[SCENE I. MELISSA and SARAH’s house. Mid-evening sometime. A number of people have assembled in the living room; in addition to the house’s usual occupants, KELLY, CELESTE, GAVIN, and JEREMY are sitting around. MELISSA arrives from upstairs, wearing a somewhat militaristic-looking coat and hat.]
MELISSA: You’re probably wondering why I’ve gathered you all here today.
GAVIN: I figured it was just a really poorly executed attempt at a clever party invitation.
KELLY: Also, like half of us already know.
MELISSA: And I hate all of you. Okay! So, for those of you who don’t know. We’ve traced some ghosts–
CELESTE: I have traced some ghosts.
MELISSA: Gotharella has traced some ghosts to a horrible soulless business park on the outskirts of town. These ghosts seem to have a vested interest in haunting me in extremely annoying fashions. I thought we’d go investigate.
GAVIN: So why are we here?
MELISSA: Once we’ve successfully investigated and hopefully gotten the ghosts to leave me alone, there will be an evening of merrymaking back here for those who have nobly offered to assist.
(General muttered unenthusiastic assent.)
MELISSA: Your confidence, as ever, is inspiring. (She sighs and makes a weak gesture at the door.) To the cars.
[SCENE II. Outside the business park. The buildings look like a military base, or possibly like a prison. They are well-shielded from view by various trees and hills. There is evidence that this place was once surrounded by a fence of some variety. MELISSA, SARAH, MELINA, and KELLY are in the car.]
MELISSA: All right, so am I alone in feeling a little terrified?
LINA: I’m sure it’ll all just be one spooky misunderstanding.
SARAH: What’s the worst that could happen?
MELISSA: We could be shot by angry corporate security guards?
SARAH: . . . oh, right.
MELISSA: Seriously, what is this place?
KELLY: Everything I found seemed above-board. There was no mention of armed guards or anything.
MELISSA: Well, there wouldn’t be. (Sighs.) Let’s get this over with.
SARAH: Come on, it’ll be fun!
LINA: Keep telling yourself that.
(They get out of the car. The others pull up behind and get out a few moments later. CELESTE is holding her iPad.)
CELESTE: Well, it’s still here. (She gestures without looking up.) In that building.
MELISSA: Well, no guts, no glory, right?
(With MELISSA at the head of the group, they enter the building. It’s a squat concrete structure; the inside is stark and a little grungy.)
CELESTE: Looks like it’s in that office right there.
(MELISSA peers in through the window on the door, and tries to suppress a smile as she does so. She tries the lock and finds it open, but turns back to the others.)
MELISSA: It’s locked. Maybe there’s a way in from upstairs or something?
CELESTE: I guess it could be in the office above.
(The group makes its way for the stairs. MELISSA feigns following, then stops once everyone has rounded the corner and hurries back to the door. She tries it and pushes it open just as MELINA returns from around the corner.)
LINA: You’re such a terrible liar.
MELISSA: (Jumps, clearly startled.) Jesus, don’t sneak up on me like that.
LINA: What’ve you found?
MELISSA: I don’t know. This place just feels familiar. Come on, they’ll notice we’re missing in a moment.
(They both head into the office suite.)
LINA: You were terrified of this place a few minutes ago. What happened?
MELISSA: God, I must be completely insane. I have no idea. Maybe I just forgot how fun it is to explore places you’re not supposed to be.
(LINA just watches her from the doorway.)
MELISSA: But no, it’s not just that. It’s like I know this place. I’ve seen these soulless off-white walls before.
(There is movement in the periphery of our field of vision. They both duck out of the way.)
LINA: (Whispering.) What the hell was that?
MELISSA: Office worker? (She gets up and makes her way in the general direction of the movement. LINA follows at a distance, wielding a flashlight like a cudgel. They find themselves in a corner office, where there is a man in an ill-fitting business suit slumped at his desk. He does not seem to be moving.)
MELISSA: Uh, hey, mister?
(No response. She approaches and shakes his shoulder. He rolls over, revealing a youthful face with blonde hair and very pointy ears. He makes an unpleasant moaning sound but does not open his eyes.)
MELISSA: You have any ghosts here, mister?
LINA: I don’t think he’s . . . healthy.
MELISSA: Maybe we should find the others.
VOICE: I’m sure that won’t be necessary, ladies.
MELISSA: Well, fuck.
[SCENE III. Upstairs. SARAH, CELESTE, and KELLY are exploring another empty office.]
CELESTE: There’s ghosts everywhere, according to my app.
SARAH: Usually I find ghosts considerably less creepy and weird. (She stops at a cubicle and begins inspecting it carefully.)
CELESTE: Do you have extensive experience with ghosts?
SARAH: I have . . . some.
KELLY: Also, where the hell did Melissa go?
SARAH: Oh, I’m sure she’d text me if she died or something. (Beat.) Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. (Beat. She stoops to pick something up, then returns with a handful of tinsel.) It’s a bit early for tinsel, isn’t it?
(KELLY gets out her cell phone and begins texting.)
CELESTE: Huh. (She checks out a random nearby cubicle.) This one has . . . mistletoe and holly. It was kind of buried under some scrap paper.
(KELLY’s cell phone beeps.)
KELLY: Melissa is apparently downstairs being kidnapped.
SARAH: Is she joking?
KELLY: I have no idea. But I’m taking it as a ‘we should go help’ text.
(They hurry downstairs.)
[SCENE IV. Upstairs, elsewhere. GAVIN and JEREMY are in the top story in an office that overlooks the entire business park. JEREMY is working at a computer while GAVIN merely sits and stares.]
GAVIN: Do we even know what we’re looking for?
JEREMY: Not really. But I figure if we’re going to snoop we might as well go all in.
GAVIN: This seems really poorly thought out.
JEREMY: Well, whoever’s computer this is didn’t like computer security much. Looks like a manifest or something. (Reads through a document quickly.) This must be like a shipping company’s headquarters or something. (Keeps reading.) They ship to a lot of places.
(GAVIN stands over JEREMY’s shoulder and reads also.)
GAVIN: That’s my address.
JEREMY: Really? (He double-checks.) It is! Weird.
GAVIN: I haven’t had anything delivered in months.
JEREMY: That’s not what this says.
GAVIN: I haven’t ordered anything, either.
(JEREMY closes the document down and stands up.)
JEREMY: I think I’m going to go find the others.
GAVIN: What, do you know where they are?
JEREMY: Yeah, Melina texted me a while ago. They’re downstairs.
[SCENE V. Downstairs again. MELINA and MELISSA are in an office, talking to a STRANGE MAN. His back is turned to us. From here it’s only obvious that he is a large man–tall and fat, with white hair and a very nice suit.]
MELISSA: So, you’re the one responsible for the hauntings?
STRANGER: We only wanted to bring you to us. We’d hoped for a more . . . formal meeting, but, given the circumstances–
LINA: Why are you stalking my sister?
STRANGER: Times are hard for our company. If you would just–
(At about this point, CELESTE, SARAH, and KELLY run in.)
SARAH: Melissa, we–oh.
(GAVIN and JEREMY arrive.)
(The STRANGER rises. As he does, he turns to reveal his face to us. He looks a great deal like a traditional Coca-Cola Santa Claus.)
JEREMY: I knew it! It’s the spirit of Christmas!
SANTA: So good of you all to join me. I have a proposal for all of you. (He gestures with a leather-gloved hand. Strands of tinsel emerge from nowhere and bind MELISSA to her seat.) If you agree, your friend Melissa just might be home in time for Christmas! Ho, ho, ho.