What I'm Working On Now

Three short films are in Post-Production, soon to be submitting to film festivals.
Producing/editing a pilot for a new web-series inspired by the Alice in Wonderland tales.
Producing/editing a documentary on Gene Roddenberry and the genesis of Star Trek The Original Series.
There are a number of other projects in development, just waiting their turn to be produced.

Friday, September 28, 2012


An Elm

The tree, it burst forth from the ground
No warning root or mound
Its lump-ed, creased, and folded form
Of wood so deviant from the norm
And yet so elegantly placed, each branch and leaf and knot
This malproportioned hour glass that ever I saw wrought
The twiggy bush 'neath canopy, and 'tween them naked bark
So strange a sight, this wild tree, here in the city park
The sunlight filters, changes hues, the leaves both near and back
From mottled greens to solid gold, such palates never lack
And whispering with passing breeze they flash and change attire
Ne'er the same, this Seussian tree, that I watch and I admire

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Here's a screenplay for a mockumentary I would love to see finished. An attempt was made a while back but technical difficulties made it unwatchable. Have you ever seen any mockumentaries? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

NOTE: V.O. means Voice Over, O.S. means Off Screen, (CONT.) means the character's line is continued following some action, words in all caps are props or sound FX or a character's first appearance. INT. means interior, EXT. means exterior. Pan, Tilt, Shift Focus, are all camera directions. Any other questions, feel free to ask.

American Reaper
Gabriel C. Taylor


Credits Begin
Close on Office wall. Pan across CALENDER, PHOTO-BOOTH PICTURE STRIP of Death and young woman, PLAYING CARD, other assorted ITEMS.

What do people say when you tell
them what you do?

Close on desk, littered with PAPERWORK. Pan across revealing messy stacks of SPREADSHEETS, SCHEDULES and OBITUARIES in either the IN-BOX or OUT-BOX.

Everyone thinks I’m joking, so they
try to be funny. You know, it’s a
living...Someone’s got to do
it...You can make a killing in that
line of work...I’ve heard them

Continue panning across the desk to reveal a computer with a black keyboard. The screen saver is on, "R.I.P."

But you’re not joking, are you?

No...I’m not.

Finish pan on a COFFEE MUG displaying the words "Worlds Best Reaper", "#1 Reaper", something to that effect. Or a NAMEPLATE: DEATH BLACK
Credits End


DEATH stands still in a sea of people, all of whom are rushing about (time lapse, blur?). Even though the mans face looks young (30’s), he has streaks of gray in his hair around his temples. This man is Death. Close on Death as his head snaps to the side and (slow motion) watches a woman walk by. Death SNAPS his fingers and a counter appears above her head, counting down. The counter reads as Year:Month:Day. i.e. 45:11:8 means 45 years, 11 months and 8 days.

It starts with a feeling...usually.
Then I start looking around, and
when I see who it is, it’s like

Death follows the woman and taps her shoulder and the
counter turns white. She continues on, glancing back only

So you just show up when


Death is walking down the isles, pushing an empty cart looking at people as he goes. Death comes up to a pregnant woman and SNAPS his fingers. A counter appears above both her head and her pregnant belly. Both have lots of time remaining.

Well, I try to catch people before
then if I can, make things easier
for me. But It’s an individual
thing, you know, when they’re

Death pats the woman on the shoulder and she smiles. Death walks on, SNAPS his fingers again and the counters disappear.


Death walks among rows of headstones with the Interviewer at his side. Death waits for no man and presses forward. The Interviewer is eager to do his work. This is the interview of all interviews. He looks like he’s walked out of a 1970’s news room in his blue/gray suit

Now, you have to reap every soul?

Every soul.

And you’ve been doing this since
the dawn of time?

More or less, yeah. It’s a full
time job.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by it

How so?

They come to a WWII veteran’s marker.

Take for instance major events,
like wars and natural disasters.
How do you handle those?

5 EXT. WAR - DAY 5

Stock footage of combat. Stock footage of mass graves Counters above each soldier change rapidly as they move, gaining or losing time with each step.

It gets...complicated. My In-Box
explodes, names get lost or
mislabeled. It’s a filing


DEATH walks among the headstones. The INTERVIEWER follows,
holding the microphone, trying to catch Death’s responses.

What do you do?

Death pauses at one of the headstones, SNAPS his fingers and checks the counter over the grave. It reads in the negatives.


Death pats the headstone and the counter fades away.

It’s an awful mess. I work myself
to death and it can still take,
weeks, months, years even to clean
things up.

Have you ever tried just cutting
your losses and letting them go

Death stops and pats another headstone.

Once, briefly.

Death shudders.

And what happened?

Death resumes walking.

Oh it was terrible. People...so
many people...thrashing and
screeching. It spread to the living
before I could stop it. It’s mostly
under control now. Though it still
crops up in movies.

You mean...zombies?



Stock Footage of people singing and dancing during the height of the age of Disco. Lights flash and a man in a white suit does a solo dance number.

So after that I knew I had to be
more responsible.


CHILDREN are lined up, waiting to see Santa. A BOY is butting his way to the front. Death sits in a Santa suit, the Interviewer at his side in the Elf suit. Children are lined up to sit on Santa’s lap. The Interviewer is noticeably uncomfortable with the situation. The boy, now at the front of the line, gets up on Death's lap. Death SNAPS his fingers and checks his time.
Have you been a good boy this year?

The boy nods and Death gives him a long look. The boy wilts slightly under Deaths gaze.


The boy runs for it.

(hushed voice)
They let you do this every year?

(playfully creepy)
Ho ho ho.

A sickly girl climbs up onto Death’s lap. Death holds his gaze on the Interviewer for a moment longer.

Have you been a good girl this

The girl nods and Death SNAPS his fingers and checks her counter. 00:04:16. Death hands her a candy cane and her counter changes to 82:08:24.

Merry Christmas.

Thank you Santa.

The girl leaves. The Interviewer smiles at Death and nudges him.

That was-

Shut it.


Not a word.

The Interviewer hesitates, then opts to return to his interviewing.

Does anyone hold on after they’re


A PERSON lies dead in bed. MOURNERS have gathered around the deceased. DEATH is there, in normal attire. Death approaches the bedside, touches the deceased hand.

A few try.

The deceased slaps Death’s hand and goes back to being ’dead’. The mourners don’t seem to notice the interaction.

What do you do?

Death’s form fades out and back in, now wearing the cloak and scythe.

That’s when the cloak and scythe
come out.

Death gestures with the scythe and the deceased gets up and follows sheepishly.


Death is picking his nails. His back to his desk.

People are wondering, I’m sure, how
much does fate play into when it’s
time for us to die?

You think Fate bothers with
individual lives?

Some people do, yes.

She’s far too busy with wars,
lightning strikes, and lotto
numbers to start micromanaging.



Death shifts uncomfortably.

There’s a story there, I think.

We dated for a while.

Shift focus to the photo strip on the office wall of Death and the woman.


Pan over to an ACE playing card tacked next to the photo. Written in bold letters "CHEATER"

You remember Santa's Workshop?
Yeah, stay on her good side.

Death shifts in his seat multiple times, straightening his clothes, etc. and avoiding eye contact.


A WOMAN is walking along the sidewalk toward Death and the Interviewer. Her counter has plenty of time. The Interviewer follows, microphone at the ready. A car is driving along the street in the background coming closer.

So, can people influence when they

Of course. Some choices lead
directly to their death.


Yes, but there’s also the choice to
zig when you should’ve zagged.

The woman steps out to cross the street just as Death and the Interviewer reach her and her counter drops to a couple seconds.
A cry of surprise catches in the Interviewer’s throat.

12 INT. CAR - SAME 12

DRIVER screams and slams on the breaks. THUD.


Death takes the Interviewer by the shoulder and guides him away from the accident. The Interviewer keeps glancing back to the frantic driver who can’t see them. Death pulls out a mint box and offers it to the Interviewer.



An overweight MAN sits in a dark room in front of his TV, stuffing his face with junk food. The TV, though the screen is not seen, plays a sports game. CROWD CHEERS/BOOS periodically. As the man eats, Death SNAPS his fingers and a counter appears above the mans head. Each mouthful knocks off a couple minutes/hours of his time.

More often, though, it’s the daily
choices you make that get you.

The man continues to gorge himself. A loud CHEER erupts and the man leaps to his feet. His counter drops the remaining time, he clutches his chest and falls back to the couch.



The Interviewer and Death are seated across from one another in Death’s office. The Interviewer checks his wrist watch.

(somewhat relieved)
Well, it’s been quite the

The Interviewer stands, Death follows suit. The Interviewer extends his hand to shake Deaths.

But sadly our time is up.

Death hesitates, eying the Interviewer, then SNAPS his


Speak for yourself.

Monday, September 24, 2012


So I'm thinking drapes along the south wall,” Matt said in reference to the one way glass that lined one side of the hallway.
Joan chuckled uneasily and gripped his hand more tightly in her own. The judge had ordered her back into isolation not half an hour ago, but somehow he had agreed to let Matt escort her back to her cell so she wouldn't have to be alone. Of course there were the guards behind the glass, watching, but they didn't count.
The hallway itself was nothing special. No doors besides the ones on either end, the one that lead to freedom, and the one she and Matt were walking towards.
Would it be alright if I still came by every once in a while to get some measurements?” Matt asked.
It's fine with me if they'll let you in,” Joan said.
I could even try to smuggle you in some stuff from the outside.” Matt said in a conspiratorial whisper.
They'd catch you,” Joan replied in her usual voice, “And whispering won't help you. They've got first class security around here.”
Well then,” Matt whispered, “What would you like?”
I just told you it's pointless.”
Then pretend with me,” Matt said, “Seriously, if you could have had anything from the outside last time, what would it have been?”
Joan didn't even hesitate with her response. “Sunlight and a clear sky above me. Trees and open field. Ice cream on my birthday, and a new book every week.”
Is that it?” Matt asked and earned a shove from Joan in the ribs.
They continued walking in silence for a few moments.
Thank you for coming with me,” Joan said as a small patch on her back caught fire.
Of course,” Matt said and ignored the fire.
I mean, you didn't even have to come with me to the hearing.”
Well I wasn't going to let you go through that all by yourself.”
The fire spread until Joan's back was completely engulfed. “Sorry if it's getting a bit hot for you,” She apologized.
No worries,” Matt said, though he began turning his head back and forth as he looked from one end of the hallway to the other. “This is a ridiculously long hallway, you know that?”
Joan laughed. “Yeah, it's part of the ventilation and cooling system they built to keep me...to keep my fire contained.”
Hmmm,” Matt looked around at the ceiling with its vents and fire sprinklers. “Security isn't the only thing that's first class around here. How's the food?”
Ever tried to eat cardboard?” Joan asked.
No, I can honestly say that I haven't.”
Well, a couple weeks of the food here,” Joan teased, “And you might be willing to try it.”
That bad, huh?” Matt grimaced.
I think the cook here must have had his taste buds seared off at birth.”
I'll have to see if I can smuggle in some food, then,” Matt said, reverting back to his secretive whisper.
I told you,” Joan said, “There's no point in trying to sneak anything in. If anything it'll make them less likely to let you in to do any research.”
Matt just shrugged. “This is a seriously long hallway.”
Don't complain,” Joan said, “You're not the one who doesn't get to enjoy it twice.”
Enjoy it twice?” Matt said in disbelief, “How could anyone enjoy this?”
I'd give anything to enjoy this hallway twice today,” Joan said, her voice serious.
Right,” Matt said with embarrassment, “Sorry.”
At last they were drawing near to Joan's door and her flame spread over to her arm opposite of Matt.
I wonder where Judge Dervin was,” Joan mused as her last few moments of relative freedom came to an end.
Matt stiffened. “I'm not sure,” He said abruptly. “I thought he was on vacation or something.”
Yeah,” Joan said but before she could go on they had reached her cell. How the hallway seemed to stretch on for an eternity and then come to an end so suddenly was beyond her.
The thick, heavy door slid open with its usual sounds of finality as it ground down on the inner gears and locking mechanisms. Joan gripped Matt's hand even tighter, to the point he began to grunt in pain but still she couldn't let go. Her fire spread, feeding off her fear and covering her head and legs.
Joan,” Matt said in such a calm voice that it somehow bypassed everything else going on in her mind.
What?” She asked, tearing her eyes away from the room to look at Matt.
Be careful not to burn me,” He said and Joan realized how close her flame was to reaching his hand.
You're a great friend,” Joan said and she let him go.
Matt folded Joan's hand into a fist and then stepped back as Joan's fire wrapped the rest of the way around her. Joan shut her eyes and took in a deep breath of heated air and stepped over the threshold.
The gears in the door whined as they worked to shut the door behind her and when it at last settled into its shut position the locks clanged and sent an echo reverberating through the room.
Silence pressed in on Joan's ears as though she were beneath several feet of water. No hum of electricity or vents, no rumble of distant traffic. Her own heartbeat became a deafening drum in her head.
She opened her eyes.
The walls around her were bright but with the exorbitant number of lights they might as well have been painted black. The lack of doors, the bright lights inset behind protective glass, all of it was terribly familiar. It seemed as though she had never been let out, that the last few months had only been a dream that she was now waking up from. Her fire burned with her depressed and fearful emotions feeding it.
Something buzzed in her hand. The hand that had been holding Matt's, the hand Matt had been so careful to close before leaving her.
Joan opened her hand, careful not to let her fire touch whatever was in it. A small cell phone sat in her palm with its screen lit up and showing a new text message.
Sorry it's not heat shielded,” The text read, “Spur of the moment thing. They shouldn't be able to see it when you're burning so if you ever feel the need to chat while you're on fire, send me a text.”
Joan stared in disbelief, thinking that she should say something back, a thank you at least, when she got another text.
Treat it nice, it's my personal cell so now all I have is my work phone. No internet...Told you I could smuggle things in for you. And don't run up too big a bill for me.”
Joan's fire turned more relaxed and she spent the rest of her time burning reading web comics.

*       *       *
 What are your thoughts on how I've written Joan, returning to her isolation? Any thoughts on Matt, was it too far fetched to have him escort Joan to her cell?

Friday, September 21, 2012


Fall is in the air
Cold and crisp it bites my joints
My cane becomes me
Breath in, cough, breath out
Sick lungs heavy with fluid
Plague bearer am I
“Hold you” says my son
Here is the meaning of life
Hours pass, he sleeps.

Sorry this is late. Internet crashed and had to get it back up and running.

So what are your thoughts on this form of poetry? Have you ever written haiku's?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The royal city burned. Everywhere, dragons and men fought, and the dragons were winning. Magical wards and protections kept the dragons back from the central palace but one by one the defenses were falling and the dragons were advancing.
Where are the catapults?” The captain of the palace guard shouted as he charged out onto the palace wall.
Another warded tower fell before the dragons and they advanced.
They've already been destroyed,” A soldier answered.
Destroyed?” The captain cried out over the din of shrieking dragons, dying men, and burning buildings.
It was Grau, sir,” The soldier explained, “The Unmaker. It was the first thing he did when the dragons began their assault. Flew right through the wards as though they were nothing and destroyed the catapults before we could get any shots off.”
The captain looked around at the barren wall, finally noting the broken footings where the catapults use to be. He also noted another problem.
Archers?” He asked without much hope.
The soldier just shook his head. There were only a few dozen soldiers left on the wall, all clumped together, spears held in shaking hands.
Were you at least able to slay the beast?” The captain asked.
He gazed out over the battle. His men were falling back everywhere he looked. Not an archer left among them. He counted at least twenty dragons but he knew there must be more judging from the fires bursting into life throughout the city. The fires would spread to the few remaining warded towers and then...
The soldier still hadn't answered him.
The captain turned in time to see the last remnants of the illusion fade away and see the dragon lunge out at him. There was no time to draw a weapon, no time to react. Grau's jaws clamped down around the captain, lifting him off the ground and then tossing him up into the air.
He should have known, looking back down on the palace wall, that something was wrong. It had been too clean. There should have been bodies and rubble. Now that the illusion was ended, he saw it, saw them. His men with their glassy eyes staring at nothing.
Grau's tail swept around toward the captain as he returned to the ground. The captain closed his eyes and welcomed death, comforted by his belief that he had served his country well.
Another tower fell and Grau looked around as his fellows drew closer. At the same moment, the door leading out to the palace wall burst open.
Foul demon,” cried King Dorynn as he and his Honor Guard charged out onto the battlement, “Too long has your kind plagued my people, too long have you preyed upon us.”
Grau sneered at the King. The Honor Guard took up their positions to protect the King. Their armor and weapons shone with magic. It would take a while for even Grau to Unmake their combined magic. It was the King, though, that worried Grau the most. His armor had no magical wards, but try as he might, Grau couldn't Unmake it.
A gift,” King Dorynn said as he drew The Sword from its sheath, “From my son.”
Grau snarled and spat a fireball at the guards.
Their armor flared and the fireball dissipated before it could burn them. The fireball, however, was just a distraction. While they were temporarily blinded by the combined brightness of the fireball and flaring wards, Grau swept his tail around and carried the guards up and over the side of the wall leaving Grau alone with the King.
Clever trick,” King Dorynn muttered and then gestured with his sword to Grau's tail. “But I don't think you'll be doing that again any time soon.”
Grau pulled his withered tail back behind him and squared off to face King Dorynn fully.
I could still destroy you,” Grau said, “But that was never the point.”
Oh?” King Dorynn asked, “And what was the point of all this? You all so eager to die?”
Grau laughed a deep guttural laugh.
No, fool,” Grau said, “The point was to give us all a fresh start.”
Grau pelted a burst of fire at King Dorynn but it split around his shield without causing any notable damage.
So it is true,” Grau said, “You have found a way to forge pure steel.”
Impervious to any magic,” King Dorynn said, admiring the metal.
King Dorynn lunged and Grau swept backward out of the way of the blade while at the same time beating his wings. The resultant gust of wind knocked King Dorynn off balance and the weight of his armor, combined with his age, pulled him to the ground.
Another tower fell.
Grau knew better than to close in on the king just yet and instead threw remnants of the ruined catapults scattering down along the walkway. King Dorynn shoved himself out of the way and was back up on his feet in moments.
Clever trick,” King Dorynn remarked and he threw himself back at Grau.
Grau belched out another fire blast and then flew up and over King Dorynn to attack him from behind. As Grau passed over, searing pain erupted in his underbelly and he shrieked with pain. His momentum still carried him on and as the last of his belly passed by the king he felt a terrible wrenching. The king shouted out but Grau couldn't make out what he said over the noise of his own screaming and crashing.
King Dorynn laughed though he could not hide the pain in his voice entirely. As he stood, Grau could see King Dorynn's sword arm was stuck in an unnatural position, The Sword slipping from his in his grip. King Dorynn caught the blade in with his other hand and wiped it on the corpse of one of his fallen soldiers. “You can fool me once, dragon,” He said, “But no one fools me twice.”
Blood, dark and purple seeped out of Grau, quickly forming a pool around him. He didn't need to look to know he'd been split open, chest to tail.
I think,” King Dorynn said as he advanced, “That you've broken my arm.”
Mmmm,” Grau agreed with obvious sarcasm, “Sorry about that.”
A gentleman to the last,” King Dorynn said and he hefted The Sword his over his head to begin chopping away at Grau.
Grau was waiting for just such a thing and he pelted King Dorynn in the face with fire. The king shrieked, falling backward and clutching at his helmet with his good hand. The Sword lay forgotten on the ground. The helmet had turned red hot from the close range blast and the air suddenly became thick with the smell of cooking meat.
At last, King Dorynn managed to pull his helmet free. His face was charred in several places and his hair was mostly gone. He staggered around a bit from the pain and Grau took advantage of King Dorynn's disorientation and swept his tail around, flicking The Sword off the walkway and down into the city below.
No!” King Dorynn cried out when he realized what Grau had done.
Grau raised himself back up and strode forward. The wounds on his tail and belly were nearly healed now and with the King weaponless, it was time to strike.
King Dorynn,” Grau bellowed, knocking the old king to the ground with his paw and pinning him there, “You have spread lies throughout your land, destroying your own people's lands in the hopes of turning them against my kind.”
King Dorynn struggled against Grau's claws, bashing his good arm against them, but without any warding, it was nothing more than his strength against Grau's.
There was a prophecy given,” Grau went on, “About the end of magic, when one of my kind would have to purge it from the world lest you humans become too powerful.”
King Dorynn no longer struggled. He only stared in horror as he watched the last of the warded towers around the palace fall. The sky darkened with dragons as they swooped over and through the palace grounds, all of them converging on Grau and King Dorynn.
Do you know my name, human?” Grau asked, twitching a claw and breaking King Dorynn's legs
King Dorynn stammered, terrified by the ever increasing number of dragons that were perching on the palace wall. Grau lifted his paw and backed away. A dragon flew from its perch and soared directly at Grau. Grau doubled in size as the other dragon was absorbed into him, leaving no trace of the other.
I am Grau the Unmaker,” Grau said as dragon after dragon flew into him.
Grau increased in size with each subsequent dragon and soon he was too big for the palace wall to support. Grau's powerful wings beat the air to keep him aloft.
For centuries I have known that it was my destiny to Unmake the magic of this world,” Grau continued, “But I feared man was not yet ready for the burden of living without magic, that they would destroy themselves. And so I waited.”
Prince Rynn strode out onto the walkway, not looking at his father when he passed by on his way to stand before the monstrous Grau.
What betrayal is this?” King Dorynn yelled, “You ally yourself with them?”
It was you who betrayed our people,” Prince Rynn said without turning his head to look at his father, “It was you that brought this to bare.”
Young One,” Grau said, “Are you prepared to be King?”
A moment passed, and then Prince Rynn nodded as the last of the dragons flew into Grau.
King Dorynn,” Grau shouted, “I unmake you now, along with all magic of this world!”
Grau burst with a light that did not fade as it traveled further away. The whole countryside lit up and along the spreading horizon, all magic failed. Prince Rynn had to shield his eyes from the brilliance and when he thought he could bare no more, it ended. When Prince Rynn regained his sight, only a shadow of Grau remained.
Rule wisely, Young One,” The shade said and then faded out of existence.
Prince Rynn turned, the city was rebuilt, as though there never had been any attack upon it. The broken war machines and bodies that before had cluttered the walkway were gone and all that remained was his fathers suit of armor. It was empty.
*       *       *       *
 So, now that I've finished my first attempt at some more traditional fantasy story telling, what do you think? How could I improve it? What worked and what didn't?

Monday, September 17, 2012


Name?” The guard behind the desk asked.
Matt Wellis,” Matt replied in a flat, bored tone. He shifted his weight and Joan followed suit as she tried to minimize how much of her the guard could see.
Who are you here to see?” The guard asked while he wrote Matt's name down on a name tag.
My friend, Tom,” Matt said.
Last name?” The guard asked.
Joan felt a chill shoot through her as she realized she didn't know Tom's last name, and neither would Matt.
He's the guy who got burned by that freak girl who lights herself on fire,” Matt stated without missing a beat.
Joan let out a quiet sigh of relief.
Oh, him,” The guard nodded and checked on his computer. “And what's his last name?”
Joan gripped Matt as her worry returned and her fire threatened to ignite.
Oh my gosh Jen!” Matt exclaimed, turning around to face Joan, “Could you be any less annoying right now?”
Joan shrank back, shocked at Matt's sudden outburst.
My friend Tom almost dies and I want just five minutes to say hi and all you can think of is how much you'd rather be painting your nails with whats-her-name, the fat one.”
Wh-what?” Joan stammered beneath Matt's withering scowl.
I told you before we left, five minutes to visit Tom and then I'd drop you off, okay?”
Joan nodded slowly and Matt turned back to the guard.
Sorry about that,” Matt said, “She looks like she's twenty but acts like she's five.” Matt shook his head. “I hate middle schoolers.”
The guard glanced around Matt to get a better look at Joan. “She's in middle school?” He asked.
Yup,” Matt stated, “Any way, can we go?”
Yeah, yeah,” The guard said and quickly finished writing out Joan's name tag: Jen Wellis. “Third floor, room 305”
Thanks,” Matt said and he took Joan by the arm and lead her away towards the elevators.
Joan waited until the elevator doors had shut before speaking.
How did you do that?” She asked in amazement.
Do what?” Matt asked while he tried to adjust his name tag.
Lie to the guard so easily,” Joan explained.
Matt looked up. “Lie?” He asked, “I didn't think of it like that. Hmm. I just thought of it as acting.”
You act?” Joan asked.
Yeah, I'll do a little community theater every now and then.”
I never would have guessed.”
That's me,” Matt said in a conspiratorial tone, “Matt Wellis, man of mystery.”
Joan opened her mouth to speak but the elevator doors opened and she thought better of it. The less they spoke the better.
Joan let Matt take the lead once more as they made their way to Tom's room. They passed a few nurses stations but the most any of them did was look up and check that they were both wearing name tags. At last, they arrived at the ICU. Joan began to worry that they'd have to talk their way through another checkpoint but as soon as Matt explained who they were the nurse let them in.
Yeah, security called to let us know you were coming,” The nurse said. “He should be awake right now, but don't expect too much from him.”
Matt and Joan nodded and then stepped into Tom's room. Joan was careful to shut the door behind them to prevent anyone from overhearing their conversation.
Is that you Joan?” Tom said at once, his speech slurred slightly from the damage to his lips.
What? How'd you know it was me?” Joan asked.
When the nurse said that someone named Matt Wellis was coming to visit,” Tom explained, his voice weak and scratchy, “I remembered you talking about him and figured you were coming with him.”
You didn't tell anyone, did you?” Joan asked.
No,” Tom said.
With her fears abated, Joan was finally able to take in what she was looking at. Tom had bandages wrapped all around him. There were only a couple of slits for his nose and mouth. Cables and tubes crisscrossed their way though the bandages to various parts of Tom's body and Joan counted three bags of various fluids feeding into his I.V.
Matt moved over to the window and busied himself with watching the traffic below.
How are you?” Joan asked, sitting herself down by his side.
Tom managed a dry chuckle. “That's the one nice thing about third degree burns,” He said, “Totally killed the nerve endings so I don't feel a thing.”
How long will you be in here?” Joan asked, shocked at what she'd done to him.
Doctors say if I heal up well I could be out of here in no time.”
Really?” Joan asked.
No,” Tom stated. “At best I've only got another six to eight months in here.”
And worst case?” Joan prompted at noting Tom's tone of voice.
I dehydrate faster than they can pump fluids into me and I die.”
Tom's voice was slow and serious, without the usual levity and humor.
But that's not likely to happen,” Joan said, “Is it?”
From beneath his bandages, a slight hint of a shrug.
I'm sorry,” Joan said through a tightening throat and she felt hot tears running down her cheeks. “I'm so sorry I did this to you. I never meant for this to happen.”
Joan cried for a few moments, unable to speak. Matt looked over to her but stayed where he was, eventually looking back out the window.
I forgive you Joan,” Tom said quietly.
What?” Joan asked, wiping her eyes.
It wasn't your fault, I should have known better, and I don't want you to blame yourself for what happened.”
Joan nodded and smiled but then realized Tom couldn't see her response through the bandages.
Thank you,” She said.
But,” Tom said at once, “I don't want you visiting me anymore.”
Joan sank in her seat.
Like I said, I know it wasn't your fault but being this close to you terrifies me and I just can't do this right now.”
Oh, okay,” Joan said and she got to her feet. “I guess we'll be going now.”
Matt left the window and moved over to the door.
You're a great girl, Joan,” Tom said with a hint of his old self, “And I want to thank you for a great time, while it lasted.”
Joan patted Tom gently on his bandaged head. Tom flinched and Joan withdrew her hand.
Take care,” Joan said, “Write me a letter when you get the chance.”
I don't have your address,” Tom said.
Joan opened the door to leave. “Just send it to the prison, I'll be back in my cell.”
What?” Matt asked, grabbing Joan by the arm and turning her around to face him.
I'm turning myself in,” She explained. “Tom was wrong, it was my fault. I shouldn't be allowed out in public where I can endanger others.”
Matt let go of her arm and Joan strode away, crying silently to herself and already feeling the walls closing in on her.

*       *       *
Questions about this chapter: How do you feel about Joan and Tom's relationship? Does Joan's decision to turn herself in at the end make sense?