|“||I am afraid that my father's gonna leave and I'll have to live alone with my mother. I'm afraid I'll get stuck in Haverhill my whole life. But most of all, I'm afraid I'm going crazy, because the other day I saw a huge-ass bridge in the middle of the woods that was apparently demolished years ago.||”|
Here, Iowa, Daniel Moore wakes to the sound of his mother having sex. He partially opens her bedroom door to ask if he can sleep with her as he feels lonesome. Her male companion, Brian, offers to leave, but she wants him to stay and instead tells Daniel to go back to bed. Rather than going back to bed as instructed by his mother, Daniel makes himself a bowl of cereal and watches TV in the living room. That’s when the TV goes outs. Just outside, he can hear the singing of Christmas carols. He opens the front door to find a candy cane sitting on the door step. At the end of the street sits a Rolls-Royce Wraith. The back door to the vehicle opens by itself, revealing a backseat filled with Christmas presents.
Brian exits the bedroom to find the TV on, though instead of a picture, all that can be seen is white noise and Daniel’s cereal bowl. Peter Ives comes up from being and injects Brian with a syringe, which kills him almost instantly. Back outside, Daniel gets in the Wraith. When he does, Charlie Manx, withered and old, tells him that he’s up past his bedtime, then the car door slams shut on its own. Daniel tries to open the door, and when it doesn’t budge, he begins to beat on the car window, which doesn’t do much good either. Manx gets into the car, starting it up, before looking back to Daniel and introducing himself. He claims that he understands what it feels like to be lonesome. Daniel, in a panic, continues to try to break his way out the car, but to no avail. Manx assures him that there’s no reason to be afraid and that the presents will return to Daniel once they arrive to Christmasland. He explains that it’s a special place where everyday is Christmas and unhappiness is against the law.
Daniel’s mother, Karen, comes out the room to find Brian on the floor. That's when she is attacked by Ives. Although, outmatched in size and strength, Karen fights back, hitting Ives with a vase and making a run for the front door, though she doesn’t make it far as Ives manages to stick her with a syringe that leaves her weak. Karen makes it out the front door, screaming out to Daniel. She makes it off the front porch and into the grass before falling to her knees. Daniel watches as his mother crawls to him. He beats on the Wraith window, calling back out to her. Manx, however, tells Daniel not to worry about his mother as she wasn’t interested in his games or him for that matter. Manx then drives off, telling Daniel all about Christmasland and how everyone there loves games. As Karen crawls through the grass, Ives comes up from behind to snap her neck and inadvertently leaves his syringe behind in the grass.
Haverhill, Massachusetts, New England teen Vic McQueen joins her mother on a house cleaning job. They're cleaning the Brewster's house. Vic was childhood friends with the daughter, Willa Brewster. Vic inquires about Willa’s high class school, Exeter, which Willa was not a fan of, as she felt overwhelmed by all the commitments and extracurriculars she was being forced into. The last time Vic had seen Willa was 8th grade graduation, when Vic’s dad gave Willa a ride on his Harley. Willa’s family were planning to throw a party at Lake Winnipesaukee for Labor Day, and she invited Vic to join them. Before Vic could answer, her mother Linda interrupted.
After cleaning the Brewster’s house, Linda told Vic how much of a help she had been throughout the summer and was hoping that Vic could continue to help post graduation. While cleaning houses for a living wasn't ideal, Linda made her own hours and was well compensated. She hoped she and Vic could go into business together. However, after finishing her final year of high school, Vic was hoping to go to college, though unlike Willa, Vic’s family wasn’t well off.
Vic and Linda returned home to find Chris working on his Harley. As her parents began to argue as they typically would, Vic headed inside the house.
Here, Iowa, Maggie Leigh, the local librarian arrives on the scene of the crime. Sheriff Joe Bly informed her that there was a break in. However, it was more than that. Maggie noticed Daniel’s bike on the ground, his mother’s body in the yard, and the syringe not far from her. Sheriff Bly informed Maggie that Daniel was missing. He was supposed to come to the library for literacy. Maggie was going to walk him over. Sheriff Bly had no idea what they were dealing with, but he didn’t want Maggie involved and asked that she leave the investigating to them. As Maggie was leaving the scene, she noticed a candy cane in the street.
While drawing in her room, Vic overhears her parents fighting over a credit card, which Chris blames Linda for losing. Vic hears a loud bang shortly after her mother calls her father a drunk. Having grown tired of their constant fighting, Vic takes her red dirt bike for a ride through the woods, all the while replaying her parents' fight in her head. Vic pulls up to a clearing, where she spots an old, rickety bridge. the Shorter Way Bridge, to be exact. Vic enters the bridge, inside she could hear bats screeching along with an echoing white noise. To her left, Vic notices that "Willa’s" is written on the bridge wall in green spray paint.
As Charlie Manx is riding around in his Wraith with little Daniel Moore sleeping in the back seat, "The 12 Days of Christmas", which is playing on the radio, is interrupted by static. Manx realizes this is the work of a Strong Creative.
Back at the bridge, Vic begins to experience a dull pain in her left eye and turns her bike around, heading back into town.
On her way back from the bridge, Vic stopped by the Smith’s house to visit her neighbor Haley Smith. She had drawn a picture of her cat Mittens, who had been put out the house. Haley inquires about their next movie night, but Vic struggles to answer as her head begins ringing.
Vic returns home, where her father is outside soaking his hand in the cooler. She reveals to him that she doesn’t want to be stuck in Haverhill for the rest of her life cleaning houses. Vic wanted to go to college for art, which Chris encouraged. He shared with Vic how he wanted to be a composer when he was her age. He even used to play in a band. They traveled to Boston and New York for a few gigs. When he got out of the service, he thought he was going to go to a real music school, however, that’s when Linda got pregnant and Chris found himself with new responsibilities. Vic on the other hand, has a better chance than he ever had. He gives Vic one last piece of advice, to never get married and have kids. She then gets on the back of his Harley, and he drives her to school. He drops her off out front near her friends. Vic and Craig head inside, where Vic gifts the school janitor, Bing Partridge with the next installment of "Doctor Incubus".
Here, Iowa, Maggie returns to the library with the candy cane she found outside Daniel Moore’s house. She grabs her purple scrabble bag and asks for Daniel’s location. She shoves her hand inside the seemingly bottomless bag to the point of her entire right arm being consumed by it. The lights flicker as Maggie pulls out the scrabble tiles which spell "The Wraith".
While in class, Vic asks her teacher if it would at all be possible for her to attend art school. Mrs. Simonson tells her to work up a portfolio, and with that she should have a shot at RISD. And while it may be expensive, Mrs. Simonson advises her to apply for financial aid. On a second look, Mrs. Simonson notices how closely Vic’s drawing resembles that of the Shorter Way Bridge off of Pittman Street. She had her first kiss there and was devastated when they tore it down 15 years ago. Vic grows concerned given that she had just seen the bridge several hours before.
On the way back to Christmasland, Manx scolds Peter Ives for his carelessness and the mess he left behind at the Moore house. He left bodies behind, as well as his syringe. Manx was mostly upset that Daniel had to hear his mother scream. A terrible trauma. Peter didn’t anticipate that Daniel’s mother would have someone over, but Manx reminded him of the type women their dealing with. His lack of foresight puts them in jeopardy and this isn’t the first time. Manx has grown tired of his company. Peter Ives has made Manx’s naughty list, and with that, the Wraith door opens on its own and Manx kicks him out the moving car. He dies on impact, on the side of the road. Daniel wakes from all the commotion and accuses Manx of killing him. Manx explained that Ives was a bad man who deserved to be punished. He then explained that he was taking Daniel to Christmasland, where not one in a million is allowed in. Only those who truly deserve it. Daniel pulls his hood back over his head and goes back to sleep.
Vic, Chris, and Linda spend the day at Aunt Carrie's dinner near Lake Winnipesaukee. Chris looks over Vic’s drawing journal and is amazed at her progress. She claims that she has more time to practice now because she doesn’t have any friends since Willa left for Exeter and Craig started getting high all the time and skipping school. Drawing is something that Vic can do by herself and when she really gets into it, it’s like being on a bike, she describes. She then shows her father her drawing of the Shorter Way Bridge. Just looking at Vic’s drawing brings Chris back. He recalls all the trouble he used to get into on that bridge. He helped demo it when Vic was a kid. Felt like he was blowing up his youth. The Shorter Way was one of a kind. Chris shows Linda the drawing, but she doesn’t seem to enthusiastic about it or Vic attending college. On that note, Vic decides to take off for Willa’s party at the lake house.
Vic arrives at the Brewster’s lake house, where she is greeted by Willa’s mom Angela, who is very welcoming. She hands Vic her mother’s credit card, which she must’ve dropped that morning while cleaning the Brewster’s house. Vic is then greeted by Willa, who introduces her to the rest of her friends. Drew offers Vic a sip of Vodka, but she declines. He remarks that he was under the impression that all Haverhill townies were hopeless alcoholics. She retorts that she thought all Exeter kids were spoiled douche bags with heads up their asses. He takes the comeback rather well, even complementing Vic on her shirt.
Here, Iowa, Maggie approaches Sheriff Bly outside the Sheriff Department. She asks with a slight stutter if anyone in town drives a Rolls Royce Wraith. Sheriff Bly informs her that they found the body of Peter Ives last night in Plymouth County. He was a nurse practitioner down in Florida wanted for disappearances all over the country. They think he killed Karen Moore and her boyfriend. As for Daniel, they suspect he’s dead. Maggie asks if Ives owned a Wraith. She believes that they’ll find Danny if they find the Wraith because her scrabble tiles told her. They had been right before; Mrs. Richardson in the quarry for instance. While Bly is willing to admit that Maggie’s been helpful in the past, they’ll be solving this case by the books. While leaving, Maggie takes the Ives report with her.
Vic, Willa, Drew, and the others discuss the stigma surrounding Vic’s school, William White. A kid had gotten stabbed their during the last week of school. Vic confirms that Joey Ricci got stabbed, but he was fine. Willa recalls showing him her underwear when she was four and he was five, and how his mom called her a slut. When Vic says that she's going to RISD, Drew expresses his interest in doing the same. His parents, who are doctors wouldn’t like it though. When asked about her parents, Vic reveals that her mother cleans houses and her father’s in demolition, which doesn’t translate well with the Exeter kids. Willa attempts to help, but only makes matters worse in revealing that Vic’s mom cleans their house.
Vic separates herself from the group, taking a seat on the grass by the lake’s edge. Drew follows her. He asks Vic what she is afraid of. She’s afraid that her father’s going to leave and that she’ll have to live alone with her mother. She’s afraid that she’ll get stuck in Haverhill her whole life. Most of all, she’s afraid that she’s going crazy because she saw a bridge in the middle of the woods that was apparently demolished years ago. Drew jokes that maybe the bridge is a ghost or that Vic’s a time traveler. She briefly smiles, only to accuse Drew of "slumming it with the Haverhill townie." She then leaves.
Angela approaches Vic to inquire about her mother. She had tried to talk to Linda when she was at the house, but she was all business. Angela suspects that Chris has been abusing Linda, so she tells Vic that she donates to a women’s shelter in town. If ever Vic or Linda felt that they weren’t safe, Angela wanted them to have some place to go. Vic doesn’t take kindly to Angela’s insinuation and takes off.
Vic returns to the Lake Side motel where she and her parents are staying. Chris and Linda, along with Tiffany Jones and several others, surround a camp fire and wait for the fireworks. Vic returns the credit card that Angela found to her mother. Vic and Linda join Chris as he plays the guitar and sing. While singing, Vic notices the bruises on the right side of her mother’s face, presumably inflicted by her father.
The following morning, as Vic continues her drawing of the Shorter Way Bridge, she overhears her parents arguing over a lost watch. As the fight continues, the insults they hurl at one another worsen. When Chris calls her an ugly person, Linda questions how she could ever have a kid with a drunk, selfish, bastard such as himself. Vic barges in and the fighting stops abruptly.
Vic takes her bike and rides out into the woods, where she finds the Shorter Way just as before, all the while, her parents’ fight replays over and over in her head. This time, Vic rides across the bride, and on the left side written in green spray paint is Aunt Carrie’s. The white noise grows and bats fly aimlessly as Vic cross the bridge. It takes her to Aunt Carrie’s. Miles away from her home in Haverhill. Vic appears disorientated from the ride. She gets off her bike and enters the diner, where Pete, one of the waiters, hands Vic the watch that her dad had left behind. Vic exits the diner, and she is not alone in witnessing the bridge. A passerby also acknowledges it, confirming its existence. Vic starts to experience a sharp pain in her left eye, causing it to turn red. Vic gets back on her bike and rides onto the bridge. She stops halfway and looks down. Beneath the floorboards and outside the bridge itself appears to be only white static. Vic revs her bike back up and crosses over. The bridge disappears behind her as she return to the Haverhill woods, though she is in excruciating pain. Vic makes it as far as to Haley’s house, where she collapses on the ground. In her disoriented state, she sees a gas mask, a stack of books, scrabble tiles which spell out "The Wraith", and an old and withered Charlie Manx.
Manx awakens from his sleep. He pulled over to rest. He has visibly become younger since taking Daniel, who remains sleep in the back. Manx grabs a pamphlet out his glove compartment. It’s a map, specifically the Map of the United Inscapes of America. The Map consist of several inscapes and locations, including the Graveyard of What Might Be, The St. Nick Parkway, The Empty Forest, Lovecraft Keyhole, Pennywise Circus, The Treehouse of the Mind, and just under that, now The Shorter Way. Daniel wakes up. His skin is pale and black veins run through his face. He doesn’t feel well. Both Manx and Daniel are going through a transitional phase as they dream of Christmasland together in the Wraith. Daniel asks how old Manx is. He gives Daniel a hint. He’s as old as his nose and even older than his teeth.
Vic wakes up in her bedroom screaming. Chris is there to comfort her. He tells her that she has a fever and fainted out by the woods. However, Vic is more concerned with her father hitting her mother. He admits to this, though he blames it on the alcohol and promises her that it won’t happen again. She tells her father that she found his watch at Aunt Carrie’s and that the bridge took her there. Chris chalks this up to Vic being delirious from the fever. He reminds Vic that she can be anything she wants in the world, and lastly tells her not to get married or have any kids.
Here, Iowa, Maggie digs into her scrabble bag and asks it how she can find the Wraith. The scrabble tiles she pulls out spells "The Brat".
Vic wakes up to find her mother sitting on the edge of her bed. Linda reveals that Chris left. She doesn’t know where he went or why he left. She tried her hardest to keep him. She kept liquor out the house, but she can’t compete with the bar and she can’t be 24 anymore. That’s how old the last one was. Vic refuses to accept this, but Linda insists it's the truth. Still, Vic would rather be with him, even as Linda tells her that he left both of them behind.
Vic rides out to the Shorter Way to find her dad. It takes her to Tiffany’s house, where she watches through the window as her dad parties with Tiffany.
A now much younger Charlie Manx drives down St. Nick Parkway with Daniel in back. Meanwhile, Bing sits on his basement floor with his pants door, masturbating to a comic book when he notices an ad for Christmasland. As Manx and Daniel drive to Christmasland, Manx promises him that he’ll have plenty of games and rides to play on. He asks Daniel if he’s ever played Scissors for the Drifter. He hasn’t, but Manx assures him the other children will show him how. Daniel smiles, revealing a brand new set of razor sharp teeth.
- The Shorter Way is a reference to the bridge in which Vic McQueen uses to travel from one location to another.
Behind the Scenes