A Short Screenplay About Your Life

This Is Your Life And You Don’t Even Realize It

[Cue Twilight Zone sounding music. FADE IN to a Rod Serling style NARRATOR standing in the foreground of a LIVING ROOM, lights dim. In the background, softly lit, is a woman sitting in a comfy chair, using a generic tablet or eReader looking device. Lights up on NARRATOR.]

 

NARRATOR: “Submitted for your consideration: You’re resting comfortably at home, curled up with a good book.”

[Cut to READER, who is smiling pleasantly and reading an e-book on the device. Cut back to NARRATOR and initial shot.]

 

NARRATOR: “In your hands is the most advanced technology ever made. At your fingertips, the most comprehensive library ever provided to a human being. It’s almost like – dare we say…? Magic. But what’s really happening when you read that ‘book’?” [The NARRATOR uses air quotes.]

[Cut back to reader while NARRATOR voices over.]

 

NARRATOR: “Let’s imagine that it is magic.”

[Cut to close shot of the tablet in the hands of READER. The NARRATOR passes his hand over the tablet, and READER’s tablet morphs into a normal looking book.]

 

NARRATOR: [v.o.] “Your home contains a magical bookshelf that reaches into another dimension, where an incredibly large number of books are stored.”

[The READER looks up, and sees what looks like a normal, yet strangely large bookshelf against one wall. Cut to bookshelf, and slowly zoom in while soft, creepy music begins to play. Cut back to face READER, who puts her book down next to her chair, gets up, and walks towards the bookshelf. NARRATOR quietly slides into the background as READER walks towards the camera. Camera cuts to a tighter shot of NARRATOR’s upper body as he watches the READER walk towards the shelf.]

 

NARRATOR: “You believe that you can walk up to that bookshelf, find any book you desire, and read it.” [NARRATOR now looks directly into the camera.] “But that… Is simply not the truth.”

[Cut to back of READER as she walks to the bookshelf as the music grows a little more ominous. Cut to a side view of the READER, now nearly at the bookshelf, as she picks up her arm to reach out and choose a book. Cut to a tight shot of her hand slowly moving closer through the air… Music builds… Then her hand suddenly jerks back as it almost makes contact with a GENIE’s chest. Crescendo! Cut to her look of surprise as she pulls her hand back to her body.]

 

READER: [gasps] “What?? Who?”

[GENIE is wearing a shirt with the letters DRM on the front, and is otherwise dressed a bit like a magical yet modern [robotic?] genie would be dressed. He also has tiny, shiny metallic horns on his forehead and otherwise looks a bit Uncanny Valley. He smiles lamely and thinly, and speaks with a mellow, soothing and highly creepy voice. YET HIS MOUTH NEVER MOVES]

 

GENIE: “Hi.” [cocks head]

READER: [pauses, then angrily] “How did you get into my house???”

GENIE: “I’m always here, Annie. I’m always watching. Just making sure everything is okay.” [GENIE spreads his hands in an encompassing gesture; he pauses, while READER still looks on, incredulous]

 

READER: [face goes through mixed emotions ranging from fear to confusion, then says worriedly] “How… do you know my name?”

GENIE: “I know all about you, Annie. I know what you like, what you don’t like, what page of that book you just stopped at.”

[GENIE gestures to where READER was sitting. Cut to shot of READER from the back as she turns her head over her shoulder to look back where GENIE points. Her eyes go wide. Cut to shot of GENIE standing beside the chair with his finger in the book. He turns his head to look back, smiles and waves. Cut back to READER, mouth gaping.]

 

GENIE: [v.o. from the direction of the bookshelf] “Would you like a book?”

[Cut to READER, who sweeps back with the camera and turns back to face GENIE with a stubborn and determined look. She moves to the side of him and attempts to grab a book from the shelf, but suddenly a grating has appeared over the books and she cannot open it.]

 

READER: “What the hell??!” [she rattles the cage]

READER: “Let me read my books! Why aren’t you letting me access them? I OWN THESE BOOKS!”

GENIE: “No, I’m sorry you’re confused, but you do not own these books. These media are rented to you, you only have a license to read our books. Here, look at the user agreement you accepted…”

[A scroll appears in the hand of the GENIE, which he then drops open. It rolls and rolls and rolls across the floor while the camera follows it. At the end it has the signature of the READER in red, above a button saying “I ACCEPT”.]

 

GENIE: “This is your contract with me. Oh wait, hold on…” [the old scroll disappears, and a new scroll appears in the hand of the GENIE – it is rolled up, but the “I ACCEPT” is easily visible on the front and he beckons READER to press it] “Please agree to these new terms and conditions in your user agreement before selecting a book to read.”

READER: [stubbornly] “What if I don’t want to??”

GENIE: “Very well.” [The scroll disappears, he turns and gestures his hands magically at the bookshelf, and all the books disappear]

READER: “WAIT, what?? You can just take away all my books??”

GENIE: [stops smiling] “Weren’t you listening? You never owned any books. Your rentals have now been removed from your shelf, have a nice day.” [the GENIE seems as if he’s about to leave]

READER: [she lunges forward to grab his arm] “No please, don’t! Please bring the books back! I accept the terms and conditions!!”

GENIE: [again smiling thinly] “I see. You may have access to books again.” [he waves his arm, and books reappear on the shelves]

 

READER: “Can I please have… that book? Please?” [She points at one]

GENIE: [stares out into space, looking intent; his eyes begin to glow softly] “Processing… Please wait… Fetching license restrictions… Checking user profile… Background check complete. User choice and behaviors recorded. Decoding encrypted content… Done. Here is your book.” [GENIE reaches into the bookshelf as if the cage is not there, and pulls out a book.] “Please enjoy your reading.”

READER: [looking at first relieved, opens the book and flips through it, but relief turns to confusion and anguish] “Wait… This isn’t the version of the book I wanted! Why didn’t you give me the other one?”

GENIE: [pauses to look directly at her, his smile fades again to complete passivity… And with utmost dramatic effect…] “You do not have the right to read that version of the book.”

[The READER looks shocked, then devastated, then utterly lost. She sadly hands the book back over to GENIE, then turns to walk away when she suddenly notices the book by her chair is missing.]

 

READER: [softly] “Where’s the book I was reading before, the one I had over by my chair?”

[READER is in the foreground turned forward, facing the camera. In the background over her shoulder the GENIE stands fast in front of the infinite bookshelf, once again smiling his tiny smile.]

 

GENIE: “The terms and conditions have changed. You no longer have my permission to read that book.”

[READER dejectedly trudges back to her chair, and slumps into it. Her tablet device has reappeared and sits waiting for her, glowing softly. An almost inaudible hum comes from it. The camera tightens in to the screen, where a message box now reads ‘We are sorry, you no longer have permission to access this content.’ She sinks deeper into the chair, defeated, and stares off into space. The GENIE is standing behind her, watching her, always, always watching her…]

[Return to the original shot. The NARRATOR steps back into the frame.]

 

NARRATOR: “Does this seem like an impossible situation? Some dystopian science fiction scenario depicting a bleak future, constant surveillance, your computer being remotely manipulated… your freedom lost? Yet this is exactly what happens to you and everyone else right now, today, and every day… when you read Digitally Restricted – D R M – content on your tablet or so-called ‘e-book’ devices. This Is Your Life… And You Don’t Even Realize It.”

[Lights down on NARRATOR. Fade to black.]

 

END