(210 seconds)

We open on a packed auditorium. People slump in suits and shiny shoes; they are obviously near the end of a grueling day toward the end of a week-long conference. Their postures tell us that things started well and that good information is still being shared and they are learning techniques they will excitedly take back to their workplaces but also that they are ready for it to end. They want to sleep in their beds, pet their dogs, enjoy their own showers.

Cut to: the front of the auditorium. A podium fills the screen until we pull back enough to see THE SPEAKER, a man in his late-40s. His suit is expertly cut but we can see he’s gained a few pounds since he bought it. His face is handsome but we can see that he’s tired. He leans forward on the podium.

“Last night,” he says,  “I woke and looked at my wife and where her face should be there was only a shadow as in the mouth of a cave, a curving inward to darkness, collecting more darkness. Her face was gone, and I knew as if through experience that its eyes had looked sidewise at me in the night, judged me asleep, that the face itself had then lifted away and tiny jointed legs had carried it over her jaw, her chest, onto the bed, carefully over my sleeping form, and away.”

He continues: “Then I woke with a start to the noise of fire crackers. The awful certainty of the missing face had been a dream. My real wife’s face was next to me, held in place in her head. But what were these fire crackers? They were through now, though their smell remained. I stood and padded to the living room and found my dog but joined now by many I’d not seen before, in our neighborhood or any. Their heads and mouths moved as if they howled and I realized that they howled. The noise of their voices rose as if deafness were slowly seeping from my ears, until their howls were all I could hear.”