New Reality

Posted: July 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

Sweat beaded on Saul’s forehead. Being summoned to a meeting with the executives seldom meant good news. After thirty-seven years in the business, one would think he’d be used to it, but he’d never managed to shake the sense of impending doom he felt before every meeting. His fingers closed around the small cylindrical container in his pocket and resisted the urge. Xanax would dull the panic, but he needed to remain sharp when meeting with those piranhas.
* * *
Zorn reminded him of a bullfrog on Botox. His closed mouth, thin-lipped smile stretched impossibly wide across a face much too smooth for a man his size. He overflowed his chair like Jabba the Hutt crammed into an Armani suit. Saul half expected a long tongue to zip out of his mouth and snatch up a fly.
I’m that fly, he thought with a shiver.
His partner, Tang, was no less intimidating in spite of his slight frame. His hollow cheekbones and gaunt jawline displayed the lines of his skull beneath his taut grey skin. His dark eyes spoke no compassion, only cruelty.
“First of all,” Zorn began, “We’d like to congratulate you on the best rated season in history. You’ve really outdone yourself with this new leading man you’ve cast. Half the viewers love him, and half the viewers despise him, but nobody can stop watching him. He’s caused riots, violence between viewers and even some deaths. It has been…” Zorn paused to wet his lips and Saul shuddered. “Utterly delicious,” he finished. Tang nodded in agreement.
“Th-thank you,” Saul stammered.
Zorn silenced him with a wave of his pudgy hand. “Save it. I wasn’t finished.” He leaned back in his chair and stretched, testing the seams of his already-stressed jacket. “That said, we will not be renewing the show when the last season finishes.”
“What? Why? I don’t understand. You just said this was the most exciting season in history!”
“Exactly. The show has reached a plateau. It has nowhere to go but down from here. We are currently in negotiations to launch a new reality show elsewhere with a new cast. We are considering that Russian actor for the lead role.”
“The one from my show? But he’s practically an extra! The only thing that even put him on the map was his relationship with our leading man. The one I cast personally. My guy is a star. He’s the reason the show is number one worldwide.”
“We aren’t disputing that fact, Mr. Levinstein. You brought us a winner when you cast him, and believe me, we had our doubts in his abilities. His acting is dreadful and he’s come dangerously close to revealing our secret on numerous occasions with all his rambling about ratings. He really needs to watch his tongue. You are aware, of course, what will happen if viewers learn our show isn’t real.”
Tang’s eyes sparkled like chips of obsidian and the corners of his mouth twitched with a hint of a smile at his partner’s implication.
Saul stared at his shoes. If the viewing public discovered their secret, the only option was immediate cancellation. Not of just the show, but everything. Every damn thing.
“I understand, sir,” Saul said. “I promise I will have a word with him. There will be no more slips of the tongue.”
“No, there will not be. The next will be his last.”
“What if I promise you someone even better next time? Would you renew us for another eight seasons?” Saul knew he was grasping at straws, but straws were all he had left to salvage his career… his very life.
“Of course. But we know for a fact that you can’t. You will never find a candidate to top the one currently in office. In fact, we’re willing to bet on it ”
“Then place your bets. I will deliver to you the most dysfunctional presidential candidate the world has ever seen. The current star will look ordinary by comparison. If not, then I will retire from the reality show business forever and you can take the show in a new direction with the cast of your choice. Do we have a wager, gentlemen?”
“I do enjoy a gamble, Mr. Levinstein,” Tang said, “Even one I am confident I will win. What say you, Mr. Zorn?”
Zorn nodded. “It’s a bet. Eight new seasons against your directing career. But if you lose,” he waggled a bulbous finger in Saul’s direction, “You will retire not only from the reality show business, but show business altogether. You will never direct anything again. Not movies, not game shows, not even fucking traffic! Got it?”
“Got it.” Saul knew the consequences of disobedience. But he’d had a long and prosperous career. It was worth the risk if he could make this last shot count, and he had a plan.
* * *
After Saul left the boardroom, Tang scratched his chin, loosening the taut skin before sliding his face over the back of his head. Zorn followed suit, removing his human mask to reveal the reptilian head beneath.
Zorn stretched his jaw. “Damn, these things make me sweat. Don’t think I’ll ever get used to them.”
Tang regarded his partner, translucent eyelids blinking sideways over vertical pupils. “The Russian, Zorn? Where the hell did you come up with that one? We both know the guy is only an extra, and will never be more than that.”
“I have no intention of using him. But we’re only halfway through our biggest eight-season run in history and it wouldn’t do for our star director to panic and blow the whistle on the whole operation. We can’t change directors halfway through without risking ratings. He has chemistry with the leading man, and lord knows that guy needs someone who can rein him in.”
“And when he loses the bet, then what?”
“We cancel and move location. I already have scouts on several possible planets. We’ll observe while this show runs its course and choose the one with the most unstable population.”
“Who do you think he’ll come up with?” Tang asked.
“I’m thinking he’s got nothing. But I’m curious to see how it plays out. Maybe our friend Saul will surprise us.”
“Do you think this planet would even survive another eight seasons?”
“Not likely. We’ve depleted this rock. When we vaporize it we’ll be doing it a kindness.”
“Not that it matters. He will never find anyone to top our current leading man.”
* * *
Walking to his car, Saul pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and placed a call.
“Saul Levinstein, Central Casting here. I have the opportunity of a lifetime for one of your guys. Who do you have currently on death row?”

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

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Comments
  1. Diana-Noquetzal says:

    Good story! Love it. Wow.

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