This Saturday brings us the first point of view chapter from a character we’ve never before met, living in Outland Three, just trying to make ends meet. Enjoy, and if you’re so inclined, you can pick up a full copy of the novel through this link.
The set darkened except for a few harsh white spotlights, disguised to look like streetlights, which shone from above.
“Hold your places, please. Extras, that means you especially!”
Guy tensed up. He always got nervous right before the action started. His heart beat faster.
“You! Uh…” The director talked to someone Guy couldn’t see through his tinted visor.
“Uh, guy in the background. Number 57. I don’t have the name sheet with me, I’m sorry.”
“Guy,” Guy called back, still holding his pose.
“Uh, right,” the director called back. “You, guy. What’s your name?”
“My name is Guy, sir!”
“Oh—uh—okay. Well—uh—Guy. Can you take just a few steps back, please? We need you to start the scene off screen.”
“Oh—uh—yes, sir.” Guy took a few steps back and resumed his pose, standing as if he were in the middle of a long stride.
“Good. Very good,” the director said. “Alright. Bring Russ in. We’re ready to go.”
The lights flickered on, and all the actors on set already—everyone except for Russ—held their poses. This was the part of the job which Guy excelled at. It was the reason—he knew—that he had been pigeon-holed as an extra rather than going on to be a star. There was no work for a star to stand perfectly still, and he had done that job too well to get out of it now. That and he spent too much of his time and effort on writing his own projects, but soon he would find fame with them instead.
After a few minutes—a shorter wait than Guy was prepared for—Russ came strutting out to his place. He was clad in the same protector’s white—with a plated vest, cargo pants, steel-toed boots, and helmet with facemask that looked like something out of a samurai movie—that Guy was wearing.
“Places!” the director yelled after Russ was set in his place.
The lights went off again, all except for the spotlights from above.
“We’re rolling… Aaaaand, action!”
Guy walked fifteen steps across the set—passing just behind Russ as he ran by—and stood still as a statue again on the other side of the camera, off screen. He didn’t have to turn to watch the scene to know how it unfolded behind him. He had read the script enough times to memorize it, and he could hear everything as it happened around him.
He knew that Russ was checking his ammo only to find that he had no bullets left. Crouched behind a dumpster, Russ threw his gun away and Guy heard it clink on the set floor. The editors would probably change that sound in post-production, though.
“I’ve got nothing,” Russ said to the body who was bleeding on the ground behind the dumpster with him. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“No—kak kak—don’t say that.” The weak voice of the bloody body struggled against its impending demise. “Here. I got one of their guns. Kak kak.” The gun clinked on the ground next to Russ as the body of his partner lost all strength to carry a weapon.
Russ picked the gun up and checked the clip. “Seven bullets, seven scumbags,” he said. “My lucky number. But I won’t do it.” He tossed the gun away. “Anything a scumbag’s touched can’t help us now. If I go out, I go out my own way.”
He did a somersault out from behind the dumpster, narrowly dodging a barrage of bullets, and—as he stood—an explosion went off in front of him. The resulting shrapnel narrowly missed him, pinging off the dumpster and buildings around him, and when everything faded into darkness, the director yelled, “Cut!”
All the lights came on again. Guy stretched his legs and back. It felt good to have run through another perfect scene.
“That’s a wrap for this one, fellas,” the director called through his megaphone. “Go ahead and take five while we set up for the next shot. Only one more to go for today, people. Keep it up.” He clapped.
Guy made his way to the nearest food cart. He hadn’t eaten all day and his stomach was starting to grumble. He bumped into a short, dirty-haired woman who was placing a tray, piled high with cheese, onto the table, and she seemed to scamper away, startled like an animal. He was chewing on a stick of cheese, wondering if it was sanitary to have such a dirty person delivering the food to the carts, when Russ came to eat off the same cart as he was.
Guy tensed up. This was his opportunity. Russ never ate at the general food cart, yet here he was. Guy’s crew would never let Guy hear the end of it if he let this chance pass him by. “Uh, Mr. Logo,” he said in a half-whisper.
“Huh? Oh.” Russ turned to him, chewing on some cheese himself, as if he hadn’t noticed that Guy existed until he spoke.
“Hi, um. I’m Guy Rockwell. Do you remember me?”
Russ chewed some more on his cheese and looked a little closer at Guy. “Guy Rockwell?” he said, scrunching up his face as if he were trying to remember.
“Yes,” Guy said, setting his own plate of cheese down and getting into the conversation. “Well, I’ve actually been in every movie you’ve ever made since Nelson took you off the Casino stage and put you on the world’s screens.”
“You don’t say,” Russ said, stuffing his mouth with more cheese, obviously bored.
“Yeah, well, I’m only an extra so you might not remember me.” Guy shrugged.
“Oh, but of course,” Russ said, extending his hand to shake Guy’s. “And I’m so thankful for all your support. We couldn’t do this without all the little people, you know. Bravo, sir. Bravo. Good show.” He clapped his hands lightly, jiggling the stick of cheese he was holding.
“Oh. Thank you. Well—”
“Now. If you’ll excuse me,” Russ said, picking up more cheese from the food cart. “I need to get my energy up before the next scene. The show must go on, you know.” He went back to picking clumps of cheese off the food cart and popping them into his mouth.
“Oh. Well…” Guy didn’t know if he should interrupt Russ while he was prepping for his role, but he did know that he had to say something or face the ire of his crew. “One more thing, Mr. Logo. If you don’t mind.”
Russ didn’t answer. He just went on stuffing his face.
“Well, you see. Me and some friends—No. Let me start over. My crew and I are working on this film, right. And… I don’t know… I—I kind of figured that you might want to take a look at our scri—”
Russ stopped eating. His jaw dropped.
“Or just hear the elevator pitch or something…” Guy winced in preparation for the response.
Russ guffawed, spitting a glob of half-chewed cheese onto Guy’s face who wiped it away with a cringe. “You thought that I, Russ Logo, would want to read your script. I mean, who are you even? Have we met before? And why are you eating at my private food cart? Be gone.”
“I—uh…” Guy looked up to find a sign on the wall above the cart which read “Logo Only”. He swallowed his embarrassment. Or at least, he tried to, but it got stuck in his throat behind a clump of cheese that blocked any words he tried to force past it. “Well—I—”
“Alright, everyone!” the director called, saving Guy from making a bigger fool of himself. “I need extras to go ahead and get into their places, please. One more scene and we’re out of here folks.”
Guy bowed his head and hurried to get into his position, standing behind where Russ would later kneel down to talk to his dying partner. He put on his helmet, held his prop gun in his hand—wondering if a real gun weighed the same—and put himself in the trance that would help him forget how embarrassing his interaction with Russ was for long enough to get through the scene. Who was he to ask Russ Logo anything, anyway? A nobody extra who no one knew could write, that’s who. He was no one, nothing. But they would all see what he really was soon enough. And Russ would regret not getting involved before the premiere.
“Alright, then. Actors into place, please.”
Russ’s bloodied partner laid down on the ground a few feet in front of Guy. Russ strutted into position, still popping cheese cubes into his mouth, then kneeled down to hold her head in his arms.
The lights went off, sending the world around Guy into darkness. He was left with nothing but his own thoughts to keep him company until the director yelled, “Action!”
“We did it, Dominguez,” Russ said in a deep, gravelly voice. “There’s nothing left for you to worry about.”
His partner coughed, and Guy pictured the bright red stage blood that would be dribbling out onto her chin as a result. “What the—kak kak—what the fuck happened?” she forced through her dying breaths.
“Their guns,” Russ said. “They blew up in their own hands. They thought they had won, but their own weapons turned against them.”
“And I—I tried to tell you to—kak kak.”
“But I didn’t do it,” Russ said. “I trusted Amaru Above’s just rationality, and I was thus guided to safety. I knew Amaru could protect me better than any enemy’s gun, and Amaru showed me that the world is Just.”
Even the streetlights faded out. The darkness inside Guy’s helmet got a little darker.
“Aaaaand cut! That’s a wrap guys!” The lights flickered on and Guy could see again. “Superb acting as always, Russ. You really hit that last speech.”
Russ’s dead partner climbed to her feet. “How was I?” she asked. “I think my death knell could use a little work. You don’t think we should do it again?”
“Oh, no no no,” the director said. “Russ, what do you think?”
Russ didn’t answer. He still hadn’t stood from where he knelt to do the scene. In fact, he wasn’t kneeling anymore, he was slouched over in a heap, lying in the pile of blood left by his partner.
Guy ripped off his own helmet. Something was wrong. That blood was too thick and dark to be stage blood. He rushed over and knelt next to Russ, slowly turning Russ’s body over to rest his head on Guy’s lap. “Russ, are you okay?” Guy asked, tears welling up behind his eyes. “Talk to me, buddy.”
“Oh, ha ha!” the director said sarcastically, walking over to get a closer look. “Very funny, Russ. The scene’s over. You’ve had your laugh. Now cut.” He chuckled and nudged Russ’s arm with his foot.
“This isn’t a joke!” Guy snapped at the director then turned back to comfort Russ. “Russ. Are you alright, buddy? Russ? Don’t do this to me, man. Not today.” He brushed a piece of hair off of Russ’s sweaty forehead and looked for any wounds that might have produced all that blood, but there was nothing. Maybe it was stage blood after all.
“You’re not joking, right? Right, Russ? You wouldn’t do that to us? Would you?” Guy was crying now. He didn’t understand why he cared so much about someone who didn’t even know his name, but he did. “You can’t be dead,” he begged. “You can’t be.”
The rest of the room seemed to be in shock or disbelief. No one had moved for some time. Guy stared around at them, pleading. “Do something,” he begged. “Someone. He’s dying!”
It must have been the word “dying” instead of “dead” that set the director back into action. “Brandon, get an ambulance here, ASAP,” he barked off. “Jim, you call one, too. So they know how important it is. Laura, get me a fucking gin and tonic right now. Of course this has to happen at the end of a perfect scene. And for the love of Fortuna above, would someone please get this cursed extra off my star before he does any more damage.”
“What? I—” Guy tried to protest, but the strong, bulky arms of a crew member dragged him away from Russ’s limp body all the way to the extras’ locker room where they tossed him in and slammed the door.
Guy threw his helmet against the wall, drawing stares from the other extras who were all standing around, gossiping about what had just transpired, but he didn’t care. They could stare at him all they wanted. He had just held a dying Russ Logo in his arms as the star took his final breaths. Ugh. Guy kicked the helmet, making another loud ruckus, but everyone was already staring at him anyway.
Why did this have to happen to Guy? Why now? He and his crew were so close to getting their project off the ground, and now this? Of course, it didn’t really change anything about his project, but how was he supposed to work when he had just held a dying man? Not only a man but Russ Logo: the man.
When his anger and sadness had died down, the stares of the other extras grew to be too much, so he snatched up his helmet, stomped to his locker, quickly changed out of costume, then hurried out of the room and into the public elevator, trying to avoid any more attention.
“Home, please,” he said when the doors of the elevator closed behind him. “Uh, Carrollton that is.”
The elevator fell into motion, and soon, the doors opened onto a street lined with four and five story buildings, all with iron-railed balconies at every level. His house was only a few doors down the beaten path—which had been destroyed by the roots of the oak trees growing all along it. He opened the TARDIS blue door and climbed up the staircase to the fourth floor. His apartment was a tiny one-room deal with just enough space for his bed, desk, TV, dresser, and battle station. He fed the fish in the bowl on top of the dresser and jumped into his bed, kicking off his shoes.
“TV on,” he said.
The TV, which was hung high on the wall across from his bed, flicked on to the news channel. Reports of the incident had started coming out. They weren’t calling it a death yet. Just an “incident”. But Guy knew the truth. He was holding Russ’s lifeless body only moments ago. It seemed like an eternity.
“Change the channel, please,” he groaned. “Anything else.”
The channel changed, but it was a different reporter saying the same things. “There was an incident—” It was strange how, so soon after “the incident”, all the news stations were using the same exact wording for what had happened. “—on the set of Russ Logo’s latest film about a protector. Sources report—” Of course there were always sources. “—that a call was made to the hospital’s emergency line, but there’s no telling who the call was made for or what was said. We’ll be repeating the same meager facts until we get more, so please stay tuned forever.”
“Ugh. Off please. Turn it off,” Guy said and the TV flicked off.
This was the worst day ever. He put himself into the same trance he used to keep statue still at work. What could he say now when his crew asked if he had talked to Russ? “Oh, yeah, well, I asked him to look at our script, but then he died in my arms.” They’d laugh in his face.
But they’d see the news reports, wouldn’t they? They’d know about the emergency call. That might make them more likely to believe him. What did he care anyway? He had asked Russ to look at the script, and Russ had made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of ever doing anything remotely similar to that, even if he wasn’t too dead to do anything at all.
Guy sighed again. He stretched out in his bed and tried to put himself back into the trance he used to get through work. He tried to think about nothing. After thinking about the word “nothing” for some time, he even let that go, and soon, he drifted off to sleep.
# # #
He was awakened by a loud buzzing. He jumped into consciousness and shook his head, trying to figure out where the noise was coming from. After it went off a few more times, he realized it was the doorbell. “Answer it,” he moaned. “Hello?”
“You alive up there, Guy?” came a tinny, almost robotic voice over the intercom.
“Yeah—um—I’m fine,” Guy said. “I’ll be right down.”
He searched around for his shoes then strapped them on and made the long descent to street level where Jen was outside waiting for him. “I’m so glad you’re alright,” she said, hugging him as he closed the door.
“Yeah, well, I’m alive,” he said, trying to put on a strong demeanor. “But alright’s another genre altogether.”
“Oh, no.” Jen gasped. “What happened? Something horrible, I’m sure.” She took his arm and led him down the street. He was liking the newfound attention, even though it was no doubt brought on by his involvement in the incident. “Tell me all about it on the way,” she said. “We’re late already.”
“Yeah, well… I kind of lost track of time.”
“Oh, of course, sweetheart. No no no. I didn’t mean to blame you. It was just a statement of fact. We are indeed late. Now, tell me all about it. I’m dying to know what happened.”
Guy looked down at his feet as he walked. What a poor choice of words. She was dying to know. If she did know, she probably wouldn’t have put it that way.
“Uh,” Guy said. “I don’t know if I should even be talking about it.”
“Oh, no! You have to, dude,” Jen said in a mock complaining voice. “To me at least. That way you can get your story straight for the others. Because you know they’re all gonna ask.”
“Yeah. I guess.” She was right that the entire crew would want to know. Everyone everywhere probably wanted to know the story of what he had just experienced. “But it was—it was pretty messed up.”
She tugged on his arm. “Well, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. But be ready for them to ask.”
“No, I—well, I do. I do want to tell you, that is. But—it’s just—I don’t really know what happened, you know. He was kneeling on the ground, giving his speech to his dying partner, and when the lights went down, everything was fine, but after the director called cut, he didn’t move, and I knew something was wrong.”
“He. You mean…” She put her hand to her mouth.
“Yes. Russ Logo. I ran over to him, and I held him in my arms, and I comforted him as he took his dying breaths.”
Jen hit Guy on the arm. “You liar!” she said. “Uh huh huh uh. That was a good one, dude.” She shook her head, smiling. “You had me going for a second there.”
“No. What? I’m serious. He died in my arms.”
“Oh, sure he did. And then they picked you to fill his now empty role. With acting like this, you might be capable of it.”
“I’m not kidding,” he said, stopping. “This is serious.”
“Sure it is.” She put a serious face on, nodded, and pulled him along again. “I mean, I’ll play along with your little story, but if you haven’t worked up the courage to ask Russ yet, you can just say so. This story of yours’ll probably just get the crew more riled up than they will be if you just tell them the truth, though.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not a story.” Guy huffed. “It is the truth. You’ll see. They’ll believe me.”
She chuckled. “Sure they will. I’ll play along either way, though. Let’s go.”
She pulled him into a door under a neon glowing sign that read Indywood. Inside was a bar with soft couches around low tables. Giant screens with classic movies playing on them covered every wall. The rest of the crew was already there and seated around a couple of tables which they had scooted together so Jen and Guy stuffed themselves into the couches wherever they could fit.
“You’re late,” Cohen said, their director. “Again.”
“Yeah, well, Guy’s had a traumatic experience, hasn’t he?” Jen said. “Tell him, Guy.”
“Yeah, Guy. Tell us,” Emir, one of the actors, said, sipping his drink. “Who was this emergency call for? You were there, weren’t you?”
“Guy’s just a writer,” Cohen said. “No offense.” He nodded at Guy who shrugged. “His work is all but done. But you’re an actor, Jen. You could be running lines, or—”
“Yeah, well,” Jen cut him off, “it looks to me like everyone’s drinking, like this is a logistical meeting not a rehearsal. I don’t see anyone else running lines, Cohen.”
“Yeah, still…” Cohen sipped his drink.
“Oh, come on,” Emily, another actor, said. “Settle down you two. We’re supposed to be a crew. We have to work together if we want to get this done, yeah? But first, since we’re all dying to know, tell us what happened, Guy.”
“Yes,” Emir said. “The news reports say it was for some lowly cameraman.”
“Hey!” Laura, the camera operator, complained. “Lowly man?”
“Sorry,” Emir said. He took a sip of his drink. “What I meant to ask is was it someone who we know or someone who’s not important?”
“That’s not much better,” Laura said, shaking her head.
“Whatever,” Emir said. “You know what I mean. Who was it for?”
“Uh, well…” Guy stalled.
“Go on, Guy,” Jen said, urging him on. “Tell them what you told me.” She grinned.
“It was Russ Logo,” he said. “He’s dead.”
Everyone laughed except for Guy.
“Oh, come on,” Cohen said. “If you don’t want to ask Russ to look at your script, you can just say so. But this?”
“Tell them the rest,” Jen said. “I especially liked the bit about you comforting him in your arms as he took his dying breaths.”
“That happened,” Emir said, rolling his eyes and sipping his drink.
“Really?” Laura asked, in awe.
“Yeah, and I went on a date with Jorah Baldwin before I came here tonight,” Emily said, grinning and trying to play to the crowd. “He got called away for an important emergency, though, and we had to cut the date short. Now we know what that emergency was. Don’t we?”
“No, it’s—I’m telling the truth,” Guy said.
“Alright, alright,” Cohen said. “That’s enough of this nonsense. We all know that Guy still hasn’t brought the script up to Russ—and that he probably never will—so let’s get along to our actual business.”
Guy started to protest, but Cohen cut him off before he could. “Now,” he said. “Laura. You have everything you need, right?”
“I have the basics,” she said. “We could use more lenses and better mics, but without any money, we can’t do anything about that.”
“We might have to make do,” Cohen said. “What about costumes?” he asked Steve, the designer.
“Well, our lovely Laura and I,” he nodded at her and smiled, “pilfered some helmets and guns from a supply closet, and I’ve just about finished enough cargo pants for the protectors, but…”
“What?” Cohen groaned. “What now? Spit it out?”
“Well, it’s the owners. Tuxedos are no problem for me—even in that size—and we have plenty of top hats and monocles that just need a buffing, but…”
“But what? Our opportunities for the shots we need are disappearing every day. We don’t have time to stall, so whatever problems you foresee, you’d better speak up now. And that goes the same for all of you.” He looked around the table and everyone turned to shy away from his line of sight. He was insufferable when he got in these moods where he started acting like a big shot director.
“Well,” Steve went on nervously. “It’s all that fat. We can’t find anything to fill the top part of the tuxedos with that gives them a realistic flabby mushroom look.”
“You can’t just stuff it with cloth or something?” Cohen asked.
Steve laughed. “Do you want this to look like a high budget film, or do you want it to look like a grade school class project?”
“Yeah, well, you’re gonna have to think of something fast,” Cohen said. “Every scene we have set in stone has an owner in it, so you’ll have to come up with something before we can start filming.”
“I have some ideas,” Steve said, reclining back into the couch and losing himself in his thoughts. “I’ll get back to you on it.”
“What about shooting locations?” Cohen asked the group in general.
“Outdoors and all the garage shots are set up,” Laura said. “We still need something big enough to hold a feast in, though.”
“It doesn’t have to be that big,” Cohen said. “We can work with angles.”
“Yeah,” Laura said, rolling her eyes. “I know how the camera works, but it still has to be bigger than anything we have access to right now. I’m still looking, though.”
“Alright,” Cohen said. “Well keep looking. Other than that, we just have to worry about memorizing our lines, but we can’t do that until we have a script we can work with, which brings us back to Guy. So, Guy, how is it going?”
“Well,” Guy said, “have any of you finished reading the script yet?”
Everyone kind of looked around at each other and sipped their drinks, waiting for someone else to answer first.
Guy chuckled. “Yeah, well, I think it’s good. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written. But then again I think that about everything I’ve ever written until I come up with the next one. So I’m a little biased.”
“Okay,” Cohen said. “But how can we be sure it’s good? That’s what I want to know.”
“You could read it and see for yourself,” Guy said. “Some of you should have been memorizing lines by now at least. Right?” He looked around, but all the actors, including Jen, shrugged.
“Memorizing’s not hard,” Jen said. “It’s our job, you know. It only gets hard when you make us forget what we learned because you want to change an ‘and’ to a ‘then’ or move a comma. We’re waiting on you, Guy. Once you’re done, we can do our jobs.”
“I thought you were supposed to ask Russ,” Steve said. “Did you chicken out again?”
“No. I told you—” Guy tried to explain, but Laura cut him off.
“It’s okay, Guy. Russ is a huge star. You don’t have to make up stories for us. Save that for the scripts. Just find someone to tell you this script’s good so you’ll stop working on it.”
“I asked Russ, okay. He said he would never read anything written by a lowly extra like me. And then—I swear to y’all—he died in my arms.”
“Alright, Guy,” Cohen said. “No input from Russ. That means the script’s finished, right?”
“I—uh—” Guy shrugged. “Yeah, sure. Whatever. I’ll send the pages out tomorrow with my final edits.”
“Good, then. Great.” Cohen clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Well, we all have plenty of work to do in the coming week, and we all know what work that is, so let’s get to it. I’m calling this meeting to an end. Raise your glasses to the success of Outland!”
Everyone clanged their glasses over the table and took a big gulp of whatever it was they were drinking.
“Have some fun tonight,” Cohen said. “Starting tomorrow, it’s all business until we get this project done.”
The group started chattering in clumps, changing from a single cohesive unit into many smaller groups who simply happened to be occupying closely related spaces. Guy leaned back in the soft couch and sipped his drink. Of course they didn’t believe him. They probably didn’t even believe that he had asked Russ to read the script. But still, not one of them had finished it themselves. It took them longer to read it than it took him to write it. Did they even care what project they were working on?
He downed the rest of his drink in one gulp and set it on the table.
“Alright, y’all,” he said, standing up. No one seemed to hear him, but he went on anyway. “I’m gonna go finish up some last minute edits. I’ll send out the finished sheets tomorrow morning. Goodnight, y’all.” He waved and left the bar to no response.
The air was cool and the sky was dark. The way was lit by streetlights and the lights from the buildings all around him. He walked a block in the opposite direction from his apartment, toward the nearest public elevator. He was calling the elevator when he heard footsteps jogging toward him and turned to find Jen out of breath.
“Hey,” she huffed. “Where’re you going? You didn’t even say goodbye, dude”
Guy chuckled. “I did,” he said. “But I’m done for the night. It was a rough day at work.”
“With Russ dying in your arms?” She smiled.
“I’m serious, Jen.” He sighed. “That really happened. You’ll see.” He stepped into the elevator’s open doors.
“Oh, come on,” she said, holding the doors open. “I was just kidding. Let me ride home with you.” She stepped inside and the doors slid closed behind her.
“Home. Carrollton,” Guy said, and the elevator fell into motion.
“What’s really bothering you, Guy?” Jen asked, standing close to him.
“I told you,” he said, trying not to look into her eyes.
She chuckled. “For real, though. It’s me. You can tell me.”
“I already did,” he said as the elevator stopped and the doors opened.
“You can’t be serious, though,” Jen said, stepping out into the street.
“Trust me,” Guy said, following her, “I am.”
Three doors down, at the entrance to Guy’s apartment, five protectors stomped up the sidewalk toward them. “Guy Rockwell?” one asked in a terrifying modulated voice, through a mouth that glowed neon green, red, and yellow in the darkness.
“I—uh—that’s me,” Guy said, mesmerized by the colors and horrified by the sounds.
“Come with us, citizen.”
“You can’t be serious.” Jen gasped.
# # #
That’s it for today’s chapter in the Infinite Limits tetralogy. Thanks for following along, dear readers. If you enjoyed what you read, please do think about picking up a copy of the full novel, An Almost Tangent, through this link. Thanks again, and have a great weekend.