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The Possession of Edgar Poe

By Garner Simmons

FADE IN:

EXT. BANKS OF THE RIVER JAMES – LATE AFTERNOON

The edge of winter. A leafless oak, gnarled and blasted by the wind, stands alone on the solitary riverbank.  Upon its barren branches —

A MURDER OF RAVENS

Crouch together, clacking their beaks in discord as —

A CLOAKED RIDER

Makes his way across the empty field.

TITLE OVER: “The Dueling Ground – Richmond, Virginia – 1827”

Suddenly, a CRACK OF LIGHTNING sends the birds to flight.  Reacting, the horse rears up. The rider —

EDGAR ALLAN POE

Age 18, attempts to rein him in. The horse dances sideways, turning in a tight circle, afraid of some unseen danger.

Regaining control, Poe looks around. Dark hair. A hypnotic stare. Nothing moves but the wind. Then a THUNDER CLAP…!

EDGAR

Whoa… steady…

Followed by yet another FLASH OF LIGHTNING as the horse rears back sending Poe crashing to the ground.

CLOSER ON POE

Momentarily stunned, he tries to shake it off. Regaining his feet, he finds himself standing before —

AN ANCIENT GYPSY COACH

that wasn’t there a moment ago.

FOUR BLACK HORSES wait impatiently, snorting and pawing the ground. The wind picks up driving the RAIN before it.

BACK ON POE

Pelted by thick drops, he makes for the wagon. Climbing a short set of stairs, he enters –

INT. GYPSY COACH – LATE AFTERNOON

A withered CRONE sits at a small table casting runes. As Poe enters she speaks without looking up.

CRONE

Finally…

EDGAR

Beg your pardon…?

CRONE

Come. Sit. The storm has just begun.

EDGAR

Who are you?

CRONE

That is of no concern…

(a command)

Your hand…

Her head still bowed so that WE CANNOT SEE HER EYES, the old woman extends her hand, palm up.

Hesitant, Poe slips into the opposite chair and places his hand in hers. Outside, the SOUND of rain.

TIGHT ON POE’S HAND

Cradling it in one hand, she traces the creases in his palm.

CRONE

So many lines… for one so young.

CLOSE ON CRONE

As she raises her head at last, we see that she has only one good eye. The other has a bluish cast, obscured by cataracts.

CRONE

I see… death… everywhere.

EDGAR

Death…?

CRONE

Here, in this place… You’ve come
to fight a duel.

EDGAR

Yes… that’s right. I don’t
understand… How…?

CRONE

The one you seek… has killed
before… many times. A soldier…
no, an officer.

EDGAR

You know him…?

CRONE

Beware. Upon his neck is the “Devil’s
Kiss”…

Lifting a silken kerchief, she exposes a DARK CRYSTAL ORB the size of a fist.

Transfixed, Poe is unable to turn away.

ON CRYSTAL ORB – POE’S P.O.V.

A prism of light and shadow. PUSH IN until it fills the screen revealing —

A STRANGE BIRTHMARK – THE DEVIL’S KISS

A pair of purple bruises lie side-by-side — goat-footed and dark.

CRONE (O.S.)

…a birthmark like a cloven hoof.

WIDEN to reveal —

LT. JAMES LEE

Hatless in a blue Army coat, he raises a flintlock pistol and points it straight at CAMERA.

JAMES LEE

(a rasp)

I’ll see you in hell…!

Blood pounding, veins standing out, Lee pulls the trigger.

Instantly sparks fly, his hand recoiling as the air fills with gunsmoke.

TIGHT ON LEAD BALL (VFX — OVER-CRANK CAMERA)

Tumbling through the air it comes straight for CAMERA!

CRONE (V.O.)

(a whisper)
True evil never dies… but finds
another path! Beware!

Suddenly the lead ball MORPHS into a RAVEN and is gone!

POE

Staggers backwards stunned, uncertain what he’s just seen.

KORDA (O.S.)

Edgar…?

EXT. BANKS OF THE RIVER JAMES – LATE AFTERNOON

Spinning around, Poe finds himself standing alone in the middle of the field. Dark clouds fill the sky, but NO RAIN.

He looks around. The coach and Crone — both gone!

KORDA (O.S.)

You okay…?

A growl of distant THUNDER causes him to turn again just as his friend and second —

LT. DAMON KORDA

Comes riding up, Poe’s horse in tow. Slightly older, he, too, wears the dark blue uniform of a U.S. Army officer.

EDGAR

(disoriented)
My head… Must’ve struck it when I
fell…

KORDA

(re: Poe’s horse)
Found him across the field. Looks
like he dumped you good and proper…
Sure you’re all right?

EDGAR

Fine. Nothing serious…

He looks around, but sees nothing.

EDGAR

The coach… the old woman…

He turns again. Still nothing.

EDGAR

Did you pass them?

KORDA

What are you talking about…?

Realizing Korda didn’t see them, Poe averts his eyes.

KORDA

Don’t tell me you’ve been seeing
things again.

Dismounting, Korda ties the horses to a fallen tree then takes a large, flat mahogany box from one of the saddlebags.

EDGAR

No… It’s just…

(he hesitates)
The dead… Sometimes it’s as if…
they speak to me.

KORDA

Then maybe you shouldn’t listen.
More of your nightmares without the
night…? Who this time? Your
mother?

EDGAR

Forget it…

(glancing at the sky)
Must be the chill in the air.
(forcing a smile)
“So fair and foul a day, I have not
seen…”

KORDA

You and poetry… that’s how you
got yourself into this fix…
(beat)
I stopped at Lee Manor.

EDGAR

Did you see Annabel…?

KORDA

No. But I tried to try to talk your
adversary out of this… madness.

EDGAR

What did he say?

KORDA

That yours was an affront to honor
and could not be pardoned.
(beat)
Edgar, let it go. Ride away before
it’s too late.

Taking a LOCKET bearing a family crest from his pocket, Poe opens the clasp. Glancing at it, he holds it out to Korda.

EDGAR

And never see her again…?

Staring at the locket, Korda sees —

TIGHT ON LOCKET – MINIATURE OF ANNABEL

A portrait of a vivacious girl of 17. Dark hair and eyes.

KORDA (O.S.)

She’s a beauty, I’ll grant you…

BACK ON SCENE

Poe closes the locket.