TRIGGER WARNING: VIOLENCE/RAPE.
After the War - Opening nine pages. An original teleplay pilot set in an alternative, post-Civil War world; alternative yet filled with historical facts.
At the end of the Civil War, a woman with unusual powers, an orphaned girl, and a doctor unite to battle personal demons and societal injustice.
The one room school is empty except for the thirty year old teacher, FRANCES TAYLOR ANDERSON, sitting on the floor.
Some floorboards in the school room have been taken up, and the hole underneath the floor is lined with canvas.
On top of the lining, Frances places children’s books, such as “Webster’s Elementary Primer,” and for older readers the likes of “Moby Dick,” and “The Scarlet Letter.”
My dear Husband, our town is in such apparent danger that the soldiers from New York, come to help, have retreated. We’re left to fend for ourselves, once again.
Frances locks up the school house door. A sign nailed to the door declares, “School closed until further notice.”
A horse drawn wagon, full up with household items, furniture, a couple, LEWIS and PAULINE, and their THREE CHILDREN, stops in front of the school house. An eight year old BOY, jumps down from the wagon, and hugs Frances.
You won’t change your mind, and come with us?
Benjamin wouldn’t want you to wait for him.
Young man, you and your sisters mind your new teacher in Boston.
Frances helps the boy back onto the wagon. She smiles, and waves the family on their way.
As the departing family rides down the street—
She’s a stubborn, independent one.
A wonder of a teacher, but she always was a strange woman.
Frances unhitches and mounts her horse.
She watches large groups of mostly women and children walking towards the train station across the street, while a stream of wagons with families ride up the street.
Frances rides in the opposite direction of all the people leaving Chambersburg. She exits the town, following a road into nearby woods.
Frances rides along the road. A GUNSHOT echoes in the woods ahead of her. She both halts her horse, and expertly wields her shotgun in preparation for trouble.
Dismounting her horse, she peers through a thicket of bushes. She sees elderly JOSHUA BROWN standing over a dead elk.
Joshua turns around to Frances, and tips his hat. She relaxes her grip on her gun. This is someone she knows.
They give each other a nod, and Frances resumes her ride.
At least our children are safe, Benjamin. You can sleep knowing I’ve sent them to your sister in San Francisco.
Frances sits at a table lit by candlelight. The table’s covered with writing paraphernalia. There’s also a framed daguerreotype-style photograph of Frances alongside her husband, BENJAMIN. Each of them holds a toddler: a three year old boy, and a one year old girl.
An EXPLOSION sounds outside.
She rushes to a window. Another EXPLOSION sounds. In the distance, Frances sees smoke, and flames rising. Chambersburg is on fire.
Frances moves quickly. She picks up the portrait of her family, packs it in a bag, along with other essentials, clothes, and some provisions.
She makes sure her shotgun’s loaded, and blows out the candle on the table.
A full moon lights Frances’s way to the barn.
JOHN, a confederate soldier, steps out of the barn, pointing his rifle at her. In turn, she’s extremely quick to drop everything but her shotgun, pointing it at the soldier.
They stand opposite each other locked in a seeming stalemate.
How about I give up, ma’am?
He smiles, and lowers his rifle.
Too late, Frances hears the sounds of triggers cocked behind her, and feels the point of two rifles held against her head by TWO CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS.
You can shoot me, or you can live awhile longer.
He walks confidently toward her. He puts a hand on her shotgun barrel, forces it towards the ground.
You’re not a killing woman, ma’am.
He takes the gun away from Frances. The other two men lower their rifles away from her head.
I’m John. And this is John, and so is this one.
TWO ADDITIONAL CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS join the other three.
You can call us all John, ma’am. We’re much obliged for the hospitality we’ve found here in Chambersburg.
Frances attempts to run, but she’s surrounded by the five men, and has no way out.
John pulls Frances to him, and buries his face in the hair along her neck. Frances bites his neck in return. He pulls away, grabbing at his neck.
Not very hospitable, ma’am.
He punches her in the stomach, and grabs her arm. She fights, kicking, and punching a pretty good wallop back at John.
Two soldiers grab her arms from behind her, giving John free reign to punch her in the face, and she buckles from the force of it. One of the soldiers, tosses Frances to the ground.
John climbs onto her, unbuckling his pants, and proceeds to rape her.
The last man finishes raping the badly beaten, bruised Frances.
A CONFEDERATE SERGEANT arrives on horseback. He somberly looks over the scene.
Nothing of value here, Sergeant.
On your horses. Time to go.
Not yet broken, Frances stands up. Exhausted, shaking with rage, she watches the soldiers packing up her provisions, her shotgun, and stealing even her horse.
Frances dashes for an axe near the barn, but she slips and falls before reaching it.
John turns around to her, and seeing her on the ground, laughs, and returns his attention to his horse.
She stretches her hand towards the axe, unable to reach it. She’s startled to see the axe lift off the ground. She stops reaching for it, and the axe drops back to the ground.
A guttural sound escapes her mouth as Frances lifts herself to her knees, and makes a throwing motion with her arm, flinging the axe—without touching it—at John.
The axe embeds in the ground just behind John as he mounts his horse. He looks down, sees the axe, and turns back to look at Frances.
He tips his hat to her, and rides away with the other soldiers.
Frances surveys the area outside her home. Except for her empty saddlebag on the ground, there’s no evidence of the previous night’s horrors brought by her unwelcome visitors.
She picks up her saddlebag. Underneath it her family photograph lies dirtied, the silver backing dented, the brass frame bent, and the glass cover broken.
She picks the photograph up, wiping off the dirt with her dress, cutting her hand on the broken glass.
Benjamin, soldiers of the rebellion are once again in Chambersburg. They have taken much. My shotgun, my horse. Far more than I can tell you.
The cabin is a mess having been tossed by the Confederate soldiers during their visit.
The broken family photo lies on the table. Frances has not yet cleaned up, but her hand, cut by the broken glass, has been bandaged.
Frances tests her new-found powers, first with small objects, then with heavier ones.
-She reaches out for a cup across the room. At first the cup merely rattles, but soon it flies into her hand.
-She waves her hand at an overturned wooden chair, and it sits upright.
-She gestures her arms in a pulling motion, and a large armoire moves several feet toward her.
-She moves her hands up as if lifting something, and the table moves straight up into the air.
Frances stands before a mirror, looking at herself in amazement. Her amazement turns to sadness as she takes in her bruises, cuts, scrapes, and her torn and dirtied dress.
You’ll think this fanciful embroidery, husband: the soldiers left me with a rage so powerful, weighty objects are sent aloft at the wave of my hand.
Her hands clench, her body shakes, and the mirror cracks.
Frances walks a bucket to her water pump.
She pumps water into the bucket. She kneels at it, and lifts the water to her face, to drink, and to wash away the grime.
Frances freezes at the sound of a horse approaching.
She scans the area looking for a weapon. She forces herself to move toward a pitchfork near the barn, several yards away.
Without Frances touching it, the pitchfork shakes, pops out of its holding place. As a RIDER AND HORSE come into view, Frances motions the pitchfork to fly at the oncoming rider.
The RIDER halts his horse at the sight of the pitchfork flying towards him. The galvanized weapon lands in its victim, impaling the man through his upper chest.
Frances watches the man fall from his chestnut horse. On the ground, he moans, still alive.
She approaches him, slowly at first. His face turns toward her. She rushes to him.
Frances kneels down beside the man. Tears stream down her face, and she places a hand on his face. He opens his eyes.
She puts her hands on the pitchfork to try to pull it from Benjamin. He grabs her arm, stopping her.
He tries to speak again, but only his lips move. Their eyes locked, he lets out a rattling gasp, followed by an aborted intake of air. He dies.
Frances cradles his head.
Benjamin. I’m sorry. Benjamin. This evil, I’ll never use it. I’ll never raise anything into the air again.
Wielding a mallet, Frances pounds a cross into the ground before a shallow grave. The Anderson homestead can be seen a short distance away behind her.
Frances wipes the sweat from her brow. She tosses the mallet aside. She lays down on the grave with a kind of hug around it, and quietly cries.
Frances removes Benjamin’s things from his horse, Red.
Among his possessions are letters, a journal, a pistol, a rifle, and a knife. Some of these she may have removed from his body before she buried him.
She leads Red into the barn.
Frances steps out of a bath, her hair pinned on top of her head. She dries herself.
She attempts to dress, but is drawn to Benjamin’s clothes. She picks up a shirt of his, and breathes in the scent of it.
She picks up more of Benjamin’s clothing, and buries her face in them.
Hugging his clothes to her, Frances lies on the bed, crying for Benjamin.
Frances lies sleeping on top of her bed. She’s wearing Benjamin’s clothes.
She’s awakened by the sound of GALLOPING HORSES outside.
EXT. CABIN - MOMENTS LATER
UNION SOLDIERS stop in front of the cabin.
Frances steps outside, still in Ben’s clothing, and holding his rifle.
We’re letting everyone know we’ve driven the Rebels off, and taken back the town.
Is all well with you and your family, sir?
Blessed day to you then, good man.
He and his men ride away.
Frances looks at her clothing, and runs a hand down Ben’s shirt, a gesture that knows that people see what they expect to see. In her case, a man in man’s clothing.
Frances cuts her long hair off, making it short like a man’s.
Red waits packed and ready for Frances to ride.
Wearing Benjamin’s clothing, Frances’s well disguised as a man. She wears Benjamin’s pistol, and knife.
She leans down to a freshly dug hole next to the grave.
She picks up a folded cloth, and unwraps it exposing her shorn hair. She carefully deposits the cloth with her hair into the hole. She covers the objects with dirt, filling up the hole.
Our children are orphans now. Your Frannie is dead, Benjamin. She lies here beside you.
There are two wooden grave markers side by side. One marker for “BENJAMIN ANDERSON,” and the other for “FRANCES TAYLOR ANDERSON.”
Frances mounts Red, Benjamin’s horse, now hers.
She places an old hat of Benjamin’s on her head, gives Red a squeeze with her calves, and they ride away from the gravesite and her home.