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AVATAR: PAGE 14






CUT TO JOSH. Flailing about in the pool, trying to shoot a fish. It's a lot harder than it looks. Zuleika has to turn away, she's laughing so much. Finally Josh nails a fish about four inches long, and holds it up proudly.

JOSH: Anybody can hit the big ones.

TSU TE and another young hunter, TRI COOCHYESTEWA, come out of the forest leading TWO DOMESTICATED DIREHORSES. They control the huge animals with a leather nose-ring, but there is no sign of bridle, reins or saddle... only a woven grass surcingle around the animal's chest. The direhorses drink from the edge of the pool. Tsu Te disdainfully watches Josh slogging out of the pool with his tiny prize.

ZULEIKA: This is Tsu Te.

JOSH: Gezundheit. Pleased to meet ya.

TSU When are you going away?

JOSH: Direct. I like that. It's fresh. Actually, I hoped to stay awhile. Pick up a few hunting tips from Zuleika.

Zuleika speaks to Tsu Te in their language. In subtitles we learn that the Matriarch has instructed her to teach the alien the ways of the forest, to see if it can be done. Tsu Te sneers at that, and says something which needs no translation. Tsu Te flips his head and catches the end of his long queue in one hand. With the other hand he gently takes one moth-like antennae of his direhorse, and bends it down toward him. Next, he does an amazing thing... he touches the end of his hair to the end of the antenna, which looks like a feather. The "hair" comes alive, rapidly interweaving with the feather-like tendrils.

They knit together, forming what Josh realizes is a neural interface, a direct plug-in to the horse's nervous system. In one fluid move, Tsu Te hooks his bare foot into the bottom of the surcingle and vaults up onto the back of his direhorse. He grips the horse's flanks with his legs, and guides it with direct motor commands from the neural hookup. The animal has become an extension of his own body. And his hands are free to fire a bow. The two hunters wheel around and ride into the woods along a game trail. Josh realizes how much he has to learn.

MONTAGE OF ZULEIKA TEACHING:

We see a sequence of vignettes over the next few days, of Josh and Zuleika together, in the village and the forest. She is teaching him their ways. We see her pointing out different plants, and how they can be used. Which juices or saps or leaves can be used to attract, or repel certain animals. Which plant poisons are good for the arrows. What to avoid. How to walk. How to be invisible. ZULEIKA stands behind him, correcting his position as he draws a longbow. Her hands move on his arm, his shoulders, correcting his stance. Aware of her touch, Josh finds it hard to concentrate.

NEAR A TRAIL we see them crouching behind concealing foliage as a herd of Hammerhead Titanotheres walk past. We see only the legs, huge as treetrunks. In the middle of the herd, a couple of babies walk, sheltered from predators among their parents legs. ZULEIKA whirls a bolo round and round above her head. She hurls it and the two balls, connected by a leather thong, whistle through the air. They wrap around a sapling being used as a target. Josh tries it.

The bolo winds up wrapped around his head, with one of the balls hitting him painfully in the nose. Zuleika has to lean against a tree she's laughing so hard. NIGHT SHOT, from overhead... we see Josh and Zuleika bowfishing from a dugout canoe over the glowing anemones at the bottom of a pool. A large fish swims silhouetted against the glow. ZAP! Josh spears it.

SHOT OF ZULEIKA backlit by the sun. She is talking a mile a minute, gesturing rapidly, explaining something. We don't hear the words. Like Josh, we are just spellbound watching her.





JOSH nervously grips the woven surcingle on the back of an old, swaybacked direhorse. Zuleika holds its nose ring, keeping it steady, while she instructs Josh to bend its antenna, strong and shiny as a garden hose, down to him. He hesitantly touches the tip of his queue to the antenna. The tendrils interweave. Josh's eyes get big and his mouth drops open. Wow!! He feels the power of the massive legs under him. The horse's eyes also go wide. Zuleika strokes its muzzle, calming it. It twitches and stumbles as Josh learns how to control it.

IN THE VILLAGE Josh and Zuleika feed a direhorse foal with a gourd shaped like a nipple. It is the survivor of Lyle Wainfleet's casual slaughter, picked up by Zuleika's people when N'deh signaled them with the bullroarer. The foal gulps its meal.

SOME OF THE VILLAGE KIDS squeal with delight as Josh shows them how to play baseball. He pitches a leather bolo ball to a kid with a hand-carved bat. The kid makes a strong hit but when Josh yells "run!" in Na'vi, the kid bolts into the forest. Everyone cheers, thinking this is the game.

IN THE FOREST, ZULEIKA gently reaches up and bends a large flower toward her. From the pitcher-like flower she sips the nectar, which is sweet and thick as honey. An incredibly sensuous image.

JOSH, ZULEIKA AND N'DEH have come upon the body of a slinger killed by a powersuit trooper. The flying dart is hovering around the parent body like a hummingbird, whimpering pitifully. Zuleika gently captures the starving dart. N'deh chews up some food from his pouch and feeds it from his mouth to the dart's beak. It swallows hungrily, crying for more. We will see what a captive dart is used for later.

A STREAMBED completely overgrown by a tightly woven thicket. Josh and Zuleika hear a thundering sound and around the bend ahead of them comes a solid wall of stampeding STURMBEEST. Visualize an indigo and orange wildebeest five meters tall, weighing ten tons and moving like a locomotive. Then multiply it by several dozen. Josh and Zuleika sprint down the overgrown tunnel as fast as they can, with the thundering wall of Sturmbeest overtaking them. He leaps to an overhanging limb and scrambles up. She leaps, grabs it, and he pulls her up just as the sturmbeest thunder underneath them like a train.

Zuleika laughs breathlessly. So does he, giving her a mock push. Off balance, she grabs him... and he likes that just fine.

NIGHT HUNTING.

Zuleika and Josh run through the forest by moonlight like two human panthers. He is more surefooted, now. As agile as she is. Galaxies of bioluminescence surround them. The foliage is a blur, whipping past. They move gracefully, soundlessly, and in perfect unison... two forest spirits. Above them, mighty Polyphemis is a crescent half-filling the sky, casting its special light over the landscape.

Zuleika takes him up a fallen trunk, and soon they are running along branches that are 30 meters above the ground. Josh can't think. He has to trust his body. He sprints with her through the trees, occasionally climbing and leaping as she does with the ease of a spidermonkey. Now creeping stealthily, Josh stalks a large male hexapede. He is at one with the night forest, with its thousand bio-sources glowing like the milkyway through the dark branches, its strange sounds and smells, water dripping off the unfamiliar leaves. The danger and excitement of the primeval world suffuses his soul. Zuleika flushes the prey, from nearby, and the hexapede bolts. Josh rapidly nocks an arrow and tracks it.

THWAP!

It tumbles and lies still, with the shaft of Josh's arrow sticking up out of its chest. A clean kill. Josh and Zuleika kneel over the body. She cuts its throat, and daubs the blood on her finger tip. She draws a line under each of his eyes, symbolizing that he "sees" the hexapede, or honors its reason for existence. He is a hunter now. Just in time for...

THE BIG HUNT.



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