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A Strange World - Part 3

When your mind goes numb mind, you never know what to believe, and suddenly you’re out of your league

Snow Madness

ACT TWO

EXT. PRIVATE RESIDENCE - EVENING

McLane’s mercedes pulls into the driveway, pulling in behind a parked four-wheel drive truck. The words MOUNTAIN MACHINE are painted along its side. A BLACK MAN, about thirty years old, good looking, despite his greasy overalls, is working on the engine. McLane gets out of the car. The black man stops working and wipes his hands. As McLane continues toward the man, he inspects the hiked-up truck, without making any eye contact.

MCLANE: Is this mountain machine ready to roll?

BLACK MAN: Sure is.

MCLANE: Excellent. Then tell the driver I want to leave as soon as possible.

Still, McLane examines the truck without paying any real attention to the man, who now begins to scrutinize McLane.

BLACK MAN: I see ... that suits me just fine ... I’m Strickland.

McLane turns to him, mildly surprised.

MCLANE: Oh. You ready to roll, then?

A well-built fellow, Strickland unzips his work suit, revealing the sleek outfit underneath. He takes out a pocket watch and opens it.

STRICKLAND: It’s a little after four-thirty now...

A photo inside portrays a younger Strickland, together with a young MEXICAN MAN and a young CAUCASIAN MAN, each of them sporting military haircuts.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): We can be on the road in twenty minutes.

MCLANE: Good.

STRICKLAND: Of course, you are aware of the storm expected by late evening, are you not?

MCLANE: Of course, I’ve heard something of it, but we should certainly be in Tahoe before we have any problem. Yes or no?

STRICKLAND: Yes, sir, we should. I just felt that you should know about any weather conditions we might be encountering.

MCLANE: Commendable, but I have to be in Tahoe tonight. Now I’ve been told you’re as good as they come. But that’s just hearsay at this point, isn’t it? Your apprehension concerns me. Should I really trust such valuable cargo, namely myself and my briefcase, on just hearsay?

STRICKLAND (after an uneasy pause): Considering what we’ll be driving through, I am the best that money can buy.

MCLANE: Then I guess it’s time to prove it.

STRICKLAND: Fine. You’re just moments away from your own personal encounter with adventure.

Strickland grins like a guy posing in his own commercial spot. A peculiar look flashes across McLane’s face as he tries to remember why that line sounds so familiar.

Story Continues Below
To watch author and historian W. Kent Smith discuss the contents of his book On Earth as It is On Heaven, at the Sacred Word Revealed Conference 2023, hosted by Zen Garcia, CLICK BELOW.

Story Continues From Above

EXT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - LATER

The four-wheel drive truck RUMBLES along the highway leading up toward the mountain pass. The sun has set and the skyline grows ominously darker.

INT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - NIGHT

Strickland’s attention is devoted to his gauges and to the road, while McLane calmly gazes out across the frigid highway. A CB radio CHATTERS away, while a small portable lamp casts a warm glow across both men’s cold, serious faces. A wolf’s tooth and dog tags dangle from the rear view mirror.

MCLANE: What branch of the service were you in?

STRICKLAND: Air Force.

MCLANE: Air Force? Where were you stationed?

STRICKLAND: Anchorage.

MCLANE (suddenly curious): Alaska? Kill any Russians?

STRICKLAND (reluctantly): Hardly ... I was a scientist.

MCLANE (mockingly): A scientist? Is that where you learned so much about the land and the animals?

Strickland flashes him a serious look.

STRICKLAND: Look, Mr. McLane, I’m well aware of your reputation. So when I was offered this job—no questions asked—I agreed with that understanding. Any questions about my past are really unnecessary. Don’t you think?

Unfazed, McLane returns his attention to the highway.

EXT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - LATER

The truck ROARS along the icy mountain pass road.

INT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - CONTINUOUS

Strickland intensely drives on, while McLane drearily closes his eyes.

EXT. SNOW-COVERED MOUNTAIN ROAD - CONTINUOUS

Suddenly, appearing from out of the flurry of snowfall just ahead of the vehicle, a solitary figure, wearing a military parka, stands in the middle of the road, waving its arms. Strickland has no time to swerve. The truck drives right through the figure as if it were a ghost.

INT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - CONTINUOUS

STRICKLAND: What the—?

The truck abruptly looses control on a patch of ice, and lurches toward the embankment, CRASHING violently through the guard rail.

INT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - LATER

Strickland and McLane are both stunned. For the longest time, the only thing moving in their snow-bound vehicle are the wiper blades, swishing back and forth, back and forth. Slowly, the two men begin to stir in their seats.

MCLANE: Well, I’ll be damned. What the hell just happened? You’re supposed to be a crack driver.

STRICKLAND: Look, Mr. McLane, this had nothing to do with my driving. Truth is ...

Strickland pauses, searching his mind for a plausible explanation.

MCLANE: Well, spit it out, man. What in the hell just happened? Did you fall asleep at the wheel, or what?

STRICKLAND (through grit teeth): Hardly. We hit a stretch of black ice. Be glad you’re still in one piece. I am at least responsible for that...

Strickland switches off the wiper blades and grabs the CB microphone.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): Mayday, Mayday. This is Mountain Machine in need of assistance. I repeat: This is a mayday. Does anybody copy me out there? Over...

The CB radio just CRACKLES.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): I repeat this a mayday. Does anybody copy my transmission? Over.

Then, from the CB, we hear a—

VOICE: This is Eagle Eye over at the Bridgeport Reservoir Lookout. I copy your transmission, Mountain Machine. What’s your situation? Over.

McLane sighs, relieved.

STRICKLAND: Two of us are stranded about five miles past Bridgeport, off Highway Three-ninety-five, just south of Devil’s Gate. We hit some ice and went off the main road. No one injured here, but we need immediate assistance. Over.

EAGLE EYE: Roger, Mountain Machine. Will contact local forest rangers for assistance. Keep this frequency clear for—

The transmission fades. A GUST of WIND shakes the truck. A flurry of snow totally obscures visibility.

STRICKLAND (calmly): Hello ... hello, Eagle Eye, this is Mountain Machine. Repeat your last transmission, please. Repeat your last transmission. Over.

Strickland lowers the microphone. He turns the radio up, but only STATIC INCREASES. McLane grits his teeth.

MCLANE: Damn it, man! Get on the ball! I’ve got to be in Tahoe tonight! Try a different frequency! Do something, damn it!

STRICKLAND: Put a lid on it, McLane. You’re wasting your breath. We’ve got to stay on the same frequency and wait.

MCLANE: Listen, Strickland, let’s get something straight. I still give the orders on this little excursion, not you! So think again about how you talk to me! Clear?

STRICKLAND (only slightly sarcastic): Yes, sir, loud and clear.

McLane shivers.

MCLANE: Good.

STRICKLAND: In the meantime, I need to find out how damaged my truck is.

Strickland reaches under his seat and pulls out a forty-five caliber handgun. McLane is slightly taken aback at the appearance of the weapon.

MCLANE: Uhh ... what’s that for?

Strickland withdraws a full clip from the handle, examines it, and jams it back into place.

STRICKLAND: Predators.

He grabs the portable lamp.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): Holler if you hear anything more on the radio.

EXT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - CONTINUOUS

Lamp in one hand, gun in the other, Strickland strains to see through a flurry of snow. The HOWLING WIND whips bitterly around him. To his disgust, he discovers the front end of his truck is lodged squarely in a tree. Then, from out of nowhere, there is a—

VOICE: Lieutenant, please ... leave this place. Or someone else is going to die.

Strickland spins around.

STRICKLAND: Who’s there? Where are you?

Suddenly, a hand grabs Strickland’s shoulder from behind. He turns, only to find that no one is there. Frantically, he FIRES SEVERAL SHOTS from his gun in its general direction. The truck’s front tire BLOWS OUT. McLane, in shock, rolls his window down.

MCLANE: What the hell are you doing?

STRICKLAND (eyes scanning every direction): Something strange is going on around here.

MCLANE: Are you nuts? You could have killed me with that thing!

STRICKLAND: Sorry. (then looking up at McLane) Roll up your window, will you? We need to conserve all our heat now.

Then, through the RADIO STATIC, it’s—

EAGLE EYE: Mountain Machine, do you copy? I repeat, do you copy? Over.

MCLANE: Damn it, man, we’re receiving another transmission! Get in here!

INT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - CONTINUOUS

Strickland grabs the microphone. The men exchange a peculiar look.

EAGLE EYE: I repeat, Mountain Machine, this is Eagle Eye. Do you copy? Over.

STRICKLAND: Roger, Eagle Eye, this is Mountain Machine. There’s a lot of static, but I read you. Go ahead. Over.

Both men listen intently, without moving a muscle.

EAGLE EYE: Bad news, Mountain Machine, the snowstorm’s hit ahead of schedule. Everything is socked in for thirty miles. Nothing’s getting through tonight. You’ll have to sit tight till things blow over. Hopefully sometime tomorrow. Keep this frequency open. We’ll contact you as soon as we get word from local rangers. Over.

Strickland doesn’t speak right away. When he does, his words are thick with concern.

STRICKLAND: Roger, Eagle Eye, over and out.

Replacing the microphone, he lowers the radio volume.

MCLANE: No, no, no. This cannot be happening!

The wind WHIPS LOUDER. The snow SLASHES harder. Strickland turns toward McLane, who is beginning to hyperventilate.

STRICKLAND (slowly, ominously): Well, well ... it looks as if we’re going to be stuck here a while. Time you learn a few things about life ... and death in this frozen hell of a wilderness...

McLane tries to mask the anxiety that is gripping him.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): I mean, if you think this is just some detour and then you’ll be on your way again—let me tell you—you’re sourly mistaken. This place can drain the life out of you. No matter who you are. Black, white, rich, poor. That tired game is over for the time being.

Strickland SLAMS the gun down onto the dashboard. They glare at one another for several moments. Still, there is the WIND, the CRACKLING RADIO NOISE, and the SLASHING snow. McLane’s anxiety suddenly turns to frustration. Grabbing the gun, he points it at an unflinching Strickland.

MCLANE: You don’t seem to understand. I have to be in Tahoe tonight. Now, you’re just going to have to try another frequency. Get somebody else on the line. I don’t care what it costs. I’ve got to get to Tahoe. Now get on the radio.

STRICKLAND: McLane, didn’t you hear the man? He said everything is socked in for thirty miles. No one is going to take that kind of risk on a night like this. Not even for all your cash.

MCLANE: Wrong! Everyone has their price. Even you.

STRICKLAND: No. Your money’s not going to buy your way to Tahoe tonight. It’s certainly not going to buy your survival out here. You don’t even realize that gun is empty. That clip holds nine slugs. I counted nine shots I just fired outside. Check for yourself.

MCLANE (getting angrier): Maybe I should...

He moves the gun barrel very close to Strickland’s face.

MCLANE (CONT’D): Maybe I should check for both of us.

STRICKLAND: Let’s just say even if I were wrong, it wouldn’t be in your best interest. Don’t you realize killing me is suicide for you out here?

McLane lowers the weapon and removes the clip from its handle. It’s empty. He’s speechless at the realization. Strickland takes the gun and the empty clip from the deflated McLane. Then he rolls his window down.

STRICKLAND (CONT’D): You’re losing your grip, McLane.

Sticking the gun outside, he aims it off into the distance. He squeezes the trigger, DISCHARGING the weapon with a DULL CRACK.

MCLANE: What the hell?

Quickly, Strickland rolls the window back up.

STRICKLAND: Maybe if you had been paying attention, you would have counted eight shots fired. Since the last bullet moves up into the chamber when the clip empties, I knew you’d assume the gun was empty, too ... if I could just get you to look ... A numb mind is a funny thing. After a while, you won’t know what to believe. Face it, McLane, you’re out of your league in this place and you know it.

Withdrawing another full clip for his forty-five pistol, Strickland jams it in. He holsters it into his left boot. McLane gazes at it for a moment, then turns away.

MCLANE (muttering): Damn you, mister, for your bad luck on me. Damn you and your worthless excuse for a mountain machine.

EXT. STRICKLAND’S TRUCK - NIGHT

A WOLF’S HOWLING gives way to the WIND HOWLING LOUDER. A flurry of snow beats down heavier still on the immobilized 4-wheel drive truck, looking rather insignificant in the overflowing landscape.

So ends this Act of A STRANGE WORLD. To read more, please click on one of the following links:

Read the Next Act of Snow Madness to discover that if power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then pursuing power is a tricky game at best.

Read the Previous Act of Snow Madness to meet a man searching for that most sought after prize, power, until one day power dispensed a lesson of its own.

Read Driven to learn how some people are driven to greatness, some to degradation, and some are just driven.

Read The Mirror Man to see that a guardian angel still has a lot to learn about his real subject matter: the human race.

Read A Strange World from the Beginning, to see how we seek the truth, like strangers in a strange land, then when we least expect it, truth finds us.