The Sacrifice

Submission for Screenwriting Module

INT. PRAIRIE/SCENIC AREA-NOON

KASSAR (10) sits on the grassland, clustered by blossoming wildflowers. He is feeding PAN, his lamb, with a baby bottle. PAN suckles the bottle’s teat voraciously.

People in hiking clothing walk along the wooden walkway. Now and then KASSAR lifts up his head to observe them below his jean cap. We can see the thread veins crawling across his cheek.

A TOURIST (29) draws near. She wears a waterproof jacket; her eyes are hidden behind the sunglasses.

TOURIST

Hi dear, how old are you?

KASSAR raises his head. The daylight is so strong that he has to shade his eyes with one hand. TOURIST’s glasses reflect KASSAR’s frowning face.

KASSAR

Ten.

TOURIST squats down, stroking PAN.

TOURIST

Can I take a photo with you?

KASSAR

Fifteen quids.

TOURIST looks up at KASSAR with a lopsided smile.

TOURIST

How about ten?

As KASSAR gives PAN over to TOURIST, it squirms in his arms, which causes TOURIST to giggle. Her FELLOW TRAVELLER (30) gets down to his knees before them and sets up his camera. TOURIST holds PAN in one arm while the other hugs KASSAR up.

FELLOW TRAVELLER nestles one of his eyes against the camera’s viewfinder. His face lifts in a crooked grimace. KASSAR stares at the gadget with a sullen face.

A clear shutter sound.

INT. PRAIRIE/OUTSIDE YURT-AFTERNOON

KASSAR unlocks the sheepfold, releasing PAN from his arms. PAN sprints to its mother sheep. The mother sheep licks PAN’s forehead. KASSAR watches this for a few seconds and walks away.

Near the yurt, MOM (36) is stirring the cauldron on a brazier stove. Bold and plump, she wears a flowery headscarf and a greasy apron. She scoops out the steaming milk tea into two bowls and gives them to KASSAR. With bowls in hands, KASSAR shoulders the door drape open to enter into the yurt.

INT. PRAIRIE/YURT-AFTERNOON

Daylight cascades from the circular ceiling window. The tapestries decorated around the lattice wall are in floral patterns. Dressing in a goatskin kaftan, IMAM (69) (Islamic priest) sits against a wall carpet embroidered with Arabic Quran words. DAD (35) sits on the other side. KASSAR hands the bowls on to them.

KASSAR

Good afternoon, sir.

IMAM gives KASSAR a contemplative stare. KASSAR sits down beside DAD with legs crossed. DAD takes a sip of the drink and puts down the bowl.

DAD

He thought it might be tourists who stole the sheep.

IMAM

Frankly, locals won’t do that.

DAD

I had a loss last winter as well. Two lambs didn’t survive. Hypothermia.

IMAM

But you know Allah won’t lower his standard whatsoever. Lambs are always the ideal offerings.

DAD

I know what you mean.

KASSAR raises his head from dozing off when he hears this. DAD leans forward to IMAM in an attempt to say something but it is interrupted by the appearance of MOM. She brings in a basin of Boortsog (fried dough food) and puts it on the table. She swings around to KASSAR, frowning at him.

MOM

Come out to help me with housework.

KASSAR gets to his feet reluctantly. When he walks past the table he snags a dough and swallows it before MOM could stop him. He pulls a face at IMAM. MOM wrings KASSAR’s neck, pushing him out of the yurt.

INT. PRAIRIE/OUTSIDE YURT-AFTERNOON

MOM scoops out cups of flour to the mixing bowl. KASSAR presses the bowl’s edge to prevent it from moving whilst MOM exerts her muscles to knead the dough. KASSAR stares aside at the horizon of the grassland.

KASSAR

(murmuring)

IMAM wanted us to kill the lamb.

MOM takes a glance at him.

MOM

PAN?

KASSAR

Who else could it be?

MOM interlocks her fingers to peel off sticky lumps.

MOM

Sheep are livestock. They’re born to be killed.

KASSAR

But DAD promised me that I could keep it as my pet.

MOM

He can change his mind.

KASSAR

I just made money today because of PAN. Tourists like to take photos with us!

MOM still focuses on kneading the dough.

MOM

If IMAM says so, we have to obey.

KASSAR purses his lips and runs away. MOM shouts his name behind but KASSAR doesn’t look back.

INT. PRAIRIE/GRASSLAND–SUNSET

The light of sunset gilds the grassland. Miles away, the sharp crowns of spruces point out towards the sky like spikes. An eagle is wheeling high above the ground.

KASSAR rides on PAN with hands gripping its small horns. PAN totters unsteadily. KASSAR bursts into laughter when he falls down from its back. He lies on the grassland; his chest heaves as he struggles to breath. PAN gnaws the grasses. KASSAR stares at the sky. The sound of his breath stabilises. The smile on his face ebbs away.

A flock of sheep emerge from the hill. AYKEN (15) rides on horseback and brandishes a stick to keep the formation of the herd, silhouetted against the bloody sun. He yells at KASSAR pleasantly the moment he discernes him. KASSAR lifts PAN up and walks towards AYKEN.

INT. PRAIRIE/YURT–EVENING

The family sit around a dining table. Their faces are lit up by the portable lamp dimly. AYKEN splits up a Naan bread with KASSAR. KASSAR soaks the bread up with his milk tea.

DAD

Take care of your brother, AYKEN, don’t let him fall off the horse tomorrow.

KASSAR

I am a good rider.

AYKEN

Not yet.

DAD slices off a piece of sausage, taking a casual glimpse at KASSAR.

DAD

Have no appetite?

KASSAR

(hesitantly)

You and IMAM were talking about the sacrifice today…do we have to kill a lamb?

DAD

You shouldn’t be there. It wasn’t for kids.

KASSAR

But…

DAD

It’s just none of your business.

DAD drinks up his milk tea and places the bowl back with a punch. His stern face stops KASSAR from asking more questions.

DAD

MOM will dress you up tomorrow. Don’t oversleep.

DAD paces to the stove, putting in a honeycomb briquette by a scissor tong. Sparkes flow out as he pulls out the tong. KASSAR’s eyes follow DAD until he leaves the yurt. AYKEN passes KASSAR another piece of Naan but KASSAR declines.

INT. PRAIRIE/YURT–EVENING

Moonlight filters through the ceiling window. Lying on the bed, KASSAR opens his eyes.

He unveils the wool blanket, ready to get up. The bedstead creaks slightly. He halts for a second, observing AYKEN sleeping on the other bed. AYKEN’s back faces KASSAR, motionless.

KASSAR grabs a baby bottle into his pocket and creeps out.

CUT TO:

The glow of moon lights everything up. KASSAR tramps through the grassland. The kaftan he wears has a popped collar, protecting his face from the night gale. He rubs his arms back and forth to keep himself warm.

INT. PRAIRIE/SHEEPFOLD–EVENING

Sheep huddle together at the corner of the fence. Their wool rustle in the wind. KASSAR climbs over the fence, sneakers land on the soft, damp soil.

He hisses at the flock. Only one or two of them flap their ears, reacting to this sound. PAN is sleeping under its mother sheep’s belly. He lifts it up. It wakes up and bleats.

KASSAR

Shhhh.

KASSAR fumbles in his pocket for the bottle and feeds PAN with the remaining milk in it. Pan drinks some then stops. KASSAR leaves the sheepfold and closes the gate behind him.

CUT TO:

KASSAR is climbing a hill. PAN’s head sticks out of his kaftan’s collar. When he reaches the peak, he unbuttons his coat to take PAN out. PAN runs a few yards then stops, looking back at KASSAR. He walks to it and kneels down. His forehead touches PAN’s; his hand caresses its fur. He is shivering.

They stay this position for a while.

KASSAR stands up and leaves. He looks back after taking a few steps. PAN stays still, bleating to him.

KASSAR dashes downwards the hill and never glances back.

CUT TO:

Sunrise penetrates through the morning fog, drawing the long shadows of spruces upon the grassland.

Smoke rises up from the chimney of the yurt. On the open space outside the yurt, DAD is trying to kick start a motorcycle.

INT. PRAIRIE/YURT–MORNING

MOM is helping AYKEN fasten a leather belt. AYKEN wears a deep-purple velvet robe and a Kazakh cap embroidered with white vine patterns. KASSAR sits on the bed behind them, resting chin on hands. The sound of the running engine bursts out outside, speeding up MOM’s movement.

MOM

You help KASSAR dress up. I gotta go.

MOM hurriedly grips a plate of Boortsog and leaves the yurt.

AYKEN turns to KASSAR. He is about to say something. KASSAR jumps off the bed.

KASSAR

(casually)

Can I ride your horse today?

AYKEN

Don’t you ever think about it.

KASSAR puts on a cap, appreciating his reflection in the mirror. He captures AYKEN’s eyes but dodges away from the eye contact.

KASSAR

Why don’t we just take the bus to the town?

AYKEN

That’s for tourists.

AYKEN picks up a coat and helps KASSAR puts it on. KASSAR slips his right arm into the sleeve. AYKEN helps him find the other sleeve to fit his left arm in. AYKEN puts his hand on KASSAR’s shoulder. They look at each other in the mirror silently.

CUT TO:

KASSAR and AYKEN ride on the same horse, cantering down the gravel road. A coach full of tourists is driven past them, kicking up a puff of smoke.

INT. TOWN/MOSQUE–MORNING

Vans are moving fast on the main road of the town. KASSAR and AYKEN dismount outside the mosque. A cluster of men are inside. AYKEN is hesitant about entering into it whereas KASSAR walks into the yard directly. AYKEN follows up with him.

The yard is paved with vermilion mosaic bricks. KASSAR looks through the gaps among the people and sees the sheep lying on the blanket. He comes closer.

AYKEN

Don’t.

KASSAR squeezes through the viewers and stands in front of the scene. DAD grips the dead sheep’s horns with feet spread apart while another MAN (42) skins it with a knife. Blood streams down from its throat into a clay bowl. It isn’t PAN. Its eyes open widely, staring at KASSAR. The corner of KASSAR’s mouth starts to tremble.

The MAN slits open the sheep’s belly. His hands are dyed with blood when he removes the internal organs out of the carcass.

AYKEN pats KASSAR’s shoulder, urging him to move but KASSAR remains still. IMAM sees them in the crowd. He walks to them, dips his finger in the clay bowl and smears the blood over the boys’ foreheads separately. 

IMAM

May Allah bless you.

KASSAR touches his forehead and puts down his hand. He stares at the blood on his fingertips. His hand is shaking. His face twitches in spasm. Tears drop down from the corners of his eyes. DAD is watching him among those people expressionlessly. KASSAR bursts out crying but his wail is covered by the eruption of a sermon, which booms out through a loudspeaker hung on the open-air hall. The sound hovers in the yard until the screen turns black.

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