‘Beating Heart’ – Excerpt


Finn arrives at the shore. He raises his arms, PUMPS his fists and CHEERS, staggering across the sand.



Harry emerges from the trees. They meet in the middle, the bags and trophy between them. Peace. Harry looks over Finn’s shoulder. Fixated on the water. Confusion scrawled across his face. Finn’s arms slowly drop from above his head. Unsettled.


I raced Ross for the trophy.


Where’d he go?

He turns around. The water settles. Just the gentle KISS of the tide against the sand. Ross is absent.


He was behind me. I passed by him.

Wind WHIPS Harry’s towel against his leg.


Are you sure?


Didn’t you see?

Trees HISS as the wind rustles through them. Finn and Harry stand at the shore looking out at the jetty. The water remains still.


It’s windier now. Trees RUSTLE. The sun is smothered by cloud. They grow pale. Their nipples harden. Droplets of water on Finn. Everything colder.

HARRY (shouting)

Ross? Where are you man?

Finn looks down at his hands. Then out to the lake.


I- Did you see him swimming?


I saw him dive in… then…

They fall silent again. Looking around the lake side from afar for any movement. Walking skittishly around the shoreline, always pulled back to the same spot.


Maybe you should swim out to the jetty. He might be hiding behind it or something.

Harry drops his towel back by his bag.


I feel like you’re setting me up. Like you’re both gonna run off with my stuff as soon as I get out there.

Harry slips into the water and THRASHES his way out to the jetty. He swims around it. Ross is nowhere to be seen. Harry climbs onto the jetty.

HARRY (CONT’D) (Shouting)

Nothing! He’s not out here.

Harry watches the surface.


The water isn’t that deep – he must be at the treeline hiding. (shouting) Ross! Come on out man.

Finn edges away from the water. He retreats to Ross’ belongings. His clothes remain by his bag and towel.

HARRY (shouting)

Finn. Get in the lake. We need to look for him.

Harry dives in and races towards the shore. Finn steps into the lake. He halts, the water caressing his heels.

FINN (shouting)

He’ll be hiding in the trees.

Harry stops. Just past halfway between the jetty and the shore. It’s shallow enough. The rim of his orange swim shorts just above the water.


What if he’s not?


He must be. It’s too shallow to- it’s too shallow in there.


But what if he’s not, Finn?

Finn turns away. Harry hurries after him. The water BURSTS as he charges out of the lake and onto dry land.


Finn! Come here.

Harry reaches out to grab Finn’s arm. Finn pulls away.


No. He’s not in there.

Harry grabs him this time.


Where the fuck else is he?


I don’t know! But he’s not in there. He can’t be.

Finn wrestles free of Harry. He starts running for the treeline.



FINN (to himself)

I’ll find him.


Finn wanders through the trees. The surroundings RUSTLE. His attention keeps turning to the lake. Harry swims in zigzags. Finn leans against a tree. His hands on his head. He looks to the lake then at his hands then down at his feet.


No. I need you to come out man!

He shakes his head, fighting back thoughts. There’s frantic SPLASHING in the background. We hear Harry struggle.


FINN! Finn, quick! Help!

He watches as Harry clings to Ross. Struggling to keep him above the surface. He watches as Harry DRAGS the body through the water. Struggling to make his way to shore. Floundering.



Finn remains paralysed by fear. Watching as Harry struggles. Another shout triggers a response. Finn opens his phone. Dialing 999.


It’s my friend! It’s my friend Ross. He’s… I don’t know! Please, just send an ambulance to the lake. He’s in trouble!


Harry has dragged Ross onto the shore. Finn arrives as he starts CPR. Harry looks takes a brief look at him.


Where were you?!




I needed your help.


I was calling an ambulance.

Harry slides his hands across Ross’ chest, adjusting. He’s unsure of where or how to place them. He tilts Ross’ mouth open and starts pumping his chest. Finn stands over him. He pumps four times, then breathes air into his mouth.


I don’t think you’re supposed to do that anymore.


How the fuck is blowing air into someone going to stop them from being resuscitated?


I don’t know!


Neither do I! But we need to do something. Maybe you should have kept the emergency services on the phone.

Harry continues pumping on Ross’ chest. This time he hesitates breathing air into his mouth, stopping to look up at Finn.


Well should I phone them back?!


Jesus Finn, I don’t know.

Finn sinks to the ground, his head bowed, folding his arms around his legs. Sirens BLARE in the background. The ambulance is nearing. Harry leans away from the body. He drags his hand through the sand, clenching his fist as the granules slip through.

His resolve strengthens and he attempts CPR with even more vigor. Finn raises his head to watch. He blinks with each press at Ross’ chest. His fingers sliding up and down his face, resting over his mouth. Tears well in his eyes as he watches.

Harry’s attempts to beat Ross’ chest fade. He breaks, tears seeping down his face as the intensity of his efforts consume him. He lies back, falling away from the body.

The ambulance arrives. Three paramedics sprint from the vehicle to the boys. One of them crouches next to them.


Boys, we need some quick answers to do our best for your friend okay?

They’re in tears. Struggling to answer verbally. They nod.


How long have you been applying CPR for?


Two minutes maybe.


Has there been any response?

They shake their heads.


And how long was he in the water for?

Harry and Finn look at each other.


Ten?… M-maybe fifteen minutes…

The paramedic nods at her colleagues.


…It feels like longer.


Okay, I need you two to give them some space.


No, we’re staying with him.


I need you to give them some room. Come back to the ambulance with me.

Reluctantly they follow her to the ambulance at the head of the beach. She jumps into the back of the vehicle. Finn and Harry wait. Watching as the other paramedics perform CPR.

Droplets of rain land on the blackened ambulance window. The reflection of Finn and Harry watching on. Paramedic #2 performing CPR looks up, shaking her head as she tries again. Paramedic #1 pops her head out from the ambulance.


Come inside boys. We need to get you warm.

They don’t respond. They watch. Paramedic #2 stops. Shakes her head. Paramedic #3 checks his watch. Finn looks at Harry. His mouth slightly ajar. Disbelief. Paramedic #3 pulls a silver cover from her bag. They wrap it over the body.

Harry half shakes his head. Biting his lip. Holding back the wave of emotion. Paramedics #2 and #3 approach.


I’m sorry. We weren’t able to resuscitate him.

Finn and Harry embrace. Both in tears.


We’ll give you a bit of time, but it’s best to get you out of the cold and tend to you at the hospital.

Finn pulls away from Harry.


We don’t need tending to, there’s nothing wrong with us!


We need to take you somewhere where your parents can collect you. The shock-

They run across the sand to the body. The silver cover whipped by the wind. Rain pitter-patters upon it. They sit by it.




Finn and Harry sit in a reception area. Ross’ Dad, TERRY NICHOLSON (47), sits across from them next to one empty chair.


Thanks again for coming boys. I want you to know, there’s no pressure on you to go in and see him.


I’ll be fine, Terry.


Aye, it’s nae bother. Terry nods.

Silence falls between them as they wait. Terry’s attention turns to the chair next to him.


Feels like they’re rubbing it in leaving this spare seat next to me.

Finn and Harry don’t know how to respond. Terry stands and lifts his chair. They recoil, unsure what he’s going to do. He slots it down on top of the spare chair and sits on them.

Terry wobbles. The chairs don’t stack properly. They CREEK as he struggles to maintain his balance. Finn and Harry watch on. Dumbfounded.


This is a bit uncomfortable.

The FUNERAL DIRECTOR approaches. Terry does his best to sit still, staring at Finn and Harry across from him.


We’re ready now if you’d like to follow me.

Everyone stands. As Terry does, the chair he was sitting on slides forward, CLATTERING onto the floor. He hurries to collect it, sitting it back in it’s original place and mouths a silent sorry.

They follow the Funeral Director through a narrow doorway into a tight corridor. There’s a window at the end where light seeps in through a set of curtains.


He leads them to a door and opens it.


I’ll leave you to it.

The Funeral Director leaves. Finn and Harry hesitate, waiting to see what Terry does. Terry lingers in the doorway, looking in at the body resting on a white, cloth covered table. Terry finally decides to enter and the two boys follow him in. Terry stands at Ross’ head. He brushes Ross’ fringe with his hand.


I always wanted him to cut the hair.


He used to tell us that’s why he kept it long.

Terry laughs.


The wee bastard! It even looks like he’s smirking just now.

Harry smiles.


It’s partly why I asked you to come along today.

Finn’s hand rests on Ross’ leg. The same leg he tugged at in the lake that day.


I didn’t want whatever you saw a few days ago to be your last memory of Ross.

This draws Finn’s attention away from Ross, JOLTING his hand away from his leg.


I’ll leave you two with him for a few minutes.

Terry leaves the room. Harry walks away from Finn, around to the other side of the table which Ross’ body lies on.


I keep… wishing, that we had been setting you up. Just to steal your clothes.

Harry lets out a short, breathy laugh.


I’m still expecting him to walk in the door with my stuff.

They’re both amused.


I keep coming back to the same question.


How could he drown in shallow water?

Finn shakes his head.


He’s not fuckin’ dim, y’know? How could he drown? Harry stands.


Maybe… maybe he got tangled in something. Seaweed or-


Not that I saw.


I don’t know.


Didn’t you notice anything as you swam past him?


We were next to one another. Neck and neck. He gave me the finger. Then I swam past him. I looked back… just once…

Harry gets closer to Finn.


…But I didn’t see anything. He was still swimming. And I focussed on the beach.


You were right there. Right there! Yet I’m the one who had to carry him out.

They’re nearly in each others’ faces.


I had to search the woods. You know what he’s like-


I was in the water, I had to-! Whilst you fucked about in the trees.


I was calling an ambulance!


“Search the woods”

Harry pushes Finn.


Too scared to get in and help me.

Finn barges out of the room.

‘Everything we’ve ever missed’


As I watch the opening title scroll,

The memory floods back,


He approached us in a flurry,

Where are you? we wonder but I dare not tread,

Into the water. I ask around instead

but no answer drowns my worry.


Time drips by neither fast nor slow,

Inevitably the answer we didn’t want to show.

Though you lingered, in the shallow blue;

they said no pain, nor fear had troubled you.


Robbed of a future by fickle fate.

You had the Heart to run,

But Here it stopped, in the sun.

The idyllic lake, I need to hate.


I wonder who will run the shop,

Before I tell myself to stop.

What about your younger brother?

A situation like no other.


One final moment left to share,

I will those eyes to open and stare.


The credits close and no loophole,

No final scene and no comeback.

‘The Boy and the Camera’

The phone roused you from your slumber. You were cocooned inside your Star Wars bedcovers. You liked to imagine you were camping out inside a Tauntaun on the planet Hoth with Han and Luke. It was the last weekend before term ended, you felt like sleeping right through as the first half year of high school would soon be done.

“Tom, Pete’s on the phone!” Your Mom shouted.

You squeezed the covers and held your tongue, understanding the futility.


“Just a minute!” You called back, as you got out of bed.

“Why are you not dressed yet?” She asked.

“I was asleep.”

“It’s 10am.”

You shrugged, trying to pick that days fight. You still look back at those meaningless rebellions and cringe.

You picked up the phone: “What’s up?”

“Dude, get out of your pjs, stop scratching your ass and grab your camera. It’s snowing! You know what that means?”

“The winter scenes!” You’d only finished writing the story a week prior.

“Exactly. Meet us at Mara Hill and hurry up will ya, Kimmet and Allan are already on their way and Lily is on her way too.”

“Lily is coming? I thought she wasn’t interested after last time?”

“What did I just say? Girls change their minds all the time. Don’t get all weird and don’t forget that camera.”

“My Mom’s home so I need to sneak it out.”

“You’re clever, you’ll think of something.”

Pete mastered the skill of giving you what ought to be a complement but rarely delivered it as one from an early age. You hate to think what his kids are having to endure now. You were clever, though and you couldn’t turn up without the camera, though part of you did want to see Pete implode.

You claimed your rucksack was a snack pack and you weren’t going to be home for a while so you needed to fill it. Your mom asked what you were taking and you replied: “Food and stuff.” You weren’t that clever, but you got away with it.

Mara Hill overlooked Littleton, our houses laid out like a monopoly board. We spent a lot of time up there in the summer. You always liked to visit on your own. Mom wasn’t keen on that but you had reached that age where vague was no longer a deterrent but a catalyst, though she pleaded you to trust her.

Kids at school told tales about the woods on the hill, how a boy had trapped his leg under a fallen tree and died. They said the forest masked his screams and how his ghost haunts the forest, screaming at those who walk alone in the forest at night. You weren’t afraid of ghosts, but you never did visit at night. You found getting Lily to join the movie cast was far more terrifying, well until you actually asked her. The kids told other stories including the old man who lived in a hut and fed children to his dog.  Some said the old man made soup of the child stuck in the woods. These tales inspired the movie shorts; we decided to create and investigate our own myths. You only filmed and wrote while the others acted. That annoyed you, but it was better than giving the camera to Pete, Allan or Kimmet, who would have found a way to destroy it and that would have resulted in the end of your life.

Lily waved as you approached.

“Hey. I wasn’t expecting you back.” You said.

“I wasn’t really expecting to come back either, but I decided not to let him ruin it for me.” She nodded at Pete.

“That’s usually my line.” You replied which prompted her to show that smile which you thought must have been designed someone who built boats inside of a bottle.

“I like your stories and you’re really good with the camera.” She said, you felt the warmth spread from your cheeks and you forgot about the cold.

It might have been the second time she had joined the group but you felt uncomfortably comfortable around her.

You didn’t notice your stomach growling until night crept in, according to the camera it was half past five. You developed a habit of leaving the camera on between scenes. It took up more tapes, which eventually led to Mom catching you out, but you know now it was worth it to be able to look back. Even if it opened your eyes to Pete spending a lot of time being a dick.

“Okay, our last scene is the chase scene through the forest.”

“Any reason we saved this for last?” Lily asked.

“’Cuz it’s darker and colder. It’ll look more dramatic.”

“The camera has night vision too.” You said.

“You’re a frickin’ genius, that’ll look sick!” Pete declared.

“It’s getting a bit dark for me.” Kimmet said.

“Go home then, you’re dead anyway we don’t need you for this scene.”

“What if the ghost comes?” Allan asked.

“There’s no ghosts up here Allan, you should be more scared of the cold.” You were trying to comfort him but really he just had something else to be scared of.

“You don’t have to follow in, we’ll be right back once we’ve shot the scene.” Lily said.

“I’m not staying here by myself. I’ll follow in just behind you.”

“Fine. Don’t get in the way.” Pete said, before shouting: “Action!”

Lily ghosted past the trees, her feet kissing the snow as she swooped through the forest. The branches tugged at your coat and snatched at the camera as you tried to keep up. The forest whispered as you pursued. You halted when you lost sight of her, a moment you regret.

You swivelled the camera around and realised you had lost everyone. You started walking. You called out names. Your voice ricocheted, swallowed by the forest. You stumbled and fumbled. Something trapped your foot. You’re wrenched to the ground. You elevated your wrist, saving the camera. You looked through the green tinted lens. There was a shoe in front of you, kidnapped by branches. Your mind returned to the child, though you pleaded it didn’t. Now you felt the cold. You leapt to your feet. The camera covered your face as you turn. Engulfing the screen was a mouth, it consumed you with a scream. You collapsed backwards, the scream broke down into a laugh which melted away the fear and revealed a shame which lasted. You remove your eyes from the screen you notice Lily’s long, hazel hair sneaking out from under her purple hat.

“Are you kidding me?!”

“I thought it was only the cold we were to worry about?” Lily asked as she offered you a hand up. She never stopped reminding you about this.

“Yeah, yeah. Whose is the shoe?”

“Dunno. I saw it and I couldn’t resist.”

“Maybe it is the kid’s shoe.” You joked.

“Ooh! Maybe it’s Pete’s and the old man finally gave him what’s coming to him.”

You laughed a little harder than you should have done.

“Maybe we should find out?” You gestured to a cabin which peaked through the trees.

“It can be our investigation.” She said.