Trial by Fire

By CRAIG J. CLARK
with help from Kevin Pease and Kevin Chase


Start on black screen. Over this we hear the sound of a horrendous car crash, followed by the insistent bleating of a car horn. The sound ceases as a roughed-up looking MAN pops in, in an odd pose. In fact, he is suspended in the air, as if he were driving a car, but thrown forward into his steering wheel. He is still. A large FIGURE steps into frame. The camera rises and we are now looking over the FIGURE'S shoulder at the immobile MAN.

Cut to a frontal view of the FIGURE. He is a large, brutish man with a ruddy complexion and wears a bailiff's outfit which is colored red instead of blue. He looks down at the MAN. The camera pulls back and we are now looking over the MAN at the FIGURE. The FIGURE consults a watch and then snaps his fingers. The MAN bolts upright.

PATRICK (for that is the MAN's name) - Jeez, where the hell did that truck come fr-- (looks around) And where did my car go? (looks beneath him and immediately regrets it) Oh, sh--

And gravity collects him. He hits the ground and is dazed for a few seconds. The "ground" is in fact a black, grassy-type surface. It still hurts as is evidenced by PATRICK's cry of:

PATRICK - Ow. (looks up at the FIGURE standing over him) Hey, buddy. Do you know where the hell I am?
BEELZEBUB (for it is he) - Follow me, and you'll see.

He starts to walk off. PATRICK gets up, brushing himself off, and quickly follows. As they go, the limbo through which they are traveling loses its stark blackness and starts taking on a sinister red hue. PATRICK catches up to BEELZEBUB and falls into step beside him. BEELZEBUB towers over him by at least two feet.

PATRICK - Umm, how did I get to be here? I was just in an accident.
BEELZEBUB - Yes, you were.
PATRICK - Then how did--
BEELZEBUB (turning on him menacingly) - Don't ask questions. You'll find out soon enough.

He quickens his speed and soon outpaces PATRICK. They are heading toward a white door-sized rectangle in the distance. Dissolve to the area right before the doorway. Suffused by the white light, BEELZEBUB enters frame, followed closely by PATRICK, who is out of breath. BEELZEBUB stops and turns to PATRICK.

BEELZEBUB - Stop. (PATRICK does.) Wait until you are called for.
PATRICK - Sure. No problem.

He catches his breath as he watches BEELZEBUB go through the doorway. There is a pause. PATRICK steps closer to the doorway. He is about to reach out and touch it when he hears a VOICE which startles him.

VOICE - Now hearing case number 3,847,299,715. Call Patrick Campbell.
LOUDER VOICE - Call Patrick Campbell.
STILL LOUDER VOICE - Call Patrick Campbell.

PATRICK pauses, waiting for another voice, and then hearing nothing goes through the door. With the rising sound of static, we dissolve from the doorway to PATRICK entering a courtroom stand. He takes it and looks around. Beside him in BEELZEBUB, holding a copy of the Necronomicon. To his left is the jury box. All of the members of the jury show signs of having hung themselves. All of their necks are off-kilter and they have the remains of their nooses still hanging around their necks. Before PATRICK is the prosecution table, at which sits LUCIFER. LUCIFER -- like all the devils in this sketch -- is humanoid with no evident horns or tails or anything stereotypical of devils. He -- also like all the other devils in the sketch -- is dressed entirely in red which gives his skin an unnaturally ruddy complexion. Still, he is much more handsome than CROWLEY, the defense counsel, and he also wears a more expensive suit.

Cut to SATAN, the judge.

SATAN - Bailiff, curse the defendant out.

BEELZEBUB turns to PATRICK and holds out the book. PATRICK instinctively takes it.

BEELZEBUB - Hey, shithead. Do you swear to lie your ass off, cravenly trying to save your worthless soul, although you haven't got a snowball's chance in hell, so help you're fucked?
PATRICK - Um, er. Uh, I don't know. I-- I guess so.
BEELZEBUB - Works for me. (takes the book back and turns to SATAN) Your honor, the defendant has been sworn in.
SATAN - Thank you, bailiff. Prosecution?

LUCIFER rises and approached PATRICK.

LUCIFER - Thank you, your honor. Mr. Campbell, isn't it true that you used to masturbate quite regularly?
PATRICK - What? What do you mean used to?
LUCIFER - Mr. Campbell, are you or are you not what could be called, in no uncertain terms, a wanker?
PATRICK - I beg your pardon!
LUCIFER - Mr. Campbell, did you or did you not jerk off on a regular basis?
PATRICK - So what if I did?

LUCIFER strolls over the jury and addresses them.

LUCIFER - Did you hear that? He admits it! He actually has the gall to flaunt his shame like a badge of honor!
PATRICK - My shame? What the--
LUCIFER (bearing down on him) - Mr. Campbell, where were you on the night of July 5, 1997?
PATRICK - I-- I don't remember.
LUCIFER - A likely story. Weren't you at an adult movie house watching pornographic films all night long?
PATRICK - All right. Hold on a minute. Just what is going on here?
SATAN - Mr. Campbell, you are on trial.
PATRICK - On trial? For what? I haven't done anything wrong.
SATAN - Of course you have. If you hadn't you wouldn't be here right now.
PATRICK - So, what am I here for? To defend myself against the charges brought against me?
SATAN - Oh, no. We already know you're guilty. We're just trying to determine what your eternal torment will be.
PATRICK - But--
SATAN - Mr. Prosecutor, please continue.
LUCIFER - Gladly, your honor. I just have one last thing to ask. Mr. Campbell, did you or did you not see the movie Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls?
PATRICK - I don't see how that has any relevance--
LUCIFER - Just answer the question.
PATRICK - But--
SATAN - The court wishes to remind the defendant that he is under oath. Now, Mr. Prosecutor, repeat the question, only this time shout it right in his face.

PATRICK braces himself as LUCIFER walks right up to him and shouts in his face.

LUCIFER - MR. CAMPBELL, DID YOU SEE ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS?
PATRICK (meekly)- I did.
LUCIFER - IN THE THEATERS OR ON VIDEO?
PATRICK - Both.
LUCIFER - AND DID YOU THINK IT WAS FUNNY?
PATRICK - Yes, I did.
LUCIFER (normal voice) - No further questions, your honor.

He sits down and picks up a mirror, checking himself in it. PATRICK is still rather shell-shocked.

SATAN - Defense counsel.

Cut to CROWLEY, who is talking on a cel phone.

CROWLEY - That's ludicrous. I would never agree to that. Never in a million--
SATAN - Mr. Crowley.
CROWLEY - Hold on a minute. (puts hand on receiver) Yes?
SATAN - Your witness.
CROWLEY - Oh, right. (into phone) Look, I gotta go. I gotta client to defend. I'll call you right back. (hangs up, rises) Now, Mr. Campbell, I have read your case file, and frankly it doesn't look too good. You've lied, you've cheated, you've stolen. Hell, you even stopped going to church when you went to college. You were a man who turned his back on his family and his entire upbringing, simply because you knew it would cause your parents grief. And that's not the worst of it--
PATRICK - Umm, excuse me?
CROWLEY - Yes?
PATRICK - Aren't you supposed to be defending me?
CROWLEY - I'm getting to that, I'm getting to that. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. (clears throat) Mr. Campbell, to put it bluntly, you have not been a nice person and you really haven't done enough good things in your life to make up for that. Now, what's your excuse?
PATRICK - My excuse?
CROWLEY - Yes.
PATRICK - For what?
CROWLEY - For being the way you are.
PATRICK - What do you mean? There is no excuse for that.
CROWLEY - Precisely. No further questions, your honor.

He sits back down. SATAN turns to PATRICK.

SATAN - You may step down, Mr. Campbell.
PATRICK - Oh, I can? Great.

He steps down from the stand and sits next to CROWLEY at the defense table. CROWLEY is, of course, back on the phone.

CROWLEY - Hi, it's me. Yeah. Yeah, I just got done. The poor loser doesn't have a chance. So what were you saying?

PATRICK sighs and looks up as SATAN addresses LUCIFER.

SATAN - Counsel, if you could sum up, please.
LUCIFER (putting down his mirror and rising) - Certainly. You know what I ask for -- the usual torture which is fitting and ironic at the same time, and damn frustrating to deal with for eternity, nothing less.

He sits. SATAN turns to CROWLEY.

SATAN - Fine. Defense counsel?
CROWLEY (waving him off) - Ah, what's the point? (to phone) Now go on. I'm listening.

PATRICK is stunned. SATAN turns to the JURY.

SATAN - Okay. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard both sides of this case. Now...

As he continues, cut to an enraged PATRICK, who hits CROWLEY in the arm.

CROWLEY - Hey! (to phone) I'll have to get back to you. (hangs up, annoyed) What?
PATRICK - You have nothing to say in my defense? What, are you trying to get me convicted, too?
CROWLEY - Of course I am. This is hell. What did you expect, a fair trial?
PATRICK - Well...
CROWLEY - Don't make me laugh.
PATRICK - Can you at least try?
CROWLEY - Oh, all right. (rises heavily) Your honor?

This interrupts SATAN's instructions to the JURY. SATAN turns on him, enraged.

SATAN - WHAT??
CROWLEY - My client requests that I say something on his behalf, so I would like to call for a mistrial.
SATAN - A mistrial. On what grounds?
CROWLEY - Hung jury, your honor.

Cut to a shot of the JURY, then back to SATAN.

SATAN - Yes, it is. Your point?
CROWLEY - None, sir. None at all.

He sits down again and shrugs his shoulders at PATRICK. SATAN clears his throat, getting both of their attentions.

CROWLEY - Yes?
SATAN - The court wishes to remind defense counsel that he has made that poor attempt at a joke at every single trial he has appeared at.
CROWLEY - No need to remind me, your honor. I know that fact all too well.
SATAN (turning back to the JURY) Now, as I was saying, your function as a jury is to determine how guilty the defendant is so the proper punishment can be meted out. Do you understand?

The members of the JURY who can nod their heads do so.

SATAN - Okay, bailiff, escort them to the deliberating room.

BEELZEBUB is about to when the FOREMAN of the JURY rises.

FOREMAN - Actually, that won't be necessary, your honor. We have already decided how guilty he is.
SATAN - And how guilty is that?
FOREMAN - Guilty as heck, sir.
SATAN - Fine, then. Defendant, rise.

PATRICK does. CROWLEY does not rise with him because he's back on the phone.

SATAN - Patrick Campbell, I sentence you to eternal darnation. You are to darn the socks of every person in this courtroom for all eternity.
PATRICK - But, but-- But I don't anything about sewing! I couldn't darn a sock to save my soul!
SATAN - Precisely, Mr. Campbell. Get started.

And PATRICK is immediately inundated with socks being thrown at him by everyone present. We cut to his point of view as it is obscured by the tremendous number of socks being heaped upon him. After a few seconds, the screen is completely black again and we hear SATAN bang his gavel.

SATAN (V.O.) - Court adjourned.

And there is the sound of the court clearing of its occupants. When it is finally silent, we hear a muffled voice.

PATRICK (V.O.) - Umm, hello? Does anybody have a needle?

The end.


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P.S. All materials on this page are copyright 1998 by Craig J. Clark, in case you didn't know.