Peter M Howard ::

Raphaël — Origins

12Nov2007/13Nov2007 [film]

In which a dreamed legend is born, in that realm between sacred and profane

A train steams through the Alps, its passage barely noticed in the cold, still air.

An old man sits in a near-empty carriage, his battered leather briefcase placed neatly on the seat next to him, his worn felt hat perched atop it. He opens his briefcase, removes a manila envelope, opens it, removes a bound dossier. He opens it, reads the first page, looks around nervously. He closes it and returns it to the briefcase. His eyes wander around the carriage, desperate for something else to grasp his attention, but carefully avoiding looking directly at any other passenger, desperate to maintain some semblance of civility.

Three seats back, in the last row of the carriage, sat facing the man, is Raphaël. The young man still wears his trench coat, his satchel sits within reach. He tries to look inconspicuous, but his eyes keep darting back to the old man.

Suddenly a door slams, at the opposite end of the carriage. The old man's head jerks up, but he quickly regains composure. Raphaël peers at the end of the carriage, but doesn't move.

Two dark-uniformed soldiers walk in. The first fires his gun at a window, shattering the glass. The cold mountain wind rushes in. Someone screams, and passengers are ducking behind chairs. Raphaël slides low in his seat. The old man is sweating, breathing rapidly. Raphaël pulls a small gun from his satchel, peers around the edge of his seat and—

A loud CRACK, and the old man is slumped in his seat. Raphaël panics. He vanishes, his body disintegrating into molecules. In that instant we stop moving forward, escaping the train's inertia. The train speeds forward into the night as we descend lightly to the ground, Raphaël re-forming as he falls.

This scene has been stuck in my head for years now (and I've no idea where it came from — did I dream it?). I've been struggling with where and how to tell it. There's a man on a train. But who is he? Where and when is he?

Finally, I've got him out on paper. Raphaël. He's been living on the fringes of my earlier stories. Ariel and Azrael work for him. I've a half-written conversation (scribbled down somewhere) between him and Uriel. But this scene is long before that, long before he was a leader. In my head, he's an amazing leader. But I knew he had to come from somewhere — especially as he's completely without the scheming ambition that Uriel has. And thinking about it, he's the kind of leader that times like ours produce — times of turmoil — when things reach a point where you can't just sit around waiting for someone to do something. One day, Raphaël gets up and does something, despite his past failures.

Walking home yesterday, listening to Massive Attack's Angel, looped, repeatedly, I realised I had the soundtrack. And I realised, were this scene set in the present, he'd totally be sitting there listening to an iPod. There was something so right about Jessica Biel's iPod thing in Blade Trinity, but I couldn't figure out what it was. It's that listening to music, like that — completely inside one's head, cuts one off from the rest of the world, but doesn't dull the mind. It's perfect for the hunt; it creates a distance from one's prey but not a distraction. It's in that amazing place between sacred and profane, the place that all ritual tries to take us to.

Update 13Nov2007: Added link to Angel on iTunes, because it's a really good song, and because it's available DRM-free.

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