The Props

Justice

The PropIt was the 80’s music that made her forget. The rain-splattered windows, the people walking by in their raincoats, the monochrome buildings in the distance, those still felt contemporary; but the music transported her. She could almost see the gelled hair and the spangly shirts under those raincoats.

She looked down at the blood seeping through her shirt. It was so dark and the consistency wasn’t near as thick as she had expected. Fake blood looked more real than this. She touched her shirt and her fingers came away sticky. The smell of iron filled her nostrils. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes.

The Macarena drew her sharply out of her reverie. She had been so immersed in the Jacksons and Madonnas and Duran Durans, the upbeat 90’s song felt jarring, out of time. She shook her head and looked around, blinking wildly. How was there already light out? How much time had gone by?

It wouldn’t be long before the others came. She kicked a chair in frustration. Why did craft services have to start the day so early? Why did the crew have to be so punctual? Why were they even working on a weekend?

But, no, that wasn’t why she was frustrated. She knew it was her fault. Who plans a murder for 4am? That too, knowing full well that the restaurant would be crawling with people in a couple of hours? All that time she had wasted, sitting there, in the blood. She had to move.

The blood leaked off her as she stood but most of it had congealed around her, gluing her to the floor. Even in death, he wouldn’t leave her.

She stepped over the body and opened the door to the props room. The smell hit her like a heatwave and she gagged. What were the prop guys thinking? Holding her breath, she pulled the box of spanners forward to hold the door open, then dragged the body into the props room. She searched around but the smell was overwhelming her, blurring her senses. She picked up the bottle of pig’s blood. Authenticity, the director had asked for, and he got it.

She opened the bottle, remembering to hold her breath this time, and went out into the main restaurant. The pool of blood had completely congealed. She poured the pig’s blood over it, not too liberally but just enough. She kept the bottle beside the blood and went back into the props room.

There was more light outside now and it was pouring into the dank props room, alleviating the smell and the thickness in the air. She could see the mangled limbs and severed flesh more clearly now. It was disgusting. But what she was about to do was worse. She found the saw rack and grabbed her favourite one. The handle molded into her hand. She lifted it up, felt the weight of it, then checked the angles of the body in relation to her. And she began.

***

“Does this place smell worse than before?” shouted the director.

“This is your fault,” said the lead camera. “You wanted ‘authenticity’.” She made a face.

“Is anyone else worried about the fines we’ll have to pay the La Taverne guys for making this place unusable?” yelled the producer. “Oh no, of course not, because I’m the only one paying the fucking bills.” The producer showed both middle fingers to everyone in her vicinity.

“I’m sorry but I am not eating here. This place smells like an unclean butcher,” said the lead actor, who had reluctantly agreed to an early morning shoot.

“We got nowhere else to eat!” said the producer, sniffing at the air viciously.

“I see what the problem is,” said the head of props.

“What?” asked the producer, as she and the director headed towards him. The two walked into the small ‘reserved’ area in front of the props room and immediately started gasping.

“Yeah,” said the head of props. “Some idiot kept the pig’s blood open and now it’s spilled all over the floor.”

“Shit!” said the producer. She left the reserved section and took deep breaths. One of the crew had managed to pry a few of the windows open.

“Okay, who was the last person to leave the props?” asked the director, joining the producer at the window.

“Everybody in props left together, like we always do, you know that,” said the props head, already sounding exasperated.

“Yeah, but someone fucked up. How do you knock over this much blood? It’s a waste!”

“We can get more pig’s blood, Mr. Director!” spat the producer.

“Let’s just clean up this mess and get on with eating and starting the day,” said the lead actor, in full grouch mode. “It’s bad enough that it’s dawn. I’m exhausted!”

The crew tried not to look at the actor as they took their seats but the whispers were audible; Actors, they think they’re working so hard, crew start before them and end the day much later.

Breakfast was a rushed affair; everyone was trying to clear out and away from the smell, which lingered long after the blood had been cleaned and covered in bleach. The props team had to remain after breakfast. They went into the props room, holding handkerchiefs tightly over their mouths and noses.

“This restaurant will have to be burnt down and rebuilt after we’re done,” said one of the prop guys.

“Let’s just grab the day’s shit and get out,” said another.

“Yeah? And what happens later?” asked a third. “End of shift, we have to come back to this garbage dump. What’ll we do then?”

“Shut up and grab the shit.”

They picked up whatever they could, as quickly as they could, most of them gasping for breath. Coming out into the open, they took huge lungfuls of clean air.

“Oi, you, Mrs. Assistant Director,” said the head of props, gesturing to the mousy grip who spent all her time staring at the AD. “Get in there.” He pointed to the restaurant.

She walked slowly over to him. “Why?” she mumbled.

“Because we got all the windows open to get rid of that smell and we need someone to stay in there and protect the place.”

“Why?” she asked again, beginning to look terrified.

The props head slapped his face. “Because we don’t want anyone breaking in while we’re shooting!”

“Oh,” she said, genuinely surprised. “But it smells.”

“I know! And I don’t care! Get the fuck in there!” The props head walked away with his fists balled.

The director had begun yelling about props not being displayed correctly. The producer was yelling about losing a hundred thousand dollars a minute. The actor was yelling about his time being wasted and how much more sleep he could have had.

But, the scene was finally set – the hero, in the midst of a terrifying bomb blast, was shaking in fear and sorrow, having witnessed his beloved family being blown apart. “And action!” yelled the director.

The grip watched the scene from her vantage point inside the restaurant. She saw the prop head jump out of the camera’s path as he threw the left arm of the AD on a bench alongside the real prop limbs. The right leg of the AD had already been placed upon the lead actor. Part of the torso lay in the middle of the square alongside a slab of cow meat, both smothered in blood, pig’s blood from another bottle and the AD’s, which the grip had bottled once she had bled him out.

The other parts of him lay scattered around the square, indistinguishable from the life-like props that, due to the director’s need for authenticity, had been handcrafted from real meat. Once this sequence was completed, scheduled for the end of that day, the props would be burned. A special facility had been chosen to dispose of the meat. The grip had volunteered to help out. She wanted to see it through to the end. She wanted to see the AD burn, and boy would he burn. Nobody would call her Mrs. anything again.

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