EXT. RUINED LANDSCAPE – DAY
A dying sun weeps across the horizon.
Its red light trickles down onto the rocks and cracked earth of The Lands. Dust makes the ground look like it is steaming. Tendrils curl from its fractures into the air.
The silence is heavy. Suffocating. There is no noise except for the steady hiss of the wind.
Lying in the dirt is a body.
Small, pale toes are covered in red dust. We slowly creep up to skinny ankles, then skinny legs. A thin dress, ragged and ripped and sizes too large.
In the bloody light, a little girl lies still. She cannot be more than eleven years old. Her eyes are closed. Flaming locks of hair puddle around her face like an open wound. It moves as if it is breathing, but it is only the wind.
BOY’S VOICE (O.S)
There is the plod, plod, plod of resentful feet and heavy breathing.
BOY’S VOICE cont’d (O.S)
The feet stop just out of frame.
BOY’S VOICE cont’d
There is a whisper of footsteps that pause beside the boy.
GIRL’S VOICE (O.S)
Coal, do not wake her. She must be resting.
Don’t tell me what to do, Char. I’m hungry.
There is the plodding sound of footsteps again, and this time they plod into view.
Two small feet stop by the lying girl’s head. One foot is extended out and, with the biggest toe, nudges her bare shoulder.
Ember, really, please. I’m so hungry. You said you were going to get food and then you never came back.
The sleeping girl’s eyes flutter open slowly. She is EMBER, eleven years old. She blinks up, straight into the camera, then runs a hand across her face.
Coal? Sorry, I must have fallen asleep.
Ember rises until she is sitting, and we see the spirals of dust around her are not actually dust.
The ground is smoking.
The jagged cracks in the earth are burning with fires.
So … no food.
We see COAL. A small boy with shaggy black hair, maybe nine, he looks at Ember in badly concealed disappointment.
Coal glances at the little girl next to him. She is CHAR, also around nine, with the same coloured hair that is plaited into a long rope down her back.
That’s okay, though.
Ember reaches underneath her and pulls out pieces of something that look like burnt carrot.
Did you search for eggs like I asked?
Coal looks sheepish.
I didn’t find any.
He did not look.
But I went into town and the baker gave me some old bread in exchange for heat.
I hope you were careful, Char.
Nobody saw me but the baker.
Ember smiles at her as she hands the vegetables to Coal.
I know you are hungry but don’t eat them now. We’ll wait until we are safe back at the dwelling.
Who says we’re even safe there.
Ember runs her fingers through her hair as she eyes him.
He says nothing. Ember looks from him to Char.
When we went to town, there were rumours Merva was going to search The Lands. That deliberate Outsiders are to be found and seized.
The colour of Ember’s hair deepens as her forehead creases.
She’s coming for us, Ember.
She is not going to find us, twins.
But what if she does?
Ember bites her lip.
Then she might get burnt.