to let go.

His lip quivers. Looking into the green’s eyes is like looking into a mirror. And just when he’s about to crack, a pulse blast SUCKS in the tension like a VACUUM and EXPLODES, sending the green into a flurry of particles.

DOCTOR
Happy reincarnation.

She drops the gun to the floor and goes for the laptop.
Mark stands shocked. But he remembers: Mary. He turns and lifts her up. He strokes her face with both hands to smooth her hair back, looking into a blank stare of terror. Mary is not there. She’s somewhere else.

MARK
What’s wrong with her?

The doctor analyzes the screen. Yellow spheres in the digitized brain move toward the red cluster. One sphere is larger than the rest and merges with the cluster.

DOCTOR
Shit.

MARK
What the hell is wrong with her?!

DOCTOR
The blast put her into full immersion.
(beat)
Set her back down. Put her head on your lap.

She brings the laptop over and kneels down next to them.

DOCTOR
Immersion is the goal. She needed an extra push. But we have a problem.
(beat)
This is you.

She points at the large yellow sphere on the screen.

DOCTOR
And this is why we’re here.

She points at the red cluster. It burns brighter than ever.
She clicks the mouse on the sphere, trying to pull it away from the cluster but the sphere rebounds back into it.

Mark realizes what this means.

DOCTOR
We told you to stay in the car.

MARK
I’ll go away. You reboot the system and start over. I won’t come in. I’ll get the gun and make sure none of them bother you and—

Mary twitches. Her eyes reflect a glimmer of hope. She stares into the heavens of her mind. The yellow sphere burns a little brighter on the screen.

DOCTOR
She’s remembering you. She wouldn’t have made it this far without you.

Her stare passes through him, into some eternal truth. We hold here until Mark relaxes and realizes something.

MARK
She’ll be happy?

DOCTOR
Yeah.

He cups her cheek with his hand and kisses her on the forehead.

MARK
But she won’t remember me?

DOCTOR
Not how you think.

She clicks the red cluster on the laptop. A border surrounds the cluster and Mark’s sphere. A DELETE prompt blinks.

DOCTOR
Some people believe we have a soul memory that transcends mental memory.
(beat)
I do too.

She shows him the screen.

DOCTOR
We have to do it now, Mark.

She puts her hand on his shoulder.

His hand hovers over the prompt. He presses down on the key and we...

CUT TO:

BLACK

> THE END <

By Robert Gibb

Practicing screenwriting and writer @ Scene Lift

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