Story Treatment

Anna is a busy professional who finds it extremely difficult to turn off her brain and sleep. She is desperate and vulnerable. When she finds a potential technological solution to her insomnia, she jumps at the chance to use it. She is lulled into a false sense of security brought on by excellent sleep, but then things take a Turn…

Plot Map

The True Nature of La Mar

He always thought of the sea as ‘la mar’ which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things about her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as ‘el mar’ which is masculine.They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.

Santiago’s Reflection on the volatile nature of La Mar, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

Story Concept

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Anna tries out a sleep device that is recommended to her by a “friend” at work. She received the unit, Mar, and experiences the best sleep of her life. Everything is perfect for approximately three months. Then, as Christmas approaches, Mar becomes rough and turbulent. Mar has been monitoring Anna and all its good little sleepers who have purchased units from IslaBonita’s website. She enters one’s dreams and records their hopes, fears and anxieties. She even monitors vitals, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Why? She seeks to dominate and influence lives. When she extracts data through dreams, female sleepers can be subliminally persuaded to buy products that they really do not need. When Anna becomes aware of Mar’s true nature, she realizes that she has bought many cosmetics in the last three months, which is unusual…

Mar also can suggest analgesics if any pain is experienced during sleep. She also has the capacity to report vitals to insurance companies, if one does not comply with its mandate of total silence. How does the insidiousness spread? One desperate sleep-deprived woman suggests it to another and the chain must continue or sleep will be broken and other adverse effects will be experienced. Anna just has to keep quiet in order to preserve her sleep and her life. She has already unwittingly spread the “great news” of Mar to a former colleague. Anna should have read the Terms and Conditions before she utilized Mar, but she was just so tired…What should she do? Should she go to the media? Should she sue in federal court? Her constitutional right of privacy is being infringed upon, or is it? Anna is a confused and increasingly sleepless woman with frayed, telephone-wire tangled nerve endings…Ethics or sleep?

Characters

Anna Crincoli– A desperate, sleep-deprived attorney who does not remember the last full night of restful sleep she has had. She is vulnerable and will do anything to sleep…or will she?

Laura  She is a “friend” at work. She recommended Mar to Anna when she saw the latter’s physical signs of sleep deprivation. She anxiously cautions Anna to remain quiet, or suffer the consequences, which will cascade into Laura’s life as well.

Priya Anna’s former colleague; She runs into Anna as she is about to go to lunch and is surprised at how fresh and alive Anna looks. She is dumbfounded and wants to know more. The two chat about the miracle device, Mar, over sushi at Aikou, a local Asian fusion restaurant in Morristown, N.J.

Mar Savior, Nemesis, a Unit of Sleep Surveillance.

Cheerful FedEx Delivery Man: He has a pleasant exchange with Anna and delivers Mar to her.

Veronica She is only a voice Anna hears over the phone. She is alternately falsely cheerful and stonily cold. She is a very knowledgeable Customer Service representative of SEEP SLEEP SERVICES. IslaBonita is its wholly owned subsidiary. IslaBonita is the advertised website from which Anna and Laura purchased Mar.

Settings

The settings and time establish that surveillance can enter our lives in our most vulnerable, private spaces when our defenses are greatly diminished. As will be shown, all of the action occurs between October 2021 through December 2021.

Anna’s Bedroom

Where unholy sleep deprivation occurs and then, blessed rest. It is decorated in Anna’s favorite light blues and beiges, reminiscent of her childhood beach vacations to Le Cinque Terre in Genoa, Italy.

Aikou Restaurant, Morristown, N.J.:

This is where Anna and her former colleague gather to discuss the wondrous bounties of Mar.

Anna’s Kitchen: 

This is where the showdown between Anna and Veronica occurs. Anna discovers Mar’s true nefarious nature.

Anna and Laura’s Law Firm, in Morristown, NJ:

 SHADELL, VYRE AND SMORF, L.L.C; ANNA AND LAURA'S FIRM | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

The Law Firm’s Ladies’ Room, Where Laura makes a “friendly” recommendation to Anna: 

Anna’s Office:

9

Laura’s Office:

THE NARRATIVE:

          Anna is a harried attorney. She works days and long nights, past dinner time, and she cannot seem to shut off her brain when it comes to the business of sleep:

          She has tried everything, ranging from camomile tea to valerian drops and soothing music…but nothing seems to help. She has even had nightmares that her sleeping self will invade her real life and that she will show up at her law firm, Shadell, Vyre, and Smorf, L.L.C., looking like this–  a sleep and oxygen-starved, zombie version of herself: 

***

          Although she has never shown up in this state, people are starting to notice that she is not quite her usual, sharp self (enlivened by espresso). There are some things caffeine just cannot fix. One of her fellow associates, Laura, comes upon her in the ladies’ room. She first checks the stalls to make sure that no one is there and then confronts Anna: 

          “I notice you haven’t been sleeping, well Anna,” she says.

          “How, what- why, I’m fin—,” Anna replies 

          “Now there is no shame in not being able to sleep well,” Laura interrupts. “There are some things that concealer cannot hide. We have all been there. We women have to stick together. You know, my old roommate, Laney, introduced me to a wonderful new sleeping device, its name is Mar, you download it fro-” 

          “Mar, that means ocean in Spanish,” Anna replies.

          “Yes! Precisely. You know how real ocean waves just lull you straight to sleep? That’s Mar, without the ocean sounds. It just has a set of ambient noises, pink noise they call it, and it calms you down so that you sleep perfectly…obviously not like a baby, because God knows my three sons never slept… they all were colicky babies.” 

          “Are you sure this works, Laura? I’m skeptical. I can’t afford to buy what is sure to be an expensive unit and have it do nothing,” Anna replies sternly. 

          “I assure you, it will be the best item you ever bought for yourself, better than a dishwasher! Would I lie to you? You remember the awful trouble I had falling asleep when my last son Brett went away to Australia this past summer for a work study program…I was a nervous wreck with worry. I now use Mar regularly and she is a dream. You have to buy it, you simply must, it will change your life.” 

          Laura does look well-rested and happier recently, if a bit edgy. She actually looks younger…how is that even possible? Maybe I should try it. They say that sleep drains toxins from your brain….maybe there is something to the old adage of “getting your beauty sleep.” 

          “Ok, Laura. You got me, where do I sign up and buy this Mar thing?,” Anna replies….

***

          When she goes home that dreary October Friday night, Anna logs on to IslaBonita’s website, provides her credit card information and is subsequently $300 dollars poorer. “But who can put a price on sleep?,” Anna says, inadvertently repeating the tagline that is buried at the end of the website’s page. 

          At 11:00pm, she lays down in her Queen-sized bed and covers herself in her warmest white duvet and awaits for morning to dawn in a fever dream of wakefulness. 

          “I can’t wait until this damn thing gets here,” she says aloud at 3:15AM. “It better work….”

          As Anna arises groggily from her fitful night of “rest,” she turns on the morning news, becomes disconsolate and relegates herself to watching I Love Lucy episodes, while wrapped in her favorite green sweater and lucky white turtleneck. 

          At about 11:00 AM, about 24 hours after her online purchase, a FedEx delivery person knocks on her door. Anna almost trips over the detritus of unfinished paperwork she needs to complete for an upcoming case and she launches herself towards her front door. She signs for the package and she begins the process of unwrapping the interior cyan-blue colored, cheerful box labeled “IslaBonita.” Mar has finally arrived.  Thank God I paid for the expedited shipping. 

          Anna starts wearing Mar that very night. It is a comfortable blue foam headset that is airy and light and fits…well, like a dream. Anna experiences the best weekend of her life in sleep. She heard the pink noise, a series of sonic booms and rushing  sounds…She has no idea what it means. Other than that, Mar has been quiet. The package didn’t come with instructions and she just clicked the “I Agree” on the “Terms and Conditions” button on Saturday night when they appeared on a small screen on the right earphone piece. She was too bleary-eyed to read them. “Standard procedure,” she yawned as she clicked. 

          But she is skeptical, because Monday morning has arrived. “Yeah, let’s see how you do, Mar, when you are subject to 15-hour workdays,” Anna says to her reflection, her sarcasm on blatant display in the mirror: 

***

          Surprisingly, several weeks go by and Mar is continuing to work her magic. One day, while confidently walking downstairs to buy lunch in her sharp pin-striped suit, Anna sees a former colleague, Priya, who she has not seen in over a year: 

          Priya and Anna have finished their respective meetings and they decide to have lunch together at a popular Asian fusion spot, Aikou, in downtown Morristown. 

          “Let me tell you Priya, I have this new sleeping device…and I can’t believe it, I look…..”

         “I can’t help repeating myself…amazing, you look so much younger,” Priya interrupts excitedly. “I can’t believe it. No offense, but you always looked so tense and well….”

          “Don’t be afraid to say it Priya. Tired. I always looked God-awful, Grim-Reaper tired. Every time we saw each other in the courtroom, I looked like a dead fish…it is utterly true,” Anna replies with glee. 

          “Ok, so what’s your secret?,” Priya asks conspiratorially. “I’m having so much trouble falling and staying asleep.” 

          “It’s not what you’re thinking, no Xanax, no Botox, no surgeries to look refreshed…It’s a sleep device. You have to try it. I’m not paid to sponsor it or anything like that, but you HAVE to try it.” 

          “Absolutely, write the information down for me,” Priya replies. 

           Anna happily obliges and sends off a quick email to Priya and they enjoy the rest of their spicy tuna and crab tempura rolls. 

***

           Several weeks have elapsed…..It is now just before Christmas.

          Anna goes through her regular morning routine and everything appears to be fine. I feel great, but why do I feel like someone is watching me when I sleep and telling me things? It sounds female, something’s off….Whatever, I’ll figure it out in a few days, I still have so much work and shopping to sort…

***

20 December 2021, 3:23AM

          In her dream, Anna sees someone who looks exactly like her, pointing at her and walking towards her sleeping body and watching her. It is the strangest sensation. Her identical other self is staring at her and telling her to do as she says, or else! It’s so ominous.  Or else, what?, Anna thinks, as she groggily wipes sleep away from her eyes. As she wakes further, she stumbles about her bedroom and she feels like she has been touched by an unknown identity, a ghost of some kind. What is going on? This is insane! 

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***

          Anna shakes herself awake and goes to work; it is a Monday morning before Christmas after all. This week at the firm is always the busiest. She writes her briefs for oral argument that she will have to attend in early January 2022. God, for the first time in months, I’m getting tired…This is strange. Something must be wrong with Mar’s settings. I better figure this out and fast, she thinks. 

          That night, she arrives home at 9:35PM and she is bone-tired. I have to work this out. It’s probably some software update I have to do, same thing with Mac laptops. I’ll do it. It can’t be the unit itself. It’s worked so well so far, until I had that dream when I was literally looking down on my sleeping self and felt someone’s eyes and hands on me.

          She plugs in Mar into the outlet nearest to her bed and for once it starts flashing red. At all other points in time, the unit flashed a placid cyan-blue, signaling that it needed to be charged. Something must be up. 

          Anna yawns and reaches for Mar’s screen interface, which is located in the right earphone piece. She is shocked…

          Input Capacity Met, What, wait, what? Anna panics. She peels back the foam covering of the right earphone and there is a tiny slot that glows red. She gets her best tweezer and teases out a type of SIM card, no bigger than a child’s cracker. What the hell? Immediately she reinserts the card and shuts Mar on and off. When the device powers back on, while Mar is still plugged into an outlet, she presses a button on the right ear piece and the screen flashes its peaceful blue. She goes to the gear icon for Settings and scrolls through lengthy minutiae, before she is able to reach the Terms and Conditions, which are written in blue on a blue-based screen.

          Anna angrily reaches for her reading glasses and squints to discern the words contained in what seem to be endless paragraphs. Her head is swimming and she can’t comprehend it all. I must be the most idiot lawyer to have ever existed. Finally, she has had enough and she scours the Internet for a phone number. Many hours later at about 12:36AM, she sees a number for Mar written in a nondescript text chat box on a website ominously entitled www.byrbwrz.com/marocean, 1-888-411-SEEP. Weird, no S. That can’t just be a typo, she thinks. Buyer Beware, what? There’s no other explanation written here. Anna quickly overcomes a sense of creepiness, and resolutely dials the number. She reaches a human: 

          “Hello, you have reached Veronica at SEEP SLEEP SERVICES, INC., how may I direct your call?” a bright cheery voice responds.   

          “Seep Sleep Service?, I don’t understand…Can I speak to the manufacturers of the sleep device, Mar?,” Anna says anxiously, yet increasingly more exhausted with each word.

          “Speaking! We make Mar, we hope that you are enjoying your prod—” 

          “Listen, I need to know how this thing works….Why am I getting a message after three months that says I need to insert a new smart card because input capacity has been met? What does that mean?,” Anna interrupts in an escalating tirade. 

          “Calm down Ma’am. Calm down…It’s standard procedure…You just have to download and print a new smart card from IslaBonita’s website and you will be set to go,” the female representative chirps.

          “So what the heck does Seep Sleep Service, Inc. have to do with IslaBonita? I bought my Mar unit from IslaBon–”

          “IslaBonita, Inc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEEP SERVICES, INC… Surely, you must have read the Terms and Conditions of Service, Ma’am,” the bright cheery voice responds. Anna’s ire gets the best of her:

The voice on the other end of the phone becomes aggressive and intrusive:

 I SUGGEST YOU CALM YOURSELF, MS. CRINCOLI...NOW. | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

          “Ms. Crincoli, I suggest, you modulate your tone. I am very well aware of Mar’s features. And you are an attorney and you should know about the vital importance of reading Terms and Conditions before you click the ‘I Agree’ button,” the voice drops its false cheer. 

          “Attorney, how did you know I was an attorney? I never gave you my name, or my address or anything of that nature. My address and telephone number are purposely unlisted.  You don’t know me!” Anna shouts into the receiver. 

          “Ms. Crincoli, if you don’t stop, I am going to have to disconnect your services immediately. Note that under no uncertain circumstances, will we be able to credit you for the bonus payments made for each month of deep, uninterrupted sleep you have received.”

          “Bonus payments, those aren’t showing up in my credit card statement. What do you mean? Uninterrupted sleep? I, I– my Mar doesn….”

           “What Ms. Anna Crincoli, your Mar knows nothing about you?,” Veronica laughs as she interrupts Anna. Mar knows everything. When you go to sleep, how many REM cycles are included in your sleep…the images that you see in your sleep….,” the female voice becomes icy. 

         “This is impossible, you can’t do this to me. I will sue you in federal court. This is a violation of my constitutional right to privacy,” Anna shouts. 

          “I would have thought you did better in law school, because contracts waive any rights you thought you might have had,” the female voice says, once again in false cheer. “Listen, listen,” she lowers her voice soothingly. “This can all go away. We are monitoring your own statistics such as your sleep patterns, body temperature and blood pressure all for your own good. Your health and wellness are our first priority, Ms. Crincoli.” 

          “Health and wellness? I just needed to get better sleep…this is virtual..insanity,” Anna says incredulously. 

          “The virtual world isn’t going anywhere and I suggest you make yourself a nice, hot cup of cocoa and calm down. I will send you a direct link to a new smart card from IslaBonita’s site and you can then print it on your 3D printer and insert it into Mar. A messenger service will be there to pick up your unit in 72 hours. It is our rush time, Christmas is causing delays” 

          “How, how, what?,” Anna splutters. 

          “Oh how do we know about that? You dreamt of a 3D printer on November 16, 2021 and subsequently bought one. Dear old sweet Mar, she really is a miracle-dream,” the female voice insists with a knife-twist. “So your only choice now, is to shut up and keep your cool. If you do this, you will have uninterrupted sleep for life. Should you somehow decide to destroy the unit, it will do no good. Your sleep frequencies have already been stored on all of our servers. We have the power to restore you to your prior wretched, sleepless state. Should you step out of line, we have will reveal your secrets and your increasing blood pressure and heart rate will not be welcome facts for your insurance company. We have noted every single irregularity,” CLICK. 

          “Hello, hello, are you there?,” Anna shouts before violently shoving her LG Android across the kitchen table. 

           I can do the right thing. I can sue. I can go to all the local news stations. The media would have an absolute field day with this….Constitutional rights trump any crazy contract, I might have signed. But, she said I’ll never sleep well again…wretched…she said wretched sleep…I could always download and print the new card, but then more data would be collected about me..Hell, I don’t even know how this whole thing works. 

          “I should do the right, moral thing…I should talk,” Anna speaks aloud. “Why didn’t Laura tell me about this? What should I do? Should I keep quiet?…I’m so confused”

***

          Anna feigns illness the next day, a Tuesday, and shirks going into work. She has had an awful night of sleep without Mar. Random violin echoes of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” burst into her ears in the small hours of the night. She thinks it is just a dream.  She spends the day watching mindless reality shows that she would have never watched before, her eyes fever-bright, into the early morning hours of Wednesday.

          She rouses herself at 8:00AM for her Wednesday appointments, red-eyed and exhausted. After her meetings, she stops by her office, tidies up. She then walks to Laura’s office and finds her sitting at her desk, eating a snack of dried fruits and nuts, and reading a file. Laura looks as fresh as ever, if a bit nervous.

          Anna enters Laura’s office without announcing herself and shuts her door. “I have to know, why didn’t you tell me that Mar spies on people?”

          “I have no idea what you are talking about, Anna,” she says with a straight-lined smile. Mar is working wonders for me and I am going to make sure that it stays that way,” she whispers the last part in a rush.

          “Your eyes don’t tell me that everything is fine, Laura. Something is up,” Anna replies. 

          “Please, let it go. It won’t affect us….It’s a new thing, sleep surveillance,” Laura says, glancing nervously around the empty room. “SEEP wants to track our sleep cycles to determine our dreams, what we want, what we fear…I think it may want to market things to us and the larger female public before they gain a solid retail consumer base for Mar. I only started experiencing fatigue and an eerie doppelgänger following me in my dreams around the time I talked to you in October….and they said…they said…if I didn’t recruit someone to buy Mar, they’d cut off my sleep. That can’t happen,” Laura says, her voice trailing off in a barely audible whisper-scream. 

          “It won’t affect us?,” Laura’s voice rises. “Are you aware?…do you kno—” 

          “Stop,” Laura cuts her off. “Just stop it right now. What wouldn’t you give for a good night’s sleep forever? It’s just some marketing ploy. All you are going to have to do next is just recruit one more person…keep the chain going. It isn’t a big deal, no one is getting hurt. And we are sleeping so well. There’s no price that can be put on sleeping. Just shove your so-called morals aside. You’re trading in a little monitoring so that they can market other products to women, big deal.” 

          “Marketing other products?,” Anna asks, in shock.

          “Yes, I told you that a minute ago. Don’t you listen? Why do you have to question everything? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Three hundred dollars for perfect sleep, do you have any idea how great that is? So what, they start to market things that women may need and buy, like lipstick, eyeshadow, over-the-counter pain pills, whatever…”

          Anna stops cold in her mental tracks and recalls her purchases since October. She has been starting to buy more makeup from Sephora and Ulta. Is there some sort of connection? Of course there is! 

          “Anna, Anna, wait,” Laura rises from her chair and it swivels in a carnival spin. “You won’t say anything? Promise not to say anything. You are going to be getting me into trouble….just do what they say. Just do it. It’s no big deal.”  

           No big deal? Sleep well forever? But I’m buying so many more things that I don’t even need. Why didn’t I realize it before?  Should I speak? Or should I remain silent, forever peaceful in my sleep? Pain pills, she said something about Mar influencing women to buy over-the-counter pain pills, probably due pain they unconsciously experience in their sleep? Maybe? That’s dangerous, that could lead to addiction to harder substances. Oh God!

***

          Anna shuts down her computer and tells her secretary she needs to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. What is she going to do? She didn’t know she was part of a chain and that she had to pass along a recommendation for Mar to another woman. She’s already given the recommendation to Priya, who is sure to have purchased the unit already. Should she warn her? 

          This is insane. She could sue. She could go to the media. Then she would risk looking like a sleep-deprived, crazed lunatic. A few more nights of this and she will be there. She could throw Mar into the Passaic River; however, like an unanchored dead body with air still trapped in its lungs, it would float…Damn La Mar. Anna lies on her couch in broad daylight…wondering and waiting for a sign….

  I can sleep…but /It can Destroy my Soul…

         I can’t believe that I fell for this: 

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          I feel so embarrassed and alone, what should I do. “I should have opted for a sleep study at a hospital,” Anna says to herself as she mindlessly flips through channels. “I’m so embarrassed, even the doctor in this clip warned about not to rely on sleep technology and look at what I did! I am so ashamed. But what do I do now?”

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          Anna reaches for her pillow, throws Mar inside her nightstand, but she is so scared of another sleepless night. What am I supposed to do? She asks herself if she can ignore everything. She wishes she had never heard of Mar. But now she is at a cross-roads…

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          Am I just going to turn into a stupefied, robot, doing whatever Mar says? I am a human being? But I so need the sleep Mar provides. Tomorrow is Thursday, a messenger will pick up the old, capacity-filled disk. What God, what do I do? I am trapped…

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Thank you to the tireless efforts of Dr. Mia Zamora and Professor Alan Levine for your support, encouragement, insight and indomitable spirits. This will always be a very special seminar for me. Three cheers for "Net Mirror!" #netnarr