[SCENE I. Somewhere along I-90 through the Cascade mountains, in the winter, at night. This limits the view to snowy evergreen trees–the mountains that would normally be visible are lost to an overcast night sky. SARAH and MELISSA are apparently on a road trip–SARAH is driving, and MELISSA is in the passenger seat, looking like she is about to fall asleep. As the car passes a sign for a rest stop, she perks up.]
MELISSA: Rest stop coffee! Can we stop?
SARAH: Must you?
MELISSA: Why do you hate me, Sarah?
SARAH: I don’t–
MELISSA: More importantly, why do you hate coffee?
SARAH: Oh, fine.
(She takes the exit and pulls into the rest area. After the open freeway, the narrow, winding lane leading into the rest area seems particularly claustrophobic, and the trees seem close to the road. Eventually the car pulls into a rest area parking lot. There are strange shapes hanging from the trees, but they are too indistinct to see from here. The car stops and MELISSA and SARAH get out.)
SARAH: Maybe you’re right! A bit of cold mountain air is good for you.
MELISSA: (Struggling to put on a winter coat, scarf, and gloves. She has already put on a knit hat.) I was built for warmer climes, Sarah. Why did I let you talk me into this?
SARAH: Maybe I am just very persuasive.
(They walk towards the rest stop structure. An OLD MAN sits at the window, staring into the distance. There is a crazed look in his eye. He starts as the two approach, then puts on a smile that is probably meant to be reassuring though it is actually closer to ‘terrifying.’)
OLD MAN: What can I do for you ladies?
MELISSA: Uh, I’ll just have a coffee.
SARAH: Make that two! And some cookies.
OLD MAN: (Eye twitch.) You really don’t want the cookies, young lady. (He pours two coffees from a pot into two cheap Styrofoam cups. Ominously.) Careful out there.
(They exchange a glance and walk away. They stand outside the car and drink, looking back at the building. A light begins to flicker.)
SARAH: Well, that was . . . Lynchian.
MELISSA: Terrifying, you mean?
SARAH: Maybe the cookies were just . . . stale? Moldy? And for some reason still on display?
(From this far it looks like the OLD MAN is watching them.)
MELISSA: Christ. If I knew they were doing human sacrifices tonight I’d have got coffee before we left.
(They finish their coffee and get in the car. SARAH turns the lights on. The car lights now illuminate the strange shapes seen earlier in the trees: there are dead animals hanging from the trees.)
SARAH: Um, Melissa?
MELISSA: (Still focusing on her seatbelt.) What?
SARAH: I think maybe you should look out the window.
MELISSA: (Irritated.) What? (She looks up.) Oh. Um. That means you’re leaving now, right?
(SARAH unclicks her seatbelt.)
MELISSA: Oh, come on. I was promised fires and booze! Not cultists and blood sacrifice! (She nevertheless stops worrying about her seatbelt and puts her scarf and gloves back on. They both get out of the car. SARAH digs around in the trunk. She produces a pair of black messenger bags, one of which she tosses to MELISSA.)
SARAH: Here, take this.
MELISSA: Not even going to ask why you have these. (She produces a hefty-looking flashlight and holds it like a club.)
SARAH: For adventure! (She also takes out a flashlight.) Come on.
(They head into the surrounding forest. As they draw nearer, it becomes apparent that the snow is stained with a great deal of blood.)
MELISSA: I’m guessing ‘renegade butcher’ is probably not what’s happening here.
SARAH: Yeah, no. (She shines her flashlight on some footprints in the snow.) Footprints! Nothing bad has ever come of following mysterious footprints!
(They follow these footprints for a while. Eventually they hear voices in the distance and turn off their lights and hide.)
FIRST CULTIST: Okay, so, here’s a question. How are we supposed to know if the stars are right if it’s always cloudy?
SECOND CULTIST: Have faith in the star charts!
FIRST CULTIST: I’m just saying, it’s a lot easier to look at the stars and see where the stars are than look at a paper and see where–
SECOND CULTIST: Quiet! Did you hear something?
THIRD CULTIST: Probably just a deer or something. Nobody is going to creep past those creepy hanging animals.
MELISSA: (Aside to SARAH.) Are they summoning Cthulhu?
SARAH: (Aside to MELISSA.) No, the stars are wrong for that.
(They creep forward slowly. The CULTISTS are in view. None of them are dressed in a particularly cultish fashion. Mostly they look like they are ready for the snow. They are gathered sort of near a blazing fire. There is a bag of cookies on the snow just outside of their circle. In the snow are some carved figures.)
SECOND CULTIST: I know I heard something. I’m going to go check it out.
(The SECOND CULTIST walks into the woods in the direction of SARAH and MELISSA. As he approaches, SARAH clubs him with her flashlight, and he groans and collapses facedown in the snow.)
THIRD CULTIST: What is the point of hanging up all these creepy animals if you’re just going to go wandering off every time you hear something? (Beat.) Jeff? Damn it. (He gets up and also heads towards the sound. MELISSA and SARAH jump out at him, brandishing their lights.)
SARAH: Thought you’d summon the horrible evil in these woods, eh?
MELISSA: Not on our watch!
THIRD CULTIST: What? I–what? We’re not summoning anything evil! It’s just a game!
FIRST CULTIST: It’s totally not true about D&D and devil-worship!
MELISSA: What. (She gives the cultists a more thorough investigation. They are teenage boys–nerds, by the looks of things. There are dice in the snow along with the figurines, which on closer inspection look like fantasy characters more than anything.) Oh, Christ.
FIRST CULTIST: Did Mom send you? I bet Mom sent you.
MELISSA: No, we’re just–look, why can’t you just use someone’s basement like all the other nerds?
THIRD CULTIST: Well, we don’t want anyone to know we’re playing. Even our parents. It’d be social suicide. So we try to keep anyone from following us.
SARAH: (Guiltily.) Did you ever consider that maybe someone–
MELISSA: Two someones, really. Sexy, intelligent, daring.
SARAH: –two someones would see your creepy hanging animals and the terrified old man at the rest stop and decide to figure out why they’re there? Just, you know, out of curiosity?
MELISSA: And boredom?
FIRST CULTIST: Why would anyone do that?
THIRD CULTIST: I don’t like being here with them and I’m the one who put them there.
FIRST CULTIST: But it’s better now you’re here! We’ve never played with girls before. Do you want to play? We’ve got some extra character sheets made up.
MELISSA: Right, um. (To SARAH.) Didn’t you leave the car running?
SARAH: Yes. I thought, uh. The better to make a clean escape in case the cultists turned nasty? (She visibly cringes at the implausibility of this lie, but nobody seems to notice.)
MELISSA: Right. So we’ll just go and . . . turn that off. Then we’ll be back.
FIRST CULTIST: We’ll be here.
(SARAH and MELISSA hurry back through the woods, get in the car, and drive off. There is a long pause.)
SARAH: So, can we never mention this ever again?
MELISSA: Took the words out of my mouth, small friend.
SARAH: Good. Thank you.
(They drive on in silence. Fin.)