The Living Cure
Episode One: Flesh of My Flesh
The show open is a blend of hyper lapse mushroom growth, mycelium spreading, cancer cells dividing and historical witch burning imagery. Bright colors muted by transfer modes, lots of green, purple and red - forest, roots, blood cells, meat and fire. The end of the sequence closes out on a click-click-click stop motion moon cycle landing on a beautiful full moon above a forest - fade to black. Music is possibly The Huntress and the Holder of Hands - Shake Off Your Flesh.
Daylight. The camera cranes over a beautiful stately home in Salem, MA and glides down to human height to go up the front steps - pausing on the doorbell as we watch a finger press the button. There is a “Happy Birthday” sign on the door, and as the door swings open, we push through to reveal a lively party going on. Children laughing and chasing balloons, while the family dog looks on longingly at a child’s hotdog. The camera continues on outside, through the backdoor into the main event, where there is a pool, a nicely manicured lawn and a bouncy house filled with more children. The parents are gathered around the food and bbq, drinking and laughing. We land on the bright smiling face of our main character - Dr. Lex Bhatt. She is chatting with the other parents and a new friend, whose child is in attendance - her voice rises above the din.
Parent 1: Lex, what kind of a doctor are you again? Microbiologist?
Lex: I’m a mycologist, I mainly study fungi… (she smiles, realizing they are a little clueless about the subject) um, mushrooms?
Parent 1: Really? Is there that much to learn about mushrooms?
The camera moves around the group casually, hand held - we see comprehension and interest as Lex speaks, holding court.
Lex: Oh yes, they are captivating! There are so many kinds, and we study them for all kinds of reasons - Bioremediation, organic insulation, coastal erosion prevention (ticking off on fingers)... Some mushrooms can mind control insects and many species can glow in the dark. Most people equate fungi with decay, but they essentially push the life cycle along. Fungi hold the key to cure all kinds of diseases. And they are very close to us genetically, which I think is just fascinating. Some theorize that mushrooms produce psychedelics as a way of communicating with us!
She begins to laugh at her own enthusiasm, knowing she’s a bit over the top. The other parents around her are interested though, and she’s happy to have piqued their interest. We hear a man finish the mushroom joke “because I’m a fun guy!” followed by laughter. They continue discussing animatedly as the camera begins to drift over to another group of parents, landing on Lex’s husband, Abe Flint. He’s tending the grill and drinking a beer. He is speaking with another parent:
Abe: ...fine woodworking and cabinetry mostly. In these old houses, old neighborhoods, there is plenty of work.
Parent 2: Is the housing stock good around here?
Abe: It’s amazing really, so many beautiful old homes are being brought back to life. Some are beautiful because of their simplicity and some for their grandeur. I’ve just always been into these old homes. I’ve lived here my whole life and I feel like these buildings have a lot to say, ya know?
Parent 2: You from here?
Abe: Oh yeah, the Flints go way back. Salem witch trials and all of that. Lots of the old names are gone now, but New England has always been home to me.
Parent 2: How did you meet Lex?
Abe: She was finishing up her PhD in Cambridge and she was studying some plant life up here on the North Shore. Her study was specific to lichens at the time. Coastal forests are her favorite - they're mine too. We bumped into each other in the Salem Woods one day and got to talking. Love at first sight, really. She’s just amazing. I’m a lucky guy. (He blushes, realizing he’s gushing a little.)
He catches Lex’s eye and winks at her from across the yard, the camera follows from his eye to hers, and she laughs and signals to him get the cake.
Lex: Abe, let’s get that cake lit and sing to Aksha!
Quick cut action sequence begins as the kids are rounded up to sing and the little girl is sat at the head of the table, with everyone gathered around. Large sparkler style candles and lots of color, streamers and smiles as all of the children pile up around Aksha, excited to celebrate. Aksha is wearing sequins and the light is dazzling bokeh over the camera lens as the group begins to sing. We see Lex and Abe join hands and smile lovingly down and their daughter while the song continues.
Crowd: Happy Birthday dear Aksha…..
The camera tracks into the brightness of the cake and transitions flash white to the brightness of a much smaller candle and begins to track out. We see another girl, paler and of smaller stature sitting upright in a hospital bed. She is also being sung to by her family, gathering for her birthday.
(Songs blend together as we transition fully into this space)
Mother and Father: ...Happy Birthday to youuuuuu!
This little girl, Delilah, is clearly very ill. Her parents are well coiffed - her mother’s hair clearly “done” and her ears and fingers sparkle with wealth. Her father is 50’s handsome, round bodied, in a tailored suit. He looks spent, circles under his eyes, but they are trying to put on a show for their daughter. Delilah blows out her #7 candle in her own show of strength and then, suddenly exhausted, leans back on her pillow. She has a big smile on her face, but her light is beginning to fade.
Delilah: I think I need a little break before I eat this cake. But I’m excited to eat it!
Tabitha: Of course darling, rest a bit and then we can eat cake and open presents. (She brushes the child’s forehead with her fingers and kisses her there. Then she stands.)
Sam: Yes Delilah, just close your eyes and we’ll step out to speak with the doctors while you have a little rest, ok?
Tabitha and Sam walk out of the room and meet a doctor in the hallway just beyond. He’s looking grim.
Doctor: I’m very happy Delilah can celebrate her birthday with you, but her immune system is increasingly deficient. I think we need to move her into a clean zone with a restricted visitor list after today.
Sam: Of course of course, we’ll do whatever you think best. As for right now, she’s looking so tired, she may sleep through the night.
Tabitha: But Sam, I told her we’d eat cake and open presents together.
Sam: I think we should wait until the morning Tab, Delilah needs her sleep.
Tabitha: Yes yes, you’re right… though, I could sleep here again? I don’t want her to wake up without me.
Doctor: She will likely sleep for 10 hours, maybe 12. We’ve been keeping her medicated to manage her pain. Please go home yourselves and get some rest too. We’re doing everything we can.
The camera follows at a low angle behind Sam and Tabitha, who are holding hands, as they walk through the long hospital hallways. We cut to the patient lot in a dark garage, still following from behind, where they finally unclasp hands and walk to either side of their fancy car. As They get in Sam notices that Tabitha is silently wiping away tears.
Sam: Babe, I know. I know.
Tabitha: I just… What’s the point of having money if we can’t save our beautiful girl? (she begins to cry in earnest, but still quietly, trying to hold it in)
Sam: Tab, I am doing everything humanly possible. I have calls out to every pharmaceutical company in every country. I’m stalking private drug trials, I’m even trying to break into the black market for treatment options. (He sheds a tear as well.) I’m frustrated and I’m sad and I’m… I’m trying so hard.
Tabitha: I know. I know. I just… I will do anythingfor Delilah.
Sam nods and squeezes her leg. He puts the car in gear and they reverse out of their parking space.
Cut to Abe and Lex, tucking in their daughter Aksha. The room is very warm in contrast to the blues and grays of the cool hospital tones, with yellows and pinks and rich dark wooden furniture. Lex makes the same move as Tabitha, brushing her daughter’s forehead with her fingers and kissing the same spot, as Aksha seems to be already falling into a deep sleep.
Lex: (whispered) Wow, she’s wiped out.
Abe blows her a kiss as he turns out the light and they walk out of the room.
Cut to Abe and Lex eating leftover ice cream in the kitchen over an island. She is perched on a stool and he is draped across the stone surface facing her. Abe looks very lovingly at his wife.
Abe (mid large ice cream bite): Well, how did your parents tell you?
Lex: My parents were so pragmatic. My father was a serious doctor type and my mother was all facts about it. It was a lot to keep secret for such a little kid. And I was a rather serious child, so I took it seriously.
Abe: You think Aksha would be too open?
Lex: She is very open with her thoughts and emotions. I mean, we’ve taught her to be. We want her to be in touch with her feelings. I just feel like 7 is so young! But I was 7.
They eat out of the carton together silently for a moment.
Quick flashback, to a wood paneled library where we see a small girl in front of her Indian father and blonde caucasian mother.
Lex: My father called me into his office. He was sitting in his big leather chair and my mother was sitting next to him, on the arm of the chair, looking kind of nervous. “Alexandra, we need to dicusss something important. Life or death important, ok? Do you understand?” (she mimics his booming dad voice.)
Abe: And then he told you that there are people who will kidnap you and eat your skin?
Lex and Abe both burst into laughter, and she bats at him playfully. The laughter fades and she sobers as she finishes her thought.
Lex: Well, essentially yes, that’s how he told me. He told me that my skin was incredibly special, and that there are dangerous people who will do anything to find that special kind of skin. "They will hunt us down and kill us to get to your special skin. All of us, do you understand? Your mother and I and you.” He scared the bejeezus out of me before they explained how amazing it was. I mean, I guess that was probably the best way to go about it? Instill the serious before we talk about the good stuff?
Abe: Well… Do you think that’s how we should tell Aksha? It’s hard to imagine, but she’s going to have to become much more aware of her surroundings for her safety. There haven’t been any threats in a long time, but you know, “constant vigilance” (voice booming impression) as Dumbledore says.
Lex: (laughing) Haha, nerd. Also, it’s Mad Eye Moody who says that.
Abe: Um, ok, nerd. (winks)
Lex: Ok ok, so she’s seven now. How do you want to do this? Should we be very scary first? Or tell her how important she is first? Try to explain the science as we know it? I want her to understand fully. I've spent my life trying to understand. I feel like she should know as much as possible.
Abe: Lex, when you told me, you kept it short and sweet. I think you said, "My skin is different than yours, it’s made of different stuff. My other organs are pretty much the same, my blood is mostly the same, but my skin is very special, and it can do extraordinary things.” - which was pretty clear for me.
Lex: Ugh, I practiced that speech so many times before I finally had the guts to talk to you about it. And it was only because we were talking about having children. I had to truly trust you.
Abe: This is the same. We’ll practice together and then we’ll teach her that she is a healer. We’ll teach her that her body is a cure for disease. But we have to teach her how to manage it, how to heal up, use it safely, and also teach her that there are terrible people who will hunt her down and skin her alive if given the chance.
Lex: (very seriously) Yes. She has to understand how sacred she is. And how evil this world can be. I just want to keep her innocent for one more night. I do think she really enjoyed her birthday.
Abe: I’d say so.
Abe gestures to the large pile of presents in various states of unwrap, the deflated balloons & streamers in disarray. The camera moves to view them from a wider angle.
Abe: (in joking explanation) Aksha, you know how people pretend witches are bad?
Lex: Oh jeez Abe, no way. I think we need to leave the witch word out of this for as long as possible. It’s a really confusing term. Especially to kids. We barely even use it ourselves anymore.
Abe: Speaking of witch, (eyebrows raised in jest), how are you healing up?
Lex: Pffffft. Let’s see.
The camera cuts to a close up of Lex, seated - mid body. Lex flips up her skirt and we see a wide bandage over her upper thigh. She peels back the edge and we see pink and white fresh skin knitting back together. She pulls up her light sweater and shows a similar bandage over her ribs. She peels it back and we see the same. It is a tiny bit fuzzy like baby tree roots and mycelium.
Abe: Hey! Looking good! You’re healing up quickly this time.
Lex: I could use another connect with the forest. It’s almost the full moon, maybe I’ll head out tonight for an hour or so. I would love to be fully healed asap. This has been a painful one.
Abe: I love you. You do so much good in the world. I’m going to head to bed. Or I could come with you? Do you need me?
Lex: You are exhausted, babe. Go to sleep. I’ll be back and in bed before you know it. I love you too.
They lean in for a kiss. Camera pushes in. Abe touches her nose with the ice-cream spoon and they laugh.
Cut to a quiet, dark, den type home office. We see Sam lit only by the glowing blue of his computer screen and we hear his fingers tapping on the keys. We see over his shoulder that he is trying to understand how to access the dark web. His cell phone rings and we see the caller is “unknown”. He fumbles and answers the phone quickly.
Sam: (whispers) Hello? Yes, I left that message. I understand. I won’t do that again. If you could just put me in touch… I don’t care how much it costs… You don’t have access yet? She doesn’t have time to wait around. Ok, yes, I understand, these things take time. (We can see he’s trying to keep his cool.) I have to sign an NDA? What? Is it a private pharma company? Ok, ok, too many questions. I’m in. Anything. Yes.
We see that the call has ended and he closes his eyes for a moment, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He places the phone down slowly and sighs deeply.
Cut to Lex locking up her bike on a forest path. It’s deeply night, but the moon is bright. She is wearing dark colors and she stays in the shadows. She dips further into the trees, winding her way expertly into a specific grove of trees. When she finds a spot densely packed with underbrush, she kicks off her shoes and pulls back her sleeves.
Low close up as her feet make contact with the exposed roots of the tree, tiny white spiraling mycelium roots shoot out of her skin. They wind into the tree bark and the dirt. The camera travels up her body slowly, following a slight glow. Her hands do the same as she touches the tree. Lex leans into the connection and she begins to glow faintly all over. She touches her forehead to the tree and falls into a meditation.
The camera zooms from a tight shot of the forehead connection into an animation. The mycelium flow like fiber optic cables. They bring nutrients from the ground to the tree and into her body. They move water and energy and the internet of fibers begins to pulse. Her wounds begin to heal in earnest almost high speed. We hear faint whispering and we follow the pulsing lights back out to Lex’s ears. We begin to understand that she’s communicating. Her own neural thoughts are sent out over the network while she’s receiving messages as well. The overall warm white glow is pulsing faintly.
We hear a tree branch break loudly and close. Lex’s eyes snap open. We hear a sharp intake of breath as her glow blows out like a candle. Cut to black.
Ominous silence moves into quiet music & closing credits.
End of episode one.
"Concept / Premise”
Before there were humans, there were trees. Before there were trees, giant mushrooms covered the earth. As humans evolved, mushrooms evolved alongside them. Mushroom DNA is closer to human DNA than all of plant life. They can live/exist in different phases of life for a long time. The largest living thing on earth is the honey fungus - 2.4 miles across in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. Mycelium networks span the undergrowth of every forest and great plain. They work with trees and flowers to exchange oxygen and minerals. They are a part of the cycle of the growing living world.
There is a species of near human mushroom. They pass for humans in almost every respect, except that they can heal their bodies in the forest. They have a symbiotic relationship with a specific tree and mycelium, and when they touch the earth with their bare feet and the tree with their bare hands, the cycle of healing begins. They can re-grow whole body parts. Over eons, their presence, their power and their gifts began the myth of the Healer/Witch. They have embraced the myth, and refer to themselves as natural Witches.
The Witch’s flesh has a highly guarded power of healing humans. If a sick human was to eat the flesh of the Witch, they would heal completely for a time. The duration of health depends on the sickness and the willingness of the Witch. A Witch could cut off her leg an feed it to a human to cure a brain tumor for instance. It would be incredibly painful and it would take a long time to regenerate the leg, but it would be possible. In times past, a Witch would cut small bits of flesh from her body and make tonics and medicines to keep the people of his/her community healthy. They were cherished among the early pagans and treated as deities. The transubstantiation of Christ “This is my body, take and eat, this is my blood...” is based on the way of the Witch. Many believe that Jesus was trying to share his gifts as a Witch with the world, to expose the secret. Many also believe that the horrific tradition of hunting down and burning Witches alive was based on a certain few who knew the secret - that they could keep the body, eat of their flesh and live well for the rest of their lives.
Despite being a separate species, Witches can breed with humans. The gift of flesh travels with the mitochondrial DNA side of the mother. If your mother was a Witch, you likely have the gift. As this is the case, there are different groups of Witches as defined by their cultural regions, and some feel it is best to breed only with other Witches - to keep the gift alive. They can sometimes be exclusive and live away from others culturally - like the traveling Romani or Hassidic Jews.
The power of a forest waxes and wanes with the moon cycle. New moons and full moons have different attributes. If a Witch “draws in” to the mycelium network of a forest, he/she could have access to the information of the life also attached, like other Witches throughout the region. In this way, they can speak, heal and draw energy from the earth as a group. On a full or new moon, you are likely to run into many Witches in the forest. “Spells” are often performed then. The majority of their power, when linked together, can effect things like weather and flora.
Obviously, these gifts have to be kept under high guard. Not only would they be subject to capture and rigorous scientific study, but they may very well be kidnapped and eaten entirely by a family with a sick loved one. Children of Witches are not allowed to know of or understand their gifts until they come of age.
Witches are doctors, scientists and environmentalists mostly. Healers of people and keepers of nature. They know every mushroom species and how they tie into different aspects of life.