Lost Chapters: Casting Call

Lost Chapters header

Extracts torn from forgotten books

Casting Call

by David Bussell

It wasn’t Jenny’s first casting call, but it was the first she’d been invited to that had been scheduled at midnight on an abandoned industrial estate. The first that had taken place in a soundproofed lock-up full of rusty power tools too. For sure it was the first that came with the implicit instruction to ‘COME ALONE.’

The casting agent who greeted Jenny was a darling though – a sweet man of seventy or so with a friendly face and a beard that reminded her of her grandfather’s, if with a little more blood in the whiskers. The old man gestured for Jenny to take a seat and he was so courteous about it that she all but ignored the shackles clamping down on her wrists.

“Why don’t you start by telling me a little bit about yourself?” he said.

“Okay,” she replied, still a little nervous. “My name’s Jenny and I’m twenty-two years old.”

Great, so are you ready to start?”

That came as a surprise. “Won’t I need a script?”

“I’m not talking about an audition, Jenny, I’m asking if you’re ready to be in the movie!”

“You mean I got the role? I don’t have to read lines or anything?”

“Well, I suppose you could show me a little something. A scream perhaps. Maybe a bit of midriff.”

“Um, just so I’m clear, this isn’t for some… adult movie is it?”

The old man’s eyebrows practically lifted off of his head. “Adult movie? Heavens no, ha ha! What kind of a shady outfit do you think this is?”

Jenny joined in with his laughter. She loved being in on a joke.

“The role isn’t for an adult movie!” the agent clarified. “It’s for a snuff film.”

That gave Jenny pause. “A snuff film?”

“Yes, you know, we cut you with knives, stick drills in you, burn you with a blowtorch, that sort of thing.”

Jenny would be having strong words with her manager about this.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t realize this was that sort of production. If I’d known I would never have—”

The agent cut her off, plucking a piece of paper from his pocket. “But it’s all in the advert, see? He unfolded the scrap and read out loud. “‘We are looking for a dynamic performer able to stay conscious through horrific injuries until an executioner wearing a mask of patchwork clown-skins arrives to lop off your head with a hatchet.’”

That explained the giant sat in the corner, Jenny thought – the one breathing heavily through a tattered face-piece that would haunt her dreams forevermore.

The monster let out a tortured moan.

“It’s okay, Ludo,” said the agent, soothingly, “we’ll just have to find someone else is all.”

“Now I feel bad for wasting your time,” said Jenny, feeling rotten about the whole situation. “I don’t know, maybe if you told me some more about the project…?”

The old man brightened. “Well, it would be a great opportunity for you to collaborate with some seasoned professionals of the genre. Briefly at least.”

“Go on,” said Jenny, bobbing her head.

“All the special effects are practical, and I mean really practical, so there’d be no sitting around in a makeup chair all day.”

“That’s a bonus.”

“Plus there’s a DVD show reel in it for you. Well, for your next of kin anyway.”

Jenny remained unconvinced. “Look, I really appreciate the offer but I think I’m going to have to say no.”

The agent played his ace in the hole. “Did I mention you’d get an IMDb credit?”

Jenny would have fallen out of her chair if she wasn’t clamped into the thing. “An IMDb credit? Why didn’t you say?”

A couple of signed waivers later and the camera was rolling. Or the camera phone was anyway.

“Action!” called the casting agent, who’d apparently taken the directing reigns as well as the role of the movie’s antagonist.

As the masonry drill bored through Jenny’s skull and into her frontal lobe, she congratulated herself on her decision to be part of this project. Maybe it was the obliteration of the high functioning part of her brain, but she felt as though she was really nailing the scene. What she was putting out there was just so raw. So real. No doubt about it, this was the performance of a lifetime.

“How am I doing?” she yelled over the whir of the drill.

The old man lifted up his blood-spattered visor. “Wonderful, darling! Wonderful!”

He gave a nod to the clown-masked giant, who swung a hatchet, sending Jenny’s head bouncing across the floor.

“Golly,” said the old man. “That was one for the blooper reel.”

*****

You can read 98 more of David’s short stories in his book, Bad Endings, available HERE.


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