The Starfish Complex

By Amelia Ell:


1 EXT. STARFISH COMPLEX CAR LOT - DAY


DETECTIVE SHAKES stands at the cargo of his truck: a pickup truck to fit the role. It's the only vehicle in the largely deserted lot that didn't look like it had recently been swamped in a wetland reserve. He reaches under a compartment to reveal two pistols, each with a Dollar Store sticker on them reading "left" and "right" respectively. He tucks them in his uniform. Shakes is an excellent agent and wears coveralls better than Brad Pitt, but perhaps his only vice is his utter inability to tell left from right. He sighs.


2 INT. STARFISH STROKING DEPARTMENT - DAY


We see a close up of a conveyer belt, slowly transporting various sizes of blue starfish. Pale, greyish hands reach in from off-screen to gently stroke each one. The head of a baggy-eyed man rolls into view. His eyes are shut and his arms are crossed over his chest like he's practicing for his coffin. The hands hesitate to give him a pat.


TEDS (OFF-SCREEN)

(with an unplaceable,

faintly Western accent)

Another one lost to the current.


Shakes and TEDS halt their work to watch the man float away into a dark tunnel in the wall. Teds is like every other employee here, lukewarm and visibly plagued by poor blood pressure. Her only extraordinary quality is the unfortunate accent she picked up after a middle-aged baking accident, making her "I"s sound like "ah"s and her "sorry"s sound like "sarry" (which is a spawn for misunderstandings with her employer). Another man across the conveyer belt and the second most sinfully uninteresting worker in the building, SARRY, continues quietly caressing the sea creatures. Although the other department heads seem to be constantly at each other's throats, Sarry appears to be in a ceaseless battle with his container of hair gel to see who could drain themselves of life first.


SHAKES

Is... Is he dead?


TEDS

(clearly concerned but

seems like the kind of

person who'd eat a

sandwich in front of a

corpse if she was

hungry)

Him? Dead? Nah.


Teds had developed a habit of repeating others' words.

SHAKES

Oh.

Teds resumes her starfish petting as if this apparent sacrificial offering was a regular occurrence.

TEDS

Oh, you mean to ask why he's gone with the starfish. We get a lot of that out here. The guys decide that if the ocean's so great a place for the starfish, they might as well hitch a ride.


SHAKES

(re: dark tunnel)

Is the ocean really where that leads?


TEDS

I've only held my job here because I cooperate and don't ask questions. Something newbies like you should learn pretty quick.


Nothing about Teds screamed “Confucius' peasantry reincarnation" (on the contrary, just "peasantry" would do), but she takes it upon herself to peddle unsolicited advice. She leans in closer.


TEDS (CONT'D)

My theory runs that men who enter are turned into starfish and infinitely cycle through the facility.


Shakes finds a newfound repulsion in touching the starfish.


TEDS (CONT'D)

Anywho, it's a good life for the critters. Pampered and fed all their life.

SHAKES

Fed?

Shakes suddenly turns on Teds with a deadly stare. Before opening her mouth to ask, Teds decides it's not worth the effort. Shakes' face is hardened with determination. It doesn't suit him. He should stick to coveralls.

SHAKES

How did you know about the feeding?


TEDS

The feeding? Of the stars? I work here. Well, only ever in the Stroking Department but--


SHAKES

Aha! So you admit you've been in the Feeding Department where you don't belong!

TEDS

(offended)

Where I don't belong?!


Ever since the baking accident, Teds' accent neutralizes any attempt to sound angry. She has been known to make a little sound like delighted laughter when she stubs her toe.


SHAKES

That's all the evidence I need to get out of this anemic hellscape! I am arresting you Teds...


TEDS

Baker. Teds Baker.


SHAKES

That's ironic, what with the accident and all. I'm sorry about that by the way.

TEDS

Don't be.

SHAKES

You're right. You're a cold-hearted murderer and you are under arrest

for the October 11th starfish massacre!


Across the conveyer, Sarry grows visibly tense.


TEDS

You're a cop? Massacre?


SHAKES

Don't act like you don't know. The mother starfish was thrown into the food grinder and dished out to the others like lasagna!


TEDS

Look, man, I dunno what--


SHAKES

No, you look, man!


Shakes whips out a gun. Teds squeaks in alarm like a teen meeting their K-pop idol. She throws up her hands, but soon seems more interested in the lone starfish idling past Shakes.


TEDS

Would you get that one?


SHAKES

Would I...?

TEDS

That star. To your right.


Shakes panics, swinging left and right as the gun flails. Sarry cowers.


TEDS (CONT'D)

Just give 'em a little tap. Oh. We missed it.


SHAKES

Poor guy. Sorry.


TEDS

No, no, don't be.


Shakes suddenly remembers his mission and levels the gun at Teds. Both of them are still stroking starfish; Teds tapping them in between raising her arms, and Shakes with his free hand.


SHAKES

You're coming with me.


TEDS

Listen, I dunno what to tell you. I'm sorry, but--


SARRY

Liar! I'm Sarry. How dare you try to frame me.


SHAKES

No- Sarry. She didn't mean--


SARRY

Not you. You're fired.


SHAKES

(incredulous)

I'm fired?


SARRY

You just called my department an anemic hellscape. And you're pointing a gun at me.

SHAKES

Right.


SARRY

(to Teds)

Teds, if I'd known he was a cop, I'd never have hired him. I swear.


TEDS

I thought you were about to throw me under the bus.

SARRY

I thought you were about to throw me under the bus!


TEDS

This is all a misunderstanding. We're better than this. Let's just put this all behind us.


SARRY

My lips are sealed.


At this point, it was quite obvious to Shakes that he was forgotten.


SHAKES

Wait! Wait wait wait... You two are both behind this?


Shakes wildly swings his gun between Sarry and Teds.


TEDS

Lookit, Shakes, you can't just shoot us both. Let me give you some advice: you'll have a hard time handcuffing two people with one set of handcuffs.


SHAKES

I didn't ask you, Teds!


He didn't ask you, Teds.


Shakes pulls out his other gun and conveniently points it at both criminals.


SHAKES

Now, if either of you move, I'll shoot.


Shakes' gun-wielding hands are already preoccupied as a wave of incoming starfish rolls in. Overtaken by duty, Teds and Sarry lunge at the conveyer belt. On impulse, Shakes pulls the triggers. They do nothing but click.


All three of them exchange glances. Horrified, Shakes looks down and reveals that the "right" and "left" guns are in the wrong hands. Sarry takes the opportunity to grab a giant starfish and hurl it at Shakes' head. Teds nails him in the jaw. He's instantly unconscious.


3 INT. STARFISH STROKING DEPARTMENT - EVENING


The conveyer belt is empty. With the starfish still attached to his face, Teds and Sarry lower Shakes onto the conveyer belt. He disappears into the darkness.

SARRY

A job well done. Apologies for the complications.


TEDS

Nah, don't be sorry.


SARRY

(smiling)

Can't help it.