Interior. A cramped, dusty office. Files are piled high on the floor. Three enormous bearded old men wearing yellow-stained togas sit perched on stools, each at his own desk, arranged so that the men can see each other. The three desks are also overflowing with files. Cigarette smoke fills the air, and numerous ashrays are over-flowing with butts, some still smouldering. Name-plates are barely visible on each of the desks: “War”, “Famine” and “Pestilence”. In the far side of the room we can see a door, closed, bearing a plate marked “Death”. Through a small, dirty window, we see bare trees and driving sleet. We can guess it’s sometime in late January or early February.
Pestilence picks up a file at his feet. It is relatively dust-free. He opens it, leafs through it, and sniggers. Famine looks up.
Famine: What’s that?
Pestilence: That old bird we like to torment. The haggard one with the bonkers kids. There’s a note on the front to revisit it every few weeks and add something new. Any thoughts for today?
Famine: (Sitting back and looking thoughtful) Um.... I could throw a stomach bug her way. Not just her – the kids too... That should put them off their food for a bit.
Pestilence makes a note of this in the file.
Pestilence: (Distracted) And how about... a really horrible dose of flu. Let’s stagger it a bit. Stomach bug first, each of them in turn, and then the flu, a few days later. All at once.
He scribbles furiously in the file. War looks up from the enormous file he’s working on, which he closes and tosses to the ground. We see the word “Syria” on the front.
War: God, I am SO BORED with this shit. If it isn’t one fucking dictator murdering his own people, it’s another one. Humans are fucking crazy. I can’t believe they just buy into everything I throw at them. I need some light relief. (Seeing the file in Pestilence’s hands) What’s that?
Pestilence tosses it over to him. Opening it, War quickly scans it, then looks back at his colleagues.
War: Stomach bugs? Flu? You guys can be such amateurs sometimes.
Famine: Oh yeah? What would you do? And we can’t change it anyway, it’s in the system now.
War: What you need... (pauses)... is to think outside of the box. It’s Winter. She’s going to be expecting bugs and flu. How about something a little bit more... long term. A mini-war, of the mind and body, perhaps?
Famine and Pestilence look confused.
Pestilence: You’re not thinking of something terminal are you? Because you know anything like that has to go through the Big Guy first. (He nods in the direction of the closed door.)
War: No no no. Nothing like that. I’ve had enough dealings with him with this Syria file as it is. No, I’m thinking something which will fuck with her mind a bit more... Hold on...
He opens the file at a particular page, reads for a few minutes, then leans back and smiles. Grabbing a pen, he writes a lengthy note on a clean page, and inserts it in the front of the file. He throws the file to the others. Famine catches it, and reads the page. His jaw drops, he stares, wide-eyed, at his colleague.
He grabs the file and reads it. He blinks, and looks up, ashen-faced.
Pestilence: You can’t be serious?
War: Why not? It’s all good clean fun. Most people would be delighted.
Famine: But... You’ve read the file... You know what this will mean?
War: Shit happens. Now (turning back his back on them, and reaching for a file marked “Somalia”) if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I have work to do.
Interior. A bathroom in a house. Beyond a shut door we can hear the muffled screams of young children, and occasional thumps as they – presumably – throw each other off furniture. Pan to the toilet, where a woman is sitting hunched over, her trousers around her ankles, her head in her hands. By her feet lies a white stick. There is discarded packaging nearby. Close up to the white stick. We see two oval windows, with a red cross in each. Pan back to the woman, and she raises her head; from behind the mess of hair obscuring her face, we can just about make out a shocked, horrified expression, and dull, vacant eyes.
Later that day:
Interior. A car. A drawn, middle-aged woman is in the front seat, driving, distractedly. Two vast children sit strapped into seats in the back. The obviously younger one has her finger stuck up her nose and is staring out the window. We can see that, despite the layer of grime covering her, she’s quite pretty. Every so often she removes her finger to point at something, shouts “caw caw!”, then puts the finger back in the nostril. The older one – a boy – is kicking the back of the driver's seat. He is wearing a plastic eye-patch, a pirate’s hat, and is playing with a small knife decorated with skulls. He has an oddly-menacing look about him.
Girl: Caw!! Caw Caw!
Driver: (Distracted) Mmmm?
Boy: Today, why you shout “Fuck Fuck Fuck” from the bathroom?
In the front seat the woman sighs, apologises, and changes the subject.