The First Raindrop, The Last Teardrop

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2010

The narrative is irrelevant, or is it? An experiment in storytelling inviting members of the public to read a story for the first time and then have the text taken away from them. We find out how they retell the story in their own words, what can they remember, how much of the character have they taken on for themselves and how they react under cross examination – good cop bad cop style…. An experiment made for White Night Festival 2011. Music by Kevin Matthews.

The final master of this film has been lost. What you see is the rough cut pre-edit in all its raw glory.

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Here was the original 4 page text given to members of the public to read, recite, and be cross-examiined. Written by Nick Driftwood.

Story: The first raindrop / the last teardrop

Scene: Someone is telling a story to another person….

Camera: Close ups on eyes and mouth.

<Verbose>

This is a story…. <lights cigarette/or deep breath>

It’s about what happened… a few years back… when I …when I worked for NASA – researching along the coast of Chile – in the Atacama desert – when I got lost in the driest place on Earth…

The Atacama is hyper-arid, meaning it is nearly void of all moisture… what water does exist is excessively high in salinity – that’s a strange phenomenon… It lies in a ‘precipitation shadow’ between two mountain ranges on the west coast of South America, the Coastal Cordillera and the Andean Cordillera. East… over the Andes Mountains is the wettest place on earth – the rain forests of the Amazon… and to its west – the largest ocean of water – the pacific…

Due to the unusual amount of basalts and the acutely barren landscape, the Atacama is often described as looking similar to the surface of Mars.

We scientists go to the Atacama to investigate how much water life needs to survive. Water is necessary for life, but water is so scarce in the Atacama that it is a wonder anything can live there at all. Some parts of the desert have not seen rain for centuries if, at all. It is thought to be 10 to 15 million years old, making it the oldest desert on Earth.

… anyway… enough of the scientific shit…

I’ve never told anyone this before…

<laughs> …nobody would believe what I’m about to tell you… but I want to share this with you… You always wondered why I changed… why I gave it all up… why I got away…

This is what happened…

A few years ago… I was out there, on my own, lost in the midst of the Atacama … <laughs> well nobody assumed I was lost… but I was… I was searching for the origins of life. Lost… without food and water for days…<laughs again> but apparently, they said, I was only gone a day or so … <bah> did they know? They didn’t count how long I’d been gone…

Well anyway… let them think it was a day…. However, I’d been gone for a week… I found a ravine in the heart of that desert – weird… yeah… <laughs>… I was looking for traces of microscopic life in halite rocks… Studying life in the Atacama, we scientists hope to realise the possibility of life on Mars. Indeed, the core of the Atacama Desert, in microbial terms, has been considered the most Mars-like environment of our planet. Furthermore, halite has been identified in mineral assemblages of meteorites arising from Mars, and, recently, sulfate and halite evaporite rocks have been discovered on Mars. These facts suggest that brine pools might have been relatively common on the surface of Mars…. There IS a connection…

So, I collected sal rocks! … and I was satisfied I’d got some excellent samples to further my research… I was elated … anyway… I packed up and began the long drive back to base camp without a care in the world… how foolish I was… suddenly my jeep hit some rocks and the underbelly got torn apart … and that was that…. I got out….<takes a deep breath> and began to walk..

The crash left me disorientated… I had little water and barely enough food to last a day… Didn’t know where I was…I began to walk in what I thought was the direction I had come… but that baron landscape left no tracks…my compass was useless – it just kept spinning round and round like – crazy… it just wouldn’t settle… in anger I slung it as far away into the sands… and it was gone…

You know, I had a rucksack full of rocks! <laughs> … weighing me down… but I wasn’t about to chuck a lifetime’s work away… no. These samples were important – here was proof that carbon deposits existed long long ago – in these ancient rocks – <explains> these bacterial life forms were greater than 3.8 billion years old… this is where life evolved … biochemical behaviour of carbon, the principal element of life, and its relationship with the rocks in which the carbon is found …these rocks would finally enable me to demonstrate life exists on Mars…

I kept walking… convinced I was heading in the right direction. After the first day I was badly dehydrated – the heat was getting to me… I decided to move only at night and rest every few hours or so… But the nights… oh my god, the nights. They were soooo cold. And with only a desert jacket to wear…

…the wind made it worse… the cold penetrated me like a piercing spear… I began rationing my water and food by the end of the first night… I knew I was in trouble… and that if I didn’t find my way back soon I would either fry to death in the day or die from exposure at night. That place had no cover whatsoever… In a way I wished I’d stayed at the ravine… but no one would have found me… that I know…

By day three, at least I think it was day three, I was out of water and down to a single piece of chocolate for nourishment… My body, desperate…I realized I was going to die in there… and yet my mind felt peaceful….I lay down face first and accepted my fate.

And then it happened…

Around the break of dawn the sun rose and began to cook away the last droplets of sweat from my aching body… I was beyond caring; I was delirious – nauseous – hurting yet with total acceptance of my imminent fate.

Then a stirring… I could feel a breeze sweep over the back of my body… with great muster I raised my head hopeful that someone was there…

…strangely there was…

There in the distance… hazy at first… was this human shape walking towards me… perfectly centre on the horizon… this body was walking towards me… but I couldn’t believe my eyes! Behind this body up in the sky were white – fluffy – clouds following this ‘being’ – at the same pace – gently moving towards me…

This figure was getting bigger, and bigger, and no sooner had I managed to raise myself to my feet, ‘she’, was upon me… about 50ft away… and she stopped. The clouds stopped. She looked at me… I looked at her… I looked deep into her eyes… they were bright orange… her irises like twin suns… burning into me… beckoning me… upwards…

My eyes mimicking, she raised her eyes to the clouds above… and there… there…I saw a single grey cloud at the head of these brilliant white ones. Under her gaze, this particular cloud began to turn dark… and from the centre a huge droplet of water formulated until the weight of its size could contain itself no more…. And this single raindrop began to fall… in slow motion… I watched it in disbelief… mesmerized… it fell silently and without thinking about it – I found myself running forward to collect it in my mouth …open wide and my tongue reaching out to catch it… it … THIS.. raindrop completely absorbed me… my dry mouth… my cracked lips… – the roof of my mouth and tongue basked in its deliciousness… My whole body just… came alive… completely re-nourished… was this a miracle I asked myself… is this what it’s like ?

Coming to my senses my gaze returned to the woman… the woman looked indescribably weird… caked in a ash-black mud , she wore torn cloths and I saw bones protruding… and her face, seemed masked…

… and… and then I saw it…

From her right eye… a tear was formulating… she was melancholic… welling up into a cauldron – a single teardrop… and I … I watched as it fell slowly down her cheek… it dripped to earth … again in slow motion… like the raindrop …and hit the ground… the ground swelled… forming a small wet patch on the dry cracked earth… and then… and then it went pitch black… and I couldn’t see anything… I couldn’t feel anything… I couldn’t hear anything… I experienced nothingness…

…  THE PORTAL LEADS TO EARTH…

It was like a eclipse… lasting… what seemed an age but probably only seconds… and then it lifted… and as it lifted… there it all was before me… lush greenery as far as the eye could see… an oasis before me… where the teardrop had fallen was a pool of clear water being fed from thousands of mini streams that were once cracked earth…

My senses got hold of me and my wonderment returned to the woman… but she was gone into the distant horizon, her flock of clouds following her like sheep to a shepherd… and then the haze enveloped her and she vanished… the whole vision struck off by a distant range of mountains…

I had been taken back … to the beginning?… to an end.

I was witness to something… it was like I saw the first ever raindrop… and in an instant I saw the last teardrop…. A message?…a warning ? I don’t know… I don’t know…

<End>

 

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