MAG140
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#7150101

The Movement of the Heavens

[INT. MAGNUS INSTITUTE, ARCHIVES, JOHN’S OFFICE]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]
[The Archivist takes a deep breath.]

BASIRA

Coffee.

[She sets down a cup of coffee in front of him.]

ARCHIVIST

What?

BASIRA

Coffee. Drink it.

ARCHIVIST

I’m really, uh… Fine.

BASIRA

You look awful. You try drinking with Daisy again?

ARCHIVIST

(overlapping) She was here last night, as you know.

BASIRA

Drinking alone, then.

ARCHIVIST

It’s not a hangover. Well, not – I wasn’t drinking.

BASIRA

Drugs, then? Sick? Got some weird monster disease?

ARCHIVIST

Seriously?

BASIRA

(no-nonsense) We’ve been over this. You need to tell me stuff. Communication works both ways, you know.

[The Archivist sighs over her last words.]

ARCHIVIST

Y-Yesterday I tried something I – (slight pause) I, I deliberately tried to… Know something, like I did in the coffin, but there was too much, (he sighs) and, uh –

BASIRA

What did you find out?

ARCHIVIST

(dry laugh) Nothing. There was too much.

BASIRA

You don’t remember any of it?

ARCHIVIST

You drink the whole contents of a bar, you don’t remember what the Merlot tastes like. (sigh-adjacent sound) It just hurt.

BASIRA

Sure.

[Some rustling, as she takes out some papers.]

ARCHIVIST

What’s that?

BASIRA

Statement. You in a condition for it?

ARCHIVIST

(immediately) Yes. (long inhale) Yes, what’s this one about?

[More rustling.]

BASIRA

Took me a while to hunt it down again, but – you remember Maxwell Rayner?

ARCHIVIST

Yes, of course; your – warehouse showdown?

BASIRA

Yeah, well, whole thing kinda stayed with me.

ARCHIVIST

Mm, I can imagine.

BASIRA

Well, there’s more history there than we thought. Capital H History.

ARCHIVIST

John Flamsteed? Basira, this is from way before the Institute!

BASIRA

The first Astronomer Royale. Had the post until his death in 1720.

ARCHIVIST

1719. He died on New Year’s Eve.

(second to realize what he’s done) Sorry, I didn’t – Can’t really help it.

[He gives a small laugh.]

BASIRA

Well, either way, he really hated the man who succeeded him. His former assistant, Edmund Halley.

ARCHIVIST

As in… Halley’s Comet, Halley?

BASIRA

Yep. And Flamsteed had a… what’s the opposite of a pet name? Like a nickname for someone you hate.

ARCHIVIST

Uhhh… I don’t –

BASIRA

(overlapping) Well, he had one of them for Halley. Called him ‘Reimer.’

ARCHIVIST

Reimer? And, and you think –

BASIRA

Names shift over the years. ‘Specially if you’re not keen on keeping the same body.

ARCHIVIST

(pure, wondrous shock) Right.

BASIRA

Just – have a read. Let me know when you’re done.

ARCHIVIST

You’re not staying?

BASIRA

Watching you do your thing? No.

[The Archivist makes a sound that sounds rather like he’s mentally kicking himself.]

ARCHIVIST

I – suppose I understand.

[As the door closes behind Basira, he takes a deep breath.]

ARCHIVIST

(still breathy) Right…

(stronger) Statement of John Flamsteed, taken from a partial unsent letter to Abraham Sharp, 1715. Audio recording by Jonathan Sims, The Archivist. Statement begins.

Um – (flips page) Uh –

ARCHIVIST (STATEMENT)

But my affliction in writing to you is of a wholly different character. And were I not well sure of your firm alliance and counsel, I should under no extremity impose it upon you. For I have killed a man, and barely do I have the covering of great passion for it, for I was well within my senses at the time.

You are familiar of course with my persecuter and tormentor Edmond Halley. The one so oft descending upon me as Nemesis with her sword to avenge upon my hubris. It was he, who with the president of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, printed my catalogue of stars without my knowledge, robbing me of the fruits of my labor, turning my triumph to naught but ashes.

I have had – many a contest with the president, but I harbor little true bitterness toward him. He is a blockish creature of vanity, concerned with his appearance only, and likely to fly into an indecent heat and knavish talk at any dispute. He has no reverence for God, and I pity him the fire that awaits. But in life, my thoughts of him are simply those of disdain, and hold no corner for true hatred.

I put no such chain upon my spirit when I make my considerations of Halley, who I have long called Reimer to you in my letters, for as the odious Nicolaus Reimer persecuted the great Tycho, and ran his noble genius to exile, so, too, has my own Reimer pushed me toward ruin.

I have detailed much of his offenses in my letters to you, but as much again I have concealed within my soul and given no voice. Simply know the robbery of my celestial catalog was but the least of it.

I will admit, that in my heart, I nurtured such dreams of revenge that when they came to me the name of God felt hollow upon my lips. Another dignity stripped from me by mine enemy.

Such were the depths of the hatred that I found within myself that whereupon I would spy Reimer at the Royal Society, if I were unobserved in turn, I would to no deliberate end begin to follow him. Oft it was that I would follow his path until my better humours overtook me, or I was seen by my quarry, who would smile, and offer his insufferable greeting.

So it has been this past year, though I have never had fear he might know my intentions.

Yet this month past, it has been… much changed. Reimer’s wanderings, hitherto aimless or meandering through the gardens and pathways of the Royal Society, or the coffeeshops of Fleet Street, have of late drawn him almost out of London entirely, to a strange and shrouded wood not a league from what might draw the interests of the pompous fool with whose whims I was now well-acquainted.

And in that quiet seclusion, while I looked on in silence and astonishment, he would meet with figures both man and woman alike, with dull clothing and eyes that in the darkness of that wooded place seemed wholly black and empty. Their words were soft and impenetrable to me from the spot wherein I was concealed, but they had much impact upon Reimer, who would often stagger backwards as though struck.

They led him further through trees of gnarled and twisted woods, where the thick roof of leaves permitted not the light of moon or stars, and there they knelt around a pool so black, if it had been India ink it could have scarcely been darker. I held back a cry that threatened to force itself from my lips, for I am not so blind as to be ignorant to the practices of vile pagan exultation.

And I can describe what I saw around that pool as nothing less. And dismiss as you will my words as the shaken memory of a man appalled, but at that awful moment, their cries of worship seemed to form shapes that stirred in the water, such as I have never seen in my time upon this earth.

I fled, of course, and considered the courses such as I might pursue to relieve myself of this dreadful burden of knowledge. No longer was my concern purely for revenge upon Reimer, but a quite acute terror of the savage rites the practice of which were clearly among my peers.

I had not seen with clarity those compatriots alongside whom Reimer had joined in awful raptures, and could not state with confidence that any among the faculty to whom I might make report of his debauchery would not in turn make it known that I was telling such things of Halley, an astronomer of note, whose conduct to all others has been unimpeachable.

No. If there was to be a confrontation or action taken against Reimer, it would be I, and I alone that would have to take it.

I know it was the second of May when this took place, for it was no doubt the crowning glory that he had stolen from me that occupied his mind that eve, and caused his steps to quicken and grow careless.

Again he traced his path under that dark and hidden wood, and again I followed, quiet in my manner, keen in my observance. I cast around for other figures, but in that moment, Reimer was alone. He proceeded then, as before, to the pool of blackest water, and the clear skies of night were lost amongst the leaves. All was quiet as he gazed into that smoothed and liquid darkness.

This, I knew, was to be my chance.

I stepped from my place of concealment and began to decry him, casting my censure upon Reimer and naming before him the vile acts of pagan villainy which I had myself observed. His mute shock was but for a moment, before he let out a noise the likes of which I can scarce describe, and charged towards me, his fingers curled to claws that sought my face and eyes.

I wasted no time, and drew my small sword, and praised to God, who gifted me foresight to carry it. I struck Reimer a fierce blow to the leg. He fell, still clutching at me, and in a moment, cast my sword away into the trees and grabbed at my coat. With a fierce strength never before awakened within me, I gripped the head of my foul adversary, and forced it down, into the dark pool before us.

There I held it, the water so cold upon my skin the marks have yet to fade. And Reimer thrashed, and kicked, and made such sounds as I have never before heard of the dying.

And he was still.

I drew him up with the black water still thickly flowing from him. He was dead at my hand, and though I well knew it to be an act of defense and retribution, I felt within me a sudden terror of discovery.

I took my sword and returned to hiding in the dense growth of the forest, fearing that, should I return upon the path, my passing might be met and marked. Better to wait until I had the surety of unseen passage.

And as I waited there, the enormity of my actions settled upon me like lead, and Reimer’s dark-eyed compatriots arrived to attend him.

Seeing him prostrate and lifeless upon the ground was clearly a shock, and their distress was marked upon them. And yet there seemed no sadness or horror within their passion, but surprise and confusion, and the question they cast between them was that of what was to be done, for it seemed Reimer was vital to a task as yet unfinished.

His body was borne up by them and taken away, at the time, I believed, for burial. And when I was certain I was once again alone, I fled, leaving those infernal waters for good and all.

And were that the end of my poor story, you may well imagine my confession of such to you, for laying it in writing is an unburdening beyond what I could have foreseen. And yet it was not this that inspired in me the need to write you an account.

It was what occurred but two days past, for I was in my observatory making my notes of adjustments, as my position requires, when I was called upon, not unusually, by the president of the Royal Society. I was astonished at how cordial his conduct seemed, his temper even and his heat steady.

But it was not the attitude of the president that robbed my tongue of speech.

It was that in his visit, he was accompanied by Edmund Halley. My dear Reimer, whose body had gone cold and still in my own cruel hands.

He had – little to say, it seemed, as the president went over, once again, some – detail of my equipment, and Reimer, who was and is dead, simply watched me in solemn silence. Were it not for his handing books to the president, I should have thought him a shade or haunt, but his substance was far more than such could ever achieve.

At length, Mr. Newton took his leave, and Reimer went to follow. Before his departure, an exit that could not come too soon for my nerves, he turned towards me, and grasped me firmly by the shoulders. In my shock and fear, I offered no fight, and returned his gaze as he began to thank me.

His gratitude was so plain and sincere that I could scarce understand it as he spoke, but he repeated it again and again, thanking me for his life. For his freedom.

I stared into his eyes, and though they met mine, I saw spreading inside them the darkness and mist. Whether he be blind now, I know not, but those were not the eyes of Edmond Halley, though they were the eyes of my Reimer, the one I couldn’t destroy.

It is with this at the forefront of my thoughts that I write to you, Abraham. I know you have some small acquaintance with him, and I must warn you Halley is no longer Halley. He may appear as such, and – ape those previous observations of his own, and those more skilled, but it is not him.

Look into his eyes, and you will know. You will – know.

ARCHIVIST

(heavy inhale, hint of surprise) Statement ends. (long exhale) Right.

[TAPE CLICKS OFF.]

[INT. MAGNUS INSTITUTE, ARCHIVES, JOHN’S OFFICE, SOME TIME LATER]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]

BASIRA

So?

ARCHIVIST

So Edmund Halley was Rayner. Or, at least – whatever was inside him. You said it was dead, though.

BASIRA

I thought it was. We shot him to hell before he could, uh… pour himself into that kid.

ARCHIVIST

Hm.

BASIRA

But I mean – didn’t you say he got blown up in World War I as well?

ARCHIVIST

Ah, uh, possibly the – the details are, um – (exhale) it’s not exactly clear.

BASIRA

You don’t- Know?

ARCHIVIST

No, and I’m not about to push my luck and try to force it. Besides, I, I rarely get anything when the Dark is involved? It’s a bit of a blind spot.

BASIRA

Hm. Point is, we can’t be sure.

ARCHIVIST

Agreed.

BASIRA

You don’t know what the ritual for the Dark is, right?

ARCHIVIST

Not really, no; um, based on this and everythi – uh, something to do with the Sun, I would guess? I, um – an eclipse, maybe.

BASIRA

I don’t think so. There’s not one due for a while, and I’ve been wondering for ages – why Ny-Ålesund? I mean, sure, that far North, it gets dark for a long time, but – there’s also really long days in the summer.

ARCHIVIST

Okay.

BASIRA

But I think – Have you got a pen?

ARCHIVIST

Uhh – Yeah, i-in the drawer.

[Basira opens the drawer.]

BASIRA

Ah, John. What’s this?

[She picks something up.]

ARCHIVIST

Hm? Oh. That’s… I, th, uh – that’s my rib.

BASIRA

(Pythagorean theorem, volume of a cone) Right.

[She puts it back.]

ARCHIVIST

Yep.

BASIRA

And… the jar of ashes.

ARCHIVIST

(stress.exe) Not – not, m,mine – I mean, it belongs to me, I, I, I guess, but it’s not – stationery is in the, uh, other drawer.

[Sounds as the stationery is retrieved.]

BASIRA

Right, thanks.

ARCHIVIST

Mm.

[The drawer is closed.]

BASIRA

Okay.

[Rustle of paper.]

BASIRA

Now… Look here.

ARCHIVIST

R-Right, ye-yes, I, I know where it is.

BASIRA

I don’t think Ny-Ålesund is the ritual location.

ARCHIVIST

Right.

BASIRA

I think it’s a, a staging ground.

ARCHIVIST

For what?

BASIRA

The darkest place on the surface of the Earth. The North Pole, during the winter solstice.

ARCHIVIST

I hope you’re not suggesting that Santa works for the People’s Church.

BASIRA

(exasperated) John. It’s eleven weeks of pitch-black night, as far from the Sun as you can get on the planet.

ARCHIVIST

Alright. So, why haven’t they done it already?

BASIRA

I think they were waiting for Rayner to get his new body. But my source is telling me now that they’re gearing up for something.

ARCHIVIST

These… sources, are they same ones that sent you to the Australian Outback while I was… burying myself alive?

[Basira sighs over his words.]

BASIRA

Their info is normally good.

ARCHIVIST

(yeah, right) Hmm.

BASIRA

There is one more thing that might convince you.

ARCHIVIST

They have an eldritch ball of some sort of manifested dark matter that’s going to be the focus of the ritual.

BASIRA

I thought you said you couldn’t Know things about them.

ARCHIVIST

I can still read. Actually, you should – probably see that stateme – you know what, no, later. (heavy inhale) So what’s the plan?

BASIRA

I’m getting us passage on a boat heading up there.

ARCHIVIST

Right.

BASIRA

I bring all the guns from Daisy’s old stash, you bring the spooks you used to mess up that delivery guy.

[Long pause.]

ARCHIVIST

What – That’s it? Christ, I thought my plans were half-assed.

BASIRA

It’s all about when we go.

ARCHIVIST

I don’t follow.

BASIRA

Summer solstice is the 21st of June. So, we leave in a fortnight.

[The Archivist begins to take a heavy breath as she speaks.]

BASIRA

And should arrive about a week before. No danger of sunset or darkness for a long time. Stands to reason that they’ll be at their weakest.

ARCHIVIST

I don’t know. Is Daisy coming?

BASIRA

(short pause) No.

ARCHIVIST

Oh. I, I just thought –

BASIRA

We’ve talked about it. If the Hunt takes her again, we don’t know if she’s coming back. And neither of us want that.

ARCHIVIST

No, o-o-o-of course. And I, I don’t imagine Melanie would be keen to come.

BASIRA

She wasn’t.

ARCHIVIST

Why am I always the last to know about these things?

BASIRA

By this point, I just assume the Eyeball tells you.

ARCHIVIST

That would imply it tells me anything useful. Now I’m stuck knowing how your year eight PE teacher died.

BASIRA

Miss Peterson?

ARCHIVIST

Pancreatic cancer. If you’re interested.

BASIRA

I – wasn’t?

ARCHIVIST

(struggles for a moment) No – no, o-of course not.

[He clears his throat.]

ARCHIVIST

Alright, so just – me and you, then. (sigh) I don’t suppose you could get some of the team that helped you take Rayner down last time.

BASIRA

Oh yeah, sure. I’ll just drop them a message.

[The Archivist sighs.]

BASIRA

You know, we’ve actually got a group chat going called ‘British Cops who love to do extrajudicial spook killings on foreign soil.’

[More sighing.]

BASIRA

I’ll just see if they’re free Saturday –

ARCHIVIST

(overlapping) Yes, yes, alright! Alright. (sigh) You’re sure about this?

BASIRA

No. But if I’m right, this is the best chance we’re going to get. And I can’t do it alone.

ARCHIVIST

Okay, then. (inhale of bolstered confidence) Let’s do it.

[Exhale.]
[TAPE CLICKS OFF.]