As some of you will recall, I’ve been running a write-a-better-ending-to-the-Bourne-Ultimatum contest.
Well, the deadline has passed, and Ann and I have chosen the winner. It’s Charles Goran.
Congratulations! Charles wins a copy of Best American Fantasy and Shriek: An Afterword. He especially appreciates this reading prize because, as you can see above, he’s just a slice of face with eyes. (FYI: Interview with Charles here.)
The two runners-up are Christopher Drake and Felix Gilman.
For honorable mentions it’s the humor of:
Steve Dempsey: “It was all a dream. Bourne wakes up to find that he is the President, well the President’s husband actually. In the background you can see Hillary stepping out of the shower.”
Kameron Hurley: “He finds out he’s really Ben Affleck.”
You can view all the entrants here. Below find the winning entry and the ones by Drake and Gilman. Thanks to everyone for entering.
As he makes his way into the building were it all began, he is flooded with memories. The spill of thought fragments come with an intense pain, making Jason double over. Each shard of memory feels like needle teasing its way into his brain. The sound of agents hurriedly clamoring toward his location filter into his awareness, as he struggles to pull himself together. The memories had been revealing themselves to him in bursts for a long time, but with his arrival here, the levy has broken and with it comes intense pain and the deep sense of inevitable retribution.
He starts to move. He is guided through the grimy, flaccid government halls by a familiarity with the layout of the building that he does not completely understand. He makes his final turn down the hall leading to office, the last stop for him on his journey. The last breath for whomever resides there. As he rounds the corner, agent Landy appears before him like a ghost, leveling her Glock 9 mm at his chest. She never intended to get the documents into the right hands. She seems cold as ice as he hears her her say “Jason, but the gun down”.
She is standing 3 yards away. Without conscious thought, he hurls his gun at her face with incomprehensible speed. Her arms fly up to protect her face, but she is too slow to do any good. He hears a shot hit the ceiling as she gets a round off. Bourne reaches her just as the gun is pulverizing the bridge of her nose. An explosion of blood and bone hits him in the face as he slips behind Landy wrapping his arm around her neck. Through bubbles of blood she struggles to speak but no sound is made as he milks the life from her.
Laying her body on the ground, he makes his way toward the office door at the end of the hall. As he reaches for the flimsy doorknob, he hears the sound of a latch. Without pause he turns the knob and it opens with the sound of a babies breath. Sitting in a chair behind an enormous oak desk, covered in stacks of files and adorned with family photos in cheap gold frames, is a sleight man in think glasses. “Sit down Jason” he says.
“It’s so good to see you again”. Bourne hears this through a wall of pain as another wave of memories hit him. “It seems like you’ve come home” the man goes on. “Did you ever wonder why you were the best of them”?
“I know your memory has suffered, I want you to remember me”. Bourne looks around, he notices one of the photos in a gold frame is of this man and Pamela Landy holding hands walking on a beach with a small child.
“You see son, I never wanted to hurt you”Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Completion of the story would ultimately come with the closure of realistic paranoia. Bourne constantly thought that others were looking for him, seeking him out all through the first and second movie. By the end of the second movie, it was believed that the Treadstone project was entirely out of the way.
How wrong he was.
In reality, the entire time the Treadstone project was running, it was only a side-project of Operation Remaking. The overseers of this seperate project are black bag experts from the 70s, survivors of the Bay of Pigs up until current, all specialized in the killing of other humans. A group of assassins, retired and constantly on the lookout. After finding out he was a volunteer, Bourne fails to believe it and begins tracking the information back through the government with the help of sympathetic officials. This ultimately leads him to the warden of a run down southern prison. The warden of this prison informs him that previously, he was an inmate of the institution and had been originally put there for the murder of his family and friends. He was put into penance at the prison specifically because he was a cold blooded killer, responsible for the death of a dozen people and incapable of controlling his own bloodlust.
The warden of the prison then informs him that Operation Remaking recruited him for Project Treadstone, forwarding him to their re-training and background washing facility at the CIA. After months and months of rebuilding and physical training, they managed to harness the uncontrolled rage and hone it down to a razor’s edgeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ And began picking targets. Alexander Conklin (killed at the end of the first movie) Ward Abbott (killed himself at the end of the second movie) were actually the only knowing members of Operation Remaking. With their help, OR funded the Russian oil program (see the second movie) and took serious kickbacks for themselves from it.
The only reason Bourne isn’t still a point-and-click killer is because he went through trauma, and the amnesia (determined to have been created by new found guilt) allowed him to experience emotions he hadn’t even known since he’d tortured his first animal as a childÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Long story shortÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ End wraps up with him either learning the moral high road and taking it, or winding up screaming locked in a padded cell. Take your pick.
Credits roll over pounding techno. Let Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem roll a good lo-o-o-ng time. This will give the plebes time to clear out. Yes, yes, step past me, that’s OK, go on, get lost, take your noisy kids with you! Those who have intuited a deeper meaning to Bourne/Smith’s story will stay behind, raptly watching the credits. Gaffers, best boys, PA’s, drivers, caterers, and finally the copyright notice. Now only the cognoscenti remain. Long pause. Then: intertitle: TWO MONTHS LATER.
Smith is having trouble getting his back pay out of the CIA. No one seems to know who’s responsible for his department. He’s this close to talking to a lawyer, frankly. It’s not like he can just get another job, because his resume looks like shit. He’s written to basically everyone at Langley now, and he’s getting nowhere. . .
. . .until a letter from Langley arrives. Mr. Smith, it says, we need to talk, I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, and I think maybe if we clear the air a little that would just be great. It’s written a shaky, over-caffeinated hand, and signed simply: W.A.
Smith speeds non-stop to Langley. Forgetting that he has an official appointment, he kills two people getting in. Down through the sub-basements and the un-numbered secret corridors. Through an unmarked doorÃ¢â‚¬â€œa strange sense of significance compels him. The room inside is full of videotape, unspooling film, confusing machines. A little twitchy man sits at a mixing desk with headphones on. He sees Smith and gives a nervous smile. “Mr. Smith, you’re here, that’s just wonderful, this is really exciting.”
It is of course Woody Allen.
On the desk beside him is a script titled The Bourne Identity.
Smith and Allen shake hands. A tingle of electricity passes between them and Smith understands that he is face to face with his creator. It quickly becomes apparent to the audience that in the world of the fiction that Smith until recently inhabited, as in ours, Allen is a director of philosophically-minded romantic comedies; but in the world of the meta-fiction into which Smith has stepped, Allen is a director of action thrillers. Meta-fictional Allen dreams of creating thoughtful romantic comedies, but his talent for crafting hyper-kinetic violence traps him in this lucrative but hateful career. The director will make all of this clear through framing and suggestive lighting.
“I feel just terrible,” Allen says, “I really do. Can we talk? I think we need to talk.”
Smith stabs Allen in the eye with a pencil, strangles him with videotape. Old habits die hard. Allen’s unfazedÃ¢â‚¬â€œthe creation poses no physical threat to the creator. Of course not! But emotionally, morally, it’s a different storyÃ¢â‚¬â€œas becomes immediately apparent. Allen switches on one of the TVs and puts in a video cassetteÃ¢â‚¬â€œThe Bourne Ultimatum. “I did my best, but do you have any idea how hard it is? You try to make something beautiful, but they won’t let you.” He starts to run the tape backwards. The credits run up-screen. Scenes of violence reverse themselvesÃ¢â‚¬â€œthe dead return to life. Allen keeps shaking his head. Bourne sits beside him. Scene by scene, Allen explains where he went wrong. How he meant this scene to be funny, and this scene sweet, and this scene to make a point about existentialism, and this scene to satirize New York upper-class dinner party mannerisms, and yet always, again and again, he found himself resorting instead to violence, car chases, the sniper on the rooftops, the pen jammed in the carotid artery. It probably wasn’t a very good choice of movie for what he wanted to do, Allen admits.
Smith starts to resent this. What does Allen expect Smith to say? It’s not Smith’s faultÃ¢â‚¬â€œwho’s supposed to be apologizing to who, here? It gets awkward.
When they’ve done Ultimatum, they go backwards through Supremacyand then Identity. Allen just feels awful about what happened to Franka Potente’s characterÃ¢â‚¬â€œhe had a whole subplot planned where she goes on to be a successful but neurotic fashion designer/mystery novelist. Smith sits in silence. The audience reflects on how Smith/Bourne is trapped inside an identity and life he never knowingly chose, and so is (meta-fictional) Allen. And indeed aren’t we all trapped, in a sense? Yes, we are, in a very literal sense, because the theater’s staff have locked the doorsÃ¢â‚¬â€œit’s a condition of their license to distribute the movie. The experience must be perfect. This hidden post-credits sequence goes on for around thirteen hoursÃ¢â‚¬â€œSmith finds it hard to follow the movies, played backwards, while Allen’s talking, and so Allen has to keep going forwards and backwards again. We who are trapped in the theater have no access to the bathrooms. There is no Coke or Pepsi, and the Sprite is warm and flat. The air conditioning is at first too powerful, then it stops. This is an excellent opportunity for us all to reflect on the tragedy of the human condition.