The Barren Pines (Weekly Writing Project)

 I wrote this in script form with the intent of doing a short film.  I’ve been enamored with Jersey folklore as far back as my memory goes.




Shots within a dark, gloomy forest, Tall pine trees shield most of the sunlight. The ground is sandy and covered in moss and fallen pine needles. 

SHOTS of nature. Birds. Trees. Squirrels. 

WIDE SHOT. Down a long sandy path, a man lays on the ground. That man is Preston (LATE 20s). The camera slowly moves down the path and towards Preston. He wears a T-shirt, pajama pants and is without shoes. 

CLOSE-UP on Preston. His feet which aren’t dirty His clothes. His hands and finally his face. His eyes are closed. 

Preston (Voice Over.):  It’s always the same. I hear the pines sway in the breeze before I can see them.  (pause) The Pine Barrens. 

POV shot of trees above Preston. 

CLOSE UP ON Preston’s face. His eyes open momentarily and then shut once more. He rubs them this his hands and opens them for good. 

Preston (V.0.) The secrets of this ancient forest go deeper than missing mafia men. 

He sits up. The back of his shirt is covered in dirt. He surveys his location as he struggles to his feet. He wipes the dirt from his hands. 

Preston (V.0.) I only need to know why it brings me back. 

He starts to walk carefully from the area 



Montage of Preston walking through the woods, until finally reaching a road. More shots of his as he gradually walks to civilization. 

Preston (V.0.) But I can’t do it alone. I’m too tired.

He reaches a phone booth in a largely uninhabited area. 



Preston leans wearily against the door, lifts up the receiver and dials a number. 

Preston (tired) Jason? Hey, it’s Preston. (pause) Yeah. Cause I’m calling from a payphone. (pause) I need a ride and maybe some advice, (pause) Lemme tell how to find me. 

Preston squats down in the booth places his head in his hands. 



Preston sits on a guard rail leaning over with his head in his hands. His eyes are closed 

A truck pulls up with music BLARING from its speakers. It stops beside Preston with the passenger side window open. 

The driver, JASON (late 20s) sees the sleepy Preston. He opens the passenger side window. 

JASON:  Preston. (louder ) Preston Leeds! 

Preston jolts to consciousness. 

JASON:  You alright bro?

Preston barely moves. His eyes are bloodshot. His facial expressions are non-existent. 

JASON: Let’s go. 

Preston stands up and walks listlessly over to the car. He opens the door and gets in. Jason notices that Preston has no shoes. 

JASON: What’s going on with you bro? Forget your shoes?

Preston doesn’t respond.



Jason and Preston sit in the car. 

PRESTON: Can we go? 

JASON:  Are you drunk? 

Preston shakes his head. 

JASON:  Drugs? What’s going on? 

Jason looks out the window into the woods beyond the road. 

PRESTON: I dunno what’s going on? 

JASON: Where’s your car? 

PRESTON: Parked in front of my house. 

JASON C’mon Preston gimme something. Start with the shoes. 

Preston looks into the cab of the truck. He spots a pair of workboots. 

PRESTON:  I’ll show you. But I’ll need your boots. 

JASON:  Sure. You got’em. Where we going? 

PRESTON:  Down the road a bit. 

Jason steps on the gas and the trucks takes off down the road. 



Jason drives as Preston sits in the passenger seat as the truck. Preston explains the situation. 

JASON: What’s down the road? 

PRESTON: This place in the woods. I dunno how to describe it. It’s just… It’s just woods. 

JASON:   But what does that have to do with you? You don’t live in the woods. 

PRESTON: Well that’s the mystery. Every time I fall asleep, I wake in there. 

Preston looks over to the woods to his right. He points to a stretch of road up ahead. 

PRESTON: Pull up over there. 

Jason pulls the truck over to the side of the road. 

JASON: I don’t understand. How do you get there? 

PRESTON: Well…I don’t drive. I don’t walk. I fall asleep in my bed and I wake in there. In the woods. It’s twelve miles from my apartment and my feet are clean. 

JASON: Someone’s gotta be messing with you. 

PRESTON: No one is messing.  I’ve taken measures. Barricaded doors. Handcuffed myself to the bed. But each time I’m here. 

JASON: How long has this been going on? 

PRESTON: This is my sixteenth day. 

They exit the vehicle.



Preston steps into Jason’s boots, while Jason stands at the edge of the woods. 

JASON: I wouldn’t believe a single word of this if you didn’t look like the night of the living dead. I’ve wondered where you’ve been hiding. 

PRESTON: I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. It’s killing me. I need to sleep. Just believe me for one day. After that, you can call me a liar or crazy. 

They head into the woods. 

JASON Why’d you call me? 

PRESTON: You’re a cop. Somewhere there’s been a crime committed here. It needs a trained eye to find.



Preston marches slowly through the woods with Jason right behind him. 

JASON: I’m tossing out some ideas. You get driven by someone, cab or bus. 

PRESTON: It would have to be someone unknown cause no buses run near here and I can’t afford to take a cab out here every day. 

They walk in silence for a few moments. 

PRESTON:  This is it. 

There is a small clearing up ahead with some low growing plants. Jason takes a look around. 

JASON: There’s nothing here. 

Preston walks over to an area with no plants. 

PRESTON: This is the exact spot. 

Jason squats down to inspect the ground more closely. are several footprints, all bare foot. 

JASON: These footprints are all yours? 

PRESTON: I suppose. 

Jason stands back up. 

JASON: There’s nothing here. You wanna get shovels and dig? 

PRESTON: Not really. 

JASON: Me neither. Lemme consider the options and walk back.

Jason heads back towards the car. Preston follows close behind.



Jason’s truck pulls up in front of Preston’s modest house. Both men exit the truck and walk towards the house. The front door is ajar. 

JASON: Your door’s open. 

PRESTON: Always is when I get back.

JASON: Lemme go first. Scope the scene.

Jason moves through the front door. 


The house is in disarray. Furniture is piled up by the door. Jason climbs over the couch. 

JASON: Your barricade? 

Preston nods 




Preston’s bedroom is a mess. The sheets are stripped off the bed. The mattress is off the box frame. 

Jason stands by the door surveying the room. 

JASON: I’ll tell ya bro. The evidence points to a struggle. 

PRESTON: But who? I would’ve had to let him in. Whoever it was. 

Jason moves around the room a bit. 

JASON: Looks violent too. 

PRESTON: Look at me though. Not a scratch. 

Jason stands silently for a few moments. 

JASON: I dunno. Don’t really have anything to work with. 

Jason walks back towards Preston and pats him on the shoulder. 

JASON: This is making my head hurt. I’ll be back later. 


JASON: You got me involved. I need to know. 

PRESTON: And I need sleep. 

JASON: You’ll get it tonight. 

PRESTON: Alright. 

Jason exits leaving Preston standing by the door. 



Preston sits on the couch watching television. There is a KNOCK at the door. 

PRESTON: Come in. 

Jason walks in holding a six-pack. 

JASON: Where’s the party? 

PRESTON: Here. Tomorrow when this whole thing is over. 

Jason moves over to where Preston sits and passes him a beer. Before sitting he removes his service revolver from his waistband and sets it down on the coffee table. 

JASON: No one’s gonna mess with you tonight. 

Preston smiles. 

PRESTON: I owe you one. 

JASON: I suppose, but I just wanna know. 

They tap beers and take a swig. 




Empty beer bottles sit on the table. Preston lays passed out on the couch. Jason sits across from him playing solitaire with a deck of cards. His gun remains on the table 

Preston stirs a bit. 

PRESTON (groggy): I’m going to bed. 

JASON: Alright, brotha. I’ll be here. See you in the morning. 

Preston waves and heads to the bedroom. 



The mattress has been righted but the sheets remain off the bed. Jason removes his shoes and lays across it and falls asleep.



FADE into silhouettes of treetops. PAN DOWN to Preston laying on the ground. He is asleep. His shirt is dotted with blood. 

He looks 

He awakes, blinks a couple times and sits up. around weary. His eyes show his disappointment. 

PRESTON (V.0.) Jason is probably right. 

Preston stands up and dusts himself off. He sees some traces of blood on his hand and more on his shirt.   

He heads off toward the road. 



Preston stands in the phone booth. He holds the receiver to his ear. On the other end the phone rings. 

JASON (O.S.) (voice mail) This is Jason. I’m unable to take your call right now. Please leave a message. 

Preston waits for the beep. 

PRESTON: Yo Jason. It’s Preston. Major fail. What happened? I’m back where I was before. Back in the fucking woods. I’m walking so find me. Okay? 

He hangs up and exits the phone booth. 

The CAMERA keeps focused on Preston from inside the booth as he walks down the road. 



Preston reaches his house obviously exhausted and in pain. The door is open a few inches. 

PRESTON: You could’ve closed the door. 

He pushes open the door and enters 



The house is wrecked. A lamp lies on the ground. Various items are scattered about. His sheets are by the door. 

Preston: What the hell? Jason? 

Preston moves to the living room. 


Beer bottles sit empty on the coffee table. The TV remains on. 

Preston is confused. He stands motionless for several moments. Slowly his attention shifts towards the kitchen. He sees a set of legs partially obscured by the wall. There are streaks of blood that trail to the feet. He moves slowly towards the kitchen to get a better look. 


The kitchen floor is covered in glass, paper, and blood. When Preston enters the room he sees his friend lying face down on the floor. A puddle of blood surrounds him and he is quite obviously dead. 

Preston stumbles backward and falls to the ground. He tries to regain his composure. He closes his eyes disgusted and exhausted. 

Preston stands up and walks over to his phone and dials 9-1-1. 

PRESTON: There’s been a murder. (Pause) Pretty sure it was me 

He drops the phone and sits down on the ground with his head in his hands. 

PRESTON (V.O.):  I was willing to confess for just one night’s sleep. 

He lays on the ground with his head resting on his head. 





A WOMAN drives her car along a forsaken portion of the Pine Barrens. The two-lane road is empty except for her car. The woman listens to talk radio. 

MALE NEWS ANCHOR (O.S.) In local news, Preston Leeds escaped from the Burlington County Prison last night after being arrested in the gruesome murder of his best friend. Mr. Leeds, killed three officers during the brazen escape that officials describe as baffling No witnesses can speak to how exactly he escaped only to say Mr. Leeds is mostly likely armed and very dangerous. 

The woman’s eyes turn to her radio.  She turns it up. When her eyes return to the road she is startled to see Preston dressed in an orange jumpsuit leaping from the woods to the front of the car. The woman swerves to avoid him. Jason stops and looks at her. His dirty face and bloodshot eyes give him an almost inhuman quality. 

He runs back into the woods and disappears. 


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