How Nature Works

Institute History

  • 1999 June Screenwriters Lab


During the week, they are college students, steakhouse cooks and express mail deliverers. On the weekend, though,, they assume their alter identities as "Cakasians" in the role playing the game called The Spike. Although The Spike is set in the future, in Post-America, the gamers gain "ancient consciousness" through BloodMemory Rituals.

The BloodMemory Rituals are performed in a university biotech lab where Melanie and Leda work. the Ritual involves a bogus, placebo procedure in the "OSTX Machine.' Although the Ritual was developed as a way to formalize the game's BloodMemory metaphor, Melanie and Leda begin to get more advanced ideas about how the OSTX could be used.

The young women develop a second OSTX procedure, which they call Revert, an invasive medical treatment that involves recombinant DNA technology and a substance called GammaLite. Once Melanie and Leda have undergone the Revert procedure, they gain incredible new powers of physical regeneration, and their immune systems begin operating at an enhanced level. They are pleased, as it will make gaming, particularly combat, more fast-paced and exciting. However, for the sake of strategy, they keep Revert a secret from the other gamers. The only other Carkasian to learn of Revert is the sinister, spying Mark, who eventually undergoes the procedure himself.

While Melanie, Leda and Mark explore and experiment with their newfound Revert powers; the other Carkasians are deeply entrenched in the more obvious narrative of The Spike. They battle against an insurgent population; the Null, for real estate and a weapons system called DethForce. Aspects of their FutureCivilization are revealed: gamers are caught in dungeons and traps, they renew their CHI (life energy) by doing Torpor, and they perform mating rituals in accordance with their arcane mysticism.

Melanie, Leda and Mark undergo significant changes from becoming Revert. They become alienated from the others, and this "otherness" has different psychological consequences for each. The darkly-minded Melanie pushes herself to the limits of physical experience with pain and sex, but finds no physical relief there. Leda who is a more "normal," happy person, becomes fearful about the potential adverse effects Revert could have on her—especially related to her own reproductively. Mark, on the other hand, is not plagued with these self-doubts. He sees his new physical powers as that—POWER. Once he gets Revert, he sees himself as an unstoppable HomoDeus who can kickstart the True FutureFate of mankind.

Ultimately, the pretenses of the game have collapsed . . . or perhaps it's reality that has collapsed The Spike has become all.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]