High Art

Story by Zahir al-Daoud, CN Winters and Susan Carr
Written by Zahir al-Daoud (with additional writing CN Winters)
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Directed by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Kate and Amazonchyck
Sound by Steff
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artist Zahir al-Daoud

Teaser

Fade In:
Int.
Old Public School Day

With a flick of one switch, the hallways and their contents became visible. Tubes of fluorescent light revealed beaux-art architecture with faded paint and rusted lockers. Some of the doors to the classrooms were broken; others were missing. Spray paint in garish colors presented messages across both walls and lockers. A few of them were even repeatable in polite society.

"Deja vu," muttered Robin Wood.

"Oh, right," said the young man beside him. "You used to be a public school teacher, right?"

"Principal, actually."

"Really? You're kinda young for that."

"I know," Robin said with a hint of pride.

"Now, Howard," said Giles, bringing up the rear, "you say sightings focused on two places specifically?"

"Yeah," said the young man named Mayfair. He paused to lick his lips. The breath he took shuddered some, but otherwise he retained as much composure as a twenty-year-old was wont to do. "The cafeteria and the library."

"Hmmm," said Robin, "your old stomping grounds."

Giles nodded. "Yes. From the disappearance you mentioned, I think it more than likely the Parzanee has reached its adult form. That is when this kind of demon begins feeding on humans."

Mayfair shook his head. "Demons," he breathed.

"Yep," said Robin. "Some of 'em are even red with horns. Not met any that actually use pitchforks, though."

"R'zikk demons do," muttered Giles as he pulled vials of powder from his pocket. "But then, R'zikk die if they set foot off their home mountain in Greece, so it remains an almost entirely academic point of interest." He handed Robin and Mayfair vials as well.

"Almost entirely academic?" asked Robin.

Giles paused, then decided not to pursue the matter further. "This," he indicated the vials, "is sea salt gathered on a full moon by a virgin."

"Nice to know Andrew's pulling his weight," said Robin under his breath.

"Who?" asked Mayfair.

"Never mind."

"The salt," Giles continued, "if it's poured over the Parzanee's heart crystal, it will poison its spiritual essence, killing the demon."

"You're sure? I mean it seems so..." Mayfair seemed at a loss for words.

"Oh, yes," Giles assured him. "Actually, it was a Parzanee that was my first hunt, as it were, when I initially joined the Watchers Council."

"Wow," said Mayfair. "So this is all kinda precedent-y?"

"In a way, I suppose. But the real danger is that a Parzanee demon has an ever-increasing appetite. The heart crystal, once poisoned, will kill the beast quickly. Until then, we can safely assume it is somewhere hunting."

"Safely?" Robin said in a deadpan tone.

"Well...ah. Yes. I see your point."

Mayfair piped up, filling the awkward silence. "If it's okay, I'd like to stay with Mr. Giles. Nothing against you, Mr. Wood, but he's the one who contacted me, told me all about being a Watcher and everything. No offense, but..." he looked embarrassed.

"No problem," was Wood's answer. "Stick with who you know."

"Thanks," said Mayfair with a sigh.

"In that case, let's make our way to the library," said Giles.

Cut to:
Ext.
Lake Erie Shore Day

"Okay, I know you're from Canada and everything," began Xander, hunching against the wind, "but just how close to the Arctic Circle was your hometown?"

Rowena didn't answer for a moment, continuing to walk. Unlike her usual purposeful stride, this was more like a saunter, walking for the pleasure of walking. Xander had no trouble keeping up.

"Nova Scotia is actually in the South," she told him.

"But of Canada, right? That's kinda like saying the wetter part of the Sahara Desert."

"You didn't have to come along," the Watcher told him with a smirk.

"Well...I wanted to."

For a few beats Rowena said nothing. Then, she sat on a public bench, back to the water. Xander parked beside her.

"Why?" Rowena asked.

"Need a little more info to answer that one," Xander said with a curious expression.

"Why did you want to come with me?"

This time Xander paused, just long enough to shrug. "Just trying to be friendly. Get to know you and all. Although, if I'd known you actually enjoyed freezing rain..." He gave a mock shudder.

"This isn't rain. It's hardly more than mist."

"If you say so. Me, I grew up next to a desert. You?"

She gave herself a beat before answering. "There's a tiny village called Thornkirk. Fishermen mostly, including my father. Honestly..." she hesitated again "...one of the first things I can remember is the sound of thunder out at sea. And for me, anyway, salt in the air feels..." She emitted a deep sigh, thinking, but said nothing.

"Like home?" offered Xander.

"No," was her instant reply. "It feels... appropriate. It suits me."

"And so does cold rain, or mist, I guess?"

Rowena shrugged. "I don't mind cold weather. Born in Canada. Raised at a Watcher's boarding school in London drizzle is who I am," Rowena told him, playfully bumping shoulders.

"Okay." Xander pondered this for a few moments and out of the blue said, "LaVelle."

"Excuse me?" Rowena asked in confusion.

"LaVelle."

She only stared.

"Well, since you're sharing stuff I thought I'd do the same. Fair is fair, after all." When she still looked confused, Xander smiled and continued, "LaVelle is my middle name. And I'll have you know that is a deeply guarded secret. Should I have any reason to suspect you've passed that along, the retribution will be as painful and severe as I can manage which means I'll probably have to get Will to help out, but still, you get my drift." He nodded with as much formality he could. Out of the corner of his eye he watched her reaction.

Not so much a smile, but a relaxation spread through her face. "That hardly seems an equal trade off of secrets."

"Hey! I'll have you know I mean it! One word of this to anyone and..."

"Blanche."

"...I'll just have to get Faith and Kennedy to...to...what?"

"Blanche."

Xander blinked. "Blanche is your middle name?"

Rowena took a deep breath. "No. My first. My given name is Blanche Rowena Allister. My mother decided to name me after two maiden aunts."

"Whoa," Xander took this in. "That is heavy. So you're, like, leading a double life. Everyone at the Council is walking around calling you by the wrong name."

"I wouldn't go that far but those threats you were making about my revealing LaVelle..."

"Double time for me? Gotcha! No problem! We are as one with the embarrassment of thoughtless parental units."

"Not a word," Rowena said offering up her pinky in 'swear.'

"I hear you, my sister," Xander said locking his with hers before breaking apart.

They didn't say anything more for several more moments. After a few more seconds, they got up and continued to walk.

"So, you noticed a certain somebody having a crush on a certain Watcher?" Xander grinned.

"Oh really," Rowena said conspiratorially with a smile. "Who might that be?"

"I think Vi likes the new guy, Howard."

"Oh," Rowena answered as if not expecting that answer.

Cut to:
Int.
Public School Hallway Moments later

Mayfair screamed and threw the salt. It hit the huge glowing head of the beast, went right inside its vast gaping jaws and shattered. The gleam of its eyes did not waver. Neither did the timbre of its hissing growl. It had no body, simply a gigantic head with various animal features including scales and several long fangs surrounded by eldritch vapor. As far as could be seen, the salt had no effect whatsoever.

"Mr. Giles?" Mayfair's voice didn't quite break.

"I told you the salt wouldn't work on the demon itself...!" The older Watcher was backing up steadily. Almost by reflex, Mayfair followed.

"What do we do now?"

"Run!"

Both men turned and ran. With another hissing roar, the Parzanee demon followed. Given that it had no legs, arms, tentacles or limbs of any kind, it had remarkable speed. Mayfair glanced behind, saw this fact, and increased his pace with a wail.

"Screaming," panted Giles, "does not help!"

"Can it hurt?" yelled Mayfair.

"Well...not as such..."

Cut to:
Int.
Public School Lunchroom Same time

Robin Wood searched the lunchroom as fast, yet as thoroughly, as he could. The bottle of salt was in one hand, ready for use. With his other, he picked up boxes, moved chairs and opened doors. Graffiti was scrawled across nearly every wall. Several tables and chairs had been piled in one corner.

It was to that corner his attention kept going. The kitchen contained nothing but what you'd expect from rusting cans to rat carcasses. A door to the huge refrigerator lay sprawled across the floor. Someone had wedged a student desk in the larder's door. The larder itself was empty of anything save dust.

But that corner...

After staring at it for what seemed like an eternal three or four seconds, Wood carefully placed his bottle of salt on a table. He began picking up and moving the junk that clogged this corner of the room: chairs of several kinds, a seriously dented tuba, more than one table, mildewed text books and several traffic cones in various states of disrepair.

Finally, using what was left of a flagpole a tattered shred of the stars and stripes still dangling from one end he pried back one whole section of the junk that had been piled there.

Underneath, he saw what appeared to be an irregular crown-shape of crystals, flickering yellow and green in a steady rhythm, like heartbeats. And the rhythm was increasing...

Cut to:
Int.
Public School Hallway Moments later

The corridor ended in a dead end. "Damnation," muttered Giles. Instead of a door, the L-bend in the hallway led to yet another row of abandoned lockers and a shattered water fountain.

"What do we do now?" asked Mayfair, looking behind them. From around the corner they had just turned, a hissing snarl echoed in the distance. It was getting louder.

Giles pointed to the lockers. "Form a barrier! It cannot pass through anything solid."

Mayfair did as he was told. The first set of lockers did not move easily. He and Giles grabbed each side and struggled, rocking them back and forth until at last some movement began. With a high-pitched sound, the lockers moved across the floor, leaving marks against what was left of the finish. Still, they moved neither smoothly, nor quickly, but move they did.

"These lockers," said Mayfair, "they don't reach the ceiling."

Giles didn't reply at first. All his focus was on moving the lockers. Face red, muscles tense, he paused to catch his breath once the first set of lockers had been moved. "Parzanee demons...kill with their tongues..." he nearly gasped. "If we can avoid that...it cannot hurt us." Then he motioned to the second set of lockers. "One more and the barrier should be enough."

Giles grabbed the end of the second locker set. He looked at Mayfair, whose eyes seemed fixed on the corner and the sounds coming in their direction.

"Come on!"

Mayfair snapped out of his stupor. He hurried, grabbing the other end of the lockers. His side moved more easily than Giles's did. But not of it moved quickly. The glow of the Parzanee grew closer, its growls louder every moment.

After the lockers moved no more than a foot less than a fifth of the distance needed it turned the corner.

Eyes aglow and mouth snapping, the Parzanee howled.

"Howard! Get behind the...!"

A forked tongue, about seven feet long, shot out from the demon's mouth. That tongue struck Mayfair on the shoulder. Instantly, bright light flared from his eyes and open mouth. Mayfair didn't scream. The sound he made was like some long, deep gasp a dying moan.

He then collapsed like a doll, smoke steaming from his gaping mouth.

Cut to
Int.
Public School Lunchroom Same time

Wood poured the salt over the pulsing cluster of crystals. Instantly, the flickering lights flared, then went out.

Cut to:
Int.
Public School Hallway Same time

The Parzanee shivered, howled even louder than before, and then flickered out of existence with a gurgling sound.

Silence.

Giles, still gasping from his efforts to move the lockers, stepped to Mayfair's side. The still-open eyes were blank. Mist rose from his mouth. Giles instantly put his fingers against the young man's inside wrist, then the side of his neck. Then, he slumped, obviously tired as well as saddened.

He stared at Mayfair's body nearly an entire minute before reaching over to close his unseeing eyes.

Fade Out

End of Teaser
Onto Act One