Exterior. University of Warsaw/Warsaw Plaza, September 8th 1939 – Day.
Antoni Medved, a 20 year old college student, exits the University of Warsaw’s Department of Letters holding textbooks fastened with a leather bookstrap. His sixteen-year-old little brother, Wojciech Medved, is waiting eagerly at the bottom of the stairs. Wojciech is wearing his school uniform, an unflattering brown smock, and is shuffling a deck of cards.
Wojciech: You do know your deck is missing a jester, don’t you? Wojciech continues to shuffle the cards showily, as if to taunt his brother.
Antoni: You are a fair substitute, I’d think. He gestures to Wojciech to return the pilfered deck to his open palm. Or maybe you are more of a thief than a jester? According to your teacher, you are both. The boy scoffs at this statement, but places the deck into Antoni’s waiting hand.
Wojciech: You’re going to trust Miss Dupek’s judgment? She thinks Rydz-Smigly should’ve let the Red Army march westward to Slovakia. I know how you feel about that.
Antoni: You need to stop eavesdropping on my study sessions.
Wojciech: You blather about politics and try to kiss Sally Kreplach. How is that studying? Antoni laughs, unable to dismiss the accusation. He fans out the cards, and smirks upon discovering one of Wojciech’s alterations: the remaining jester has been scribbled into a grim-reaper. A skull-and-crossbones throbs over its clownish face, and a scythe has been placed in its hand. Stink lines emanate from the figure’s backside.
Wojciech: And anyway, it’s more than theft– it’s sleight of hand, illusion. An enviable skill, really, especially in hard times.
Antoni (jokingly): I am sure that someday, soon, the whole world will see how valuable you are. You got jam on these too. Sticky fingers. Antoni puts the jester and the deck of cards in the pocket of Wojciech’s smock. He grabs Wojciech’s shoulder and steers him through the crowded open air market. Antoni stops at a store facing out towards the plaza.
Antoni: Wait here, Rybko. And try not to steal anything! Antoni walks into the store.
Interior. Store. Antoni is buying cigarettes. The shop owner hands him a pack. Opening it, he finds the disfigured jester card laying on top. Confused by this impossible vision, he looks out the window to see Wojciech walking towards a newsstand near the center of the plaza. We hear the whistle of a shell that comes crashing down and detonates in the middle of the openair market. The windows of the store implode, and Antoni is knocked to the ground. Antoni rises, disoriented- his hearing is shot, and his vision is compromised by the burst of light and debris. He stumbles into the plaza.
Exterior. Warsaw Plaza. We are in Antoni’s point of view. As he enters the plaza, his senses begin to return. He sees that everything that is burnable- people, trees, vender stands- is on fire. Those alive are screaming, the phosphorous from the bomb sticks to them, turning them into human torches. Bodies are on the ground, some damaged beyond recognition, others still identifiably human but with essential parts missing. Antoni frantically searches for Wojciech.
The whistling is heard again. More bombs detonate. Air raid sirens sound. The invasion of Poland has begun.