Poison (2023) Movie Script

It was midnight when I drove home.
As I approached the bungalow,
I switched off the headlamps
so the beam wouldn't swing
through the window and wake Harry Pope.
I needn't have bothered.
His light was still on.
I parked, went up to the porch,
counting each step
so I wouldn't take an extra step,
which wasn't there, at the top.
One, two, three, four.
I went to Harry's room,
opened it quietly, and looked in.
He was lying in bed awake.
He didn't move or even turn his head.
But I heard him whispering,
almost inaudible...
[whispering] Help.
[clock ticking]
I pushed the door
and started across the room.
"Stop"? I could hardly hear a word.
He seemed to be straining enormously
to produce sound.
- Help.
- "Help"?
What's the matter, Harry?
Take off shoes.
"Take off shoes"?
He reminded me of George Barling
after he got shot in the stomach
when he leaned against a crate,
gripping himself
and muttering about the Japanese pilot
in just the same straining
half-whisper Harry was using now.
Then George Barling bent over, of course...
and died.
Take off shoes.
"Take off shoes."
I couldn't understand,
but I wasn't going to object.
- What is it, Harry?
- Don't touch.
He was on his back with a sheet
covering three-quarters of his body,
wearing striped pajamas
and sweating terribly.
It was hot.
I was sweating, but not like Harry.
His face was wet
and the pillow was soaked.
It looked like malaria to me.
- What is it, Harry?
- Krait.
- What?
- Krait.
- "Krait"?
- Snake.
You've been bitten. How long ago?
Didn't bite yet.
That confused me.
I gave Harry a funny look.
Krait on stomach. Asleep.
I jumped backwards. I couldn't help it.
I stared at his stomach,
at the sheet that covered it.
It was impossible to tell
if there was something underneath.
You don't mean there's a krait
on your stomach now? Asleep?
How'd it get there?
I shouldn't have asked a question.
I should've just told him to keep quiet.
Lying on back. Reading.
Felt something on chest, behind book.
From corner of eye,
saw little krait sliding over pajamas.
Small. Maybe ten inches.
Knew mustn't move.
Lay frozen, watching it.
Thought it would go over top of sheet.
[Woods] Harry was silent for a moment.
He was making sure his whispering
wasn't disturbing the thing laying there.
It went under.
Felt it through pajamas.
Moving on stomach.
Then it stopped. Now lying there asleep.
I've been waiting.
- [Woods] How long?
- For hours.
Hours and hours
and bloody hours and hours.
Can't keep still much longer.
Need to cough.
[Roald] In fact,
it wasn't a surprising thing
for a krait to do.
They linger around people's houses
and go for the warm places.
The surprising thing was
that Harry hadn't been bitten so far.
The bite is ferociously deadly,
unless you catch it at once,
with a dose of antivenom
immediately at hand.
Slim, little things. They look like this.
One might slip, discreetly,
through the just-cracked open door
of a small child's bedroom, for instance.
The manager of a tea estate once told me
about a sheep bitten on the hind leg.
When he cut open the carcass,
its blood ran pitch, black as tar.
[whispering] "All right, Harry," I said.
Now I was whispering too.
Don't move
and don't talk unless you have to.
It won't bite unless it's frightened.
We'll fix it.
[door opens]
[in normal voice] I went out softly
and fetched a small sharp knife
from the kitchen.
I put it in my pocket ready to use in case
Harry frightened the krait and got bitten.
I was ready to cut Harry
and suck out the venom.
[whispering] "Harry,
I think the best thing to do
is for me to draw back the sheet
very gently and have a look."
You idiot.
There was no expression in his voice.
He spoke too slowly and softly for that.
The expression was in the eyes
and corners of the mouth.
Light will startle. Snake will kill me.
Good point.
How about I whip back the sheet
and brush it off the instant...
Get doctor.
He looked at me as if
I should have thought of that myself.
A doctor. Of course.
That's it. I'll get Dr. Ganderbai.
I tiptoed out,
looked up Dr. Ganderbai's number,
lifted the phone
and told the operator to hurry.
[phone ringing]
[clock ticking]
- This is Supervisor Woods.
- Hello, Mr. Woods. You're not in bed yet?
Come at once and bring serum. For a krait.
Serum? Who's been bitten?
The question came
like a small explosion in my ear.
No one. No one, yet.
Harry's got one
sleeping on his stomach under the sheet.
For about three seconds
there was silence on the line.
Speaking slowly, not like an explosion,
precisely, Dr. Ganderbai said...
He's not to move or talk.
Do you understand?
- Of course, Doctor.
- I'm coming now.
He rang off,
and I went back to the bedroom.
Harry's eyes walked me to his bed.
[whispering] Dr. Ganderbai's coming.
He said to lie still.
- What does he think I've been doing?
- No talking. Either of us.
Shut up, then.
The muscles on one side of his mouth,
the muscles used for smiling
started twitching, little movements
that continued for a while
after he finished speaking.
I didn't like that,
or the way he talked, either.
- [car approaching]
- Dr. Ganderbai's car sped up to the front.
I went out to meet him.
- Where is he?
- Dr. Ganderbai didn't stop for my answer.
He walked on past me into the hall.
He put his bag down on a chair.
He was wearing
soft-soled bedroom slippers.
He walked across the floor noiselessly,
like a careful cat.
Harry watched out the sides of his eyes.
Upon reaching the bed,
he looked at Harry and smiled,
reassuring, nodding his head as if to say...
Don't worry. This is a simple matter.
Leave it to Dr. Ganderbai.
He went into the kitchen,
and I followed him.
He opened his bag.
First is to try to get serum into him,
but I must do it neatly. He can't flinch.
He held a hypodermic and a small bottle.
He stuck in the needle
and drew up a pale yellow liquid.
- He handed it to me.
- Hold that till I ask for it.
We returned to the room.
[clock ticking]
[whispering] Harry's eyes
were bright and open.
Dr. Ganderbai
cautiously rolled up Harry's sleeve
to the elbow without moving the arm.
He stood well away from the bed.
He whispered...
I'm going to give you an injection.
Just a prick. Don't move.
Don't tighten your stomach muscles.
Let them go limp.
Harry looked at the syringe.
His smiling muscle began to twitch again.
Dr. Ganderbai took rubber tubing
and tied it tight around Harry's bicep.
He sponged a small area
of the forearm with alcohol.
He held up the syringe,
squinting at the calibrations,
squirting out some fluid.
Harry was sweating all over his face
so it shone like face cream
melting on his skin,
running down the pillow.
I could see the blue vein on his forearm,
swollen under the tourniquet.
Needle above the vein,
Ganderbai holding it flat against the arm,
sliding the needle sideways into the vein,
slowly and firmly
so it went in smooth as into cheese.
Harry closed his eyes
and opened them again but didn't move.
Ganderbai leaned forward,
mouth close to Harry's ear.
Now you'll be all right even if it bites,
but don't move. I'll be back in a moment.
- "Is he safe now?" I asked.
- It might or might not save him.
Ganderbai wiped his forehead
and stood nibbling his lip.
There is a way to do this.
There is a way to do this.
He was speaking slowly
and trying to think while he talked.
We're going to administer an anesthetic
to the creature where it lies.
It was a splendid suggestion.
It's not safe.
A snake is cold-blooded.
Anesthetic doesn't work well
with cold-blooded animals.
But I don't have any other ideas.
Ether or chloroform?
I nodded.
- Which one?
- Was he asking me? I don't know.
[loudly] Chloroform!
[in normal voice]
He pulled me to the hall.
- [door opens]
- Drive to my house.
The boy will be waiting for you.
Here's the key to my poisons cupboard.
Take chloroform. It has an orange label.
The name is printed on it.
I'll stay in case anything happens.
Be quick!
- My shoes...
- You don't need shoes.
[engine starts]
[Woods] I drove fast, and in 15 minutes
I was back with the bottle.
He knows what we're going to do,
but he's understandably losing his nerve.
I'm not sure how much longer he can last.
[whispering] Harry was lying
in the same position as before.
His face was white and wet.
He turned his eyes towards me.
I smiled at him and nodded.
The doctor picked up the tube
he'd used as a tourniquet,
now with a paper funnel
fitted into one end.
He untucked a section of sheet
from under the mattress,
took the rubber tube, inserted it,
and slid it under the sheet
towards Harry's body.
Not sure how long it took
to slide that tube in.
It may have been 20 minutes, or 40.
I never saw the tube move,
but the visible part of it
grew gradually shorter.
Dr. Ganderbai himself was sweating now,
large pearls on his forehead
and upper lip,
but his hands were steady,
and his eyes were glued to the sheet
above Harry's stomach.
He held out his hand for the chloroform.
I twisted out the stopper
and put the bottle into his hand,
not letting go
until I was sure he had a good hold.
Mr. Pope, I'm going to soak the mattress.
It's going to be cold under your body.
- Be ready for it and don't move.
- Get on with it!
[whispering] For the first time,
Harry raised his voice.
Dr. Ganderbai looked up,
watched him and went back to business.
He poured into the funnel
and waited while it ran down the tube.
He poured some more and waited again.
The heavy, sickening smell of chloroform
spread over the room
bringing faint, unpleasant memories
of nurses and surgeons
in a white room with a long white table.
Ganderbai was pouring steadily,
and I could see the heavy vapor swirling
like smoke above the paper funnel.
He paused, poured one more
and handed the bottle back to me.
Slowly he drew out the rubber tube,
then stood up.
The strain of this procedure
must have been enormous
because he sounded like this...
- [shakily] Give it 15 minutes to be safe.
- [whispering] I leaned over to tell Harry.
- We'll give it...
- [loudly] I heard him!
This time Dr. Ganderbai sprang 'round,
his face suddenly angry.
Stared at Harry, a cold stone.
Harry's smiling muscle began to twitch.
We waited 15 minutes by the bed.
Dr. Ganderbai watched Harry's face
in the most curious,
profoundly intense, arresting gaze,
concentrating all his will power
on keeping Harry
absolutely still and quiet.
He never took his eye away,
and although he made no sound,
he seemed to be shouting at him.
- Something like...
- [loudly] Don't move or speak!
You're not spoiling this now! You hear me?
[Woods] In this silence,
Harry lay there twitching his mouth,
sweating, closing his eyes, opening them,
looking at me, the sheet, the ceiling,
never looking at Dr. Ganderbai.
Yet somehow,
Dr. Ganderbai was holding him.
It was like someone
was blowing up a huge balloon,
that it was going to burst,
but I couldn't turn away.
Finally Dr. Ganderbai nodded,
and I knew he was ready to proceed.
Go to the other side.
We'll each take a side of the sheet
and draw it back together.
Very slowly, please. Keep still, Mr. Pope.
[Woods] The whole of Harry's chest
was visible now.
I saw the white cord
of his pajama trousers
neatly tied in a bow.
A little farther below,
I saw a mother-of-pearl button,
something I never had on my pajamas,
a fly-button,
let alone a mother-of-pearl one.
Odd how one sometimes
has frivolous thoughts
at exciting moments.
Nothing else was on his stomach.
Don't move, Mr. Pope.
Ganderbai peered around
along Harry's body and under his legs.
Be careful. It could be anywhere,
up the pajama leg.
Harry sat up.
[breathing heavily]
It was the first time he'd moved.
Harry jumped up, stood on his bed,
shook his legs violently.
We thought he'd been bitten.
Ganderbai was scrambling for a scalpel,
but then Harry ceased leaping,
stood still,
looked down at the mattress
and shouted...
It's not there!
Dr. Ganderbai straightened up.
He looked at Harry.
Harry was all right.
He hadn't been bitten.
He wasn't going to get bitten or killed.
And everything was fine.
Sort of.
[chuckling] Maybe you were dreaming,
Mr. Pope.
[heart beating]
[Woods] The way he said it,
I knew his teasing
was not seriously intended.
He was easing up
after the extreme strain.
Harry didn't take it that way.
He stood in his pajamas,
glaring at Ganderbai. The color
began to spread over his cheeks.
Are you suggesting I'm a liar?
Dr. Ganderbai remained still,
watching Harry.
Harry took a pace forward on the bed.
A shining look in his eyes.
- You dirty, little, Bengali, sewer rat.
- "Shut up, Harry," I said.
- You dirty, brown, filthy, little...
- Shut up!
- Backwards-caste...
- Shut your mouth!
[breathing heavily]
Ganderbai left the room.
I followed him onto the screened porch.
He's out of his mind,
doesn't know what he's saying.
We went across the drive in the darkness
to the doctor's old Morris Motor car.
He got inside.
"You did a miraculous thing," I said.
- "You saved his life."
- No, I don't think so.
I mean, you might've...
He owes you his life.
- I mean, he owes you his life, Doctor.
- No, he doesn't.
I'm sorry.
You can't be.
[engine starts]
Dr. Ganderbai started the engine
and drove off.
[engine revving]