The Stuff of Horror Movies

Fran-Claire Kenney


{TW: death, mild gore, profanity, sexual harassment}


Stacy set her jaw, exhaled sharply, and drove down the road. It was quiet, completely quiet, once she finished up a heated phone call. I gripped the loose end of my shirt until my veins bulged against my dry, flaking skin. Stacy turned her eyes back to the road as the most terrifying thing that everybody was predicting but nobody wanted to fathom hit: Phil hollered “Cut!”

The crew slowly let their mics droop towards the ground, and the lighting turned off. Joan slid out of her role as the ‘feminist martyr’ Stacy Amoroso. I rubbed my dry hands, becoming more and more aware of them with every retake.

It was a brightly cloudy day, so everybody could see how red and scrunched-up Phil’s angular face was getting. Some of us lazily stared at the train wreck unfolding, while others awkwardly shifted; but Phil didn’t bother to yank off his telex this time, so most of us could hear what was going on quite clearly whether we wanted to or not.

“What was that!?” Phil snapped at Joan. His heated voice echoed through the big wheat field that surrounded us. “How many times do I have to tell you? We’re trying to get the audience attached to Stacy! It took you long enough to stop acting so wooden, but now you’re making her look like a bitch! She has a damn good reason to be mad at Jeb, remember? Who are you, Stacy? What do you want!?”

    This was proven to be counterproductive, as Joan already knew these things about her character and they were less than intriguing. I’d glared at the storyboard for hours, and I knew exactly what I would change–I filled a whole notebook trying to figure it out, just for the hell of it, or like it would help me later–but it was too much to ever bring up. Phil had never written a screenplay in his career, and this was very obviously his first try: a suspense director, sure, but there was nothing meaningful about what he’d come up with, not even in some obscure David Lynch manner. It was just a horror movie with a fancy name running it. But nobody was going to tell him that it was a piece of shit and he needed someone more experienced.

The telex squealed, causing me to slosh translucent coffee on my hands as Phil kept yakking. “Now, makeup crew is going to adjust you a little bit, though they shouldn’t have to do your facial work for you. And you’re not breathing hard enough, maybe they can help you with that.  Then you’re going to put that car into reverse, and we’re going to start again, and if you don’t get it right soon you can bet your pretty ass I’ll break the record for most takes in a single scene. I’m coming for you, Kubrick! I am coming!”

Phil stormed out of range of the camera, waving his muscular arms around in frustration. A disgruntled makeup artist with neon turquoise hair stuffed more padding into Joan’s tank top and murmured something to her as the starring actor tried to lock her wide, watering eyes in place. For an eighteen year old, she was doing a pretty good job; not just at preventing a meltdown, either.

Phil was going overboard; Joan was doing great. I wanted to go talk to her, but I knew Phil would start yowling at me if I were to walk into the upcoming shot and ‘delay everything’. So I made a Rosie the Riveter-style muscle at Joan, and she laughed and took a deep breath and nodded. I looked up and realized that, for this one instant, everyone was watching not Phil but me, as I clutched the clapperboard and chewed my lip. My college roommate (and still my roommate), Clarence, seemed to be doing his eyebrows in the reflection of a spare camera. Or maybe he was just crying. Everyone underwent that rite of passage at some point (multiple times), it seemed.

    Yeah, the crew looked at me sadly, as if this were the moment when I could suddenly reveal that I was the god of cinema in disguise, here to end the tyranny of award-bait director Phillip H. Emerson with a wrathful snap of the board, but I was no such god. I was merely a scrawny assistant director, fresh out of college, and just as helpless in the face of Phil as the next person. I tried my best to channel with my eyes that I was sorry. “Take Seventy-Five,” I said mournfully.

    On Take Ninety-Eight (with our brawny PAs fired by this point, our makeup artists had to shake the car), Phil deemed the scene decent. We wouldn’t have to do much editing to convince our audience that it was dark out, because sunset was upon us, along with a rapidly darkening cloud cover. It really set the tone for trouble, at least.

    “We wasted a lot of time today,” Phil grunted as I walked with him to his trailer. It was supposed to be our trailer, but Phil made me stay in a spiny tent next to it because he claimed that he desperately needed his own space, so I was stuck next to him on the edge of a small cavity in the field.

“Remember, Phoenix, takes do have to be spot-on, but there is a deadline…” He couldn’t seem to finish his thought.

    “…So maybe it’s sometimes best to not try and make everything perfect?” I ventured. Phil froze and stared at me like I’d attempted to slap him. I instantly got the sense that I’d said something entirely wrong. “You know…like any form of art…because the overarching product is what we’re all really working for, and it’ll be paradoxically perfect when it comes together…?” I tried continuing when he didn’t say anything.

    “It sure as hell won’t be if the pieces aren’t perfect.” Phil said. He slammed the door to his trailer. An eroding piece of paper labeled DIRECTOR-PRODUCER in a really hubristic font was Phil’s certification to bark orders. I sighed and sauntered over to my tent. I couldn’t get any reception out here, but I judging by the sky I assumed that the weather was about to be potentially troubling for my little canvas hutch.

I unzipped the front flap, shook off my cheap boots, and ducked in. I was already starting to shiver, though it was hard to feel too cold in a one and a half person tent cluttered by scattered items: a small kit of toiletries, clothes that might still be able to pass as clean if I had to use them, books and notebooks, a mini radio, and what was left of the protein bars that I brought. Nothing but necessities, Phil always said. I had to admit, it was pretty cleansing. I’m not sure if that’s what he was actually angling for, though.

    As I turned on the plastic lantern that hung from the ceiling, I yanked off my shirt and picked up Pet Sematary by Stephen King. To be honest, I didn’t really like the horror genre, and I think Phil knew that, which is why he urged me to read up on it. It was good writing, but I didn’t see what was so delightful about torture porn.

After getting through about half a page, I swapped to Cannery Row, which I was reading for my own enjoyment. It started to rain on the tent, and I felt cozy and alive underneath the thin layer of cloth that was protecting me and these pages.

It was completely dark out by the time I felt a cold puddle of water extend to my feet, and I squealed and jumped up. Clear water, which our crew often had to make ACME runs for, was now menacing as it leaked into my tent. I desperately hauled my stuff up in one armful and shoved it to the other side of the tent, but that actually made the water lunge towards the heavier part of the canvas.

    “No, no, no!” I exclaimed as my sleeping bag, a barrier to the rest of my things, took a hit and started to gradually darken. I scrambled to find my boots and a coat and a flashlight and I unzipped the tent. Maybe I could duct tape the hole shut somehow, or maybe use a stapler? I reached out to find the side of Phil’s trailer and slowly stomped along it until I found the door handle.

Locked. I banged on the door. “Phil!” I hollered. “Help me! My tent is flooding!”

    No answer. I could see a light on in the trailer.

    “Phil? It’s really cold out here,”

    Nothing. I knocked harder.

    “Please, I just need some duct tape, or maybe a place to stay the night? Only for tonight, and then I’ll fix the tent and leave you alone, I promise!”

    He still wasn’t answering me. I narrowed my eyes at the dim light in the window, shielded by the polyester blinds and the firm, reliable glass which was being pounded with as much water as I was. I shivered against it. I’d seen plenty of indecency since I started this project, but this was a whole new low for Phil. “Jackass,” I grumbled, turning away from the trailer door, only to wheel back towards it.

“You know, the whole crew thinks you’re awful!” I abruptly hollered. Some primal part of me that didn’t want to to die screamed for me to stop yelling, but I was spiraling. “The whole crew! And you know, when I first came here? I was excited to work with you, I was happy to work with an indie Oscar-nominated genius! I thought that you’d have so much to teach me, I didn’t expect to become a trash bag for your discontent! But youcan’t even squeeze out the charity to keep me from getting frostbite, can you? That’s inhuman! And I don’t care if you fire me because of this, I might just quit anyway because of the unfair working conditions! Screw this! Screw you! Screw horror books and horror movies and this stupid, stupid unoriginal script and protein bars, and–and–and this can’t be it! The film industry has to be better than this!”

    I was out of breath and vaguely surprised by the rant that I’d dished out. If we’re being honest, I was never even comfortable with correcting Phil on my my pronouns, but I was pretty much constantly in a state of sour misery as long as I worked with him. I’d been waiting for an opportunity to roast Phil, and here it suddenly was. I expected Phil to open the window, or the door, or give some kind of indication that he’d heard me, but I didn’t see hide nor hair of him.

I was bubbling with too much fury to let out the string of obscenities that whisked about my matted brain. I kicked the side of the trailer spontaneously, but it barely made a sound as I felt my toes recoil in little stars. Restraining myself from shrieking like a disgruntled toddler, I turned away from the yellowy light and back to whatever refuge I had.

By the time I’d stormed back to my tent, my sleeping bag was floating, and so was everything else. Absurd. Have you ever had one of days filled with anxiety and hard work and ninety-something takes, and then some little, petty issue comes up at the end and you just don’t have the energy to deal with it? This was one of those days. I slumped to my knees and swatted at my miniscule tent which was rapidly transforming into a water bag. I think I remember bawling a little, too, but it was hard to tell with the downpour. “God dammit!” I wailed.


I jumped and stepped back against the tent. Joan was squinting at me curiously, lit by two seemingly hovering flashlights behind her. “Is that you? What…are you doing?”

I stood up, using Phil’s trailer for balance. “Yeah, yeah…I just…oh, look at my tent, Joan.” I hopelessly waved my flashlight at the tent, which was beginning to resemble a poorly crafted soup dumpling.

“Oof, that’s not good,” Clarence said out of nowhere. His broad shoulders had materialized next to me and he was clearly struggling to walk through the mud. “Geez, do you need a place to stay?”

I sighed. “Yeah, I really do. Phil literally ignored me on that topic.”

“He did?” said Joan. I noticed at this point that she was holding a concerningly large branch, and so was everyone else in front of me. “What’s with the sticks?”

Joan grinned mischievously. “Are you in the mood for revenge?”


“That’s what we’re here for. Me and Clarence and Dot–you know, from makeup–” Joan gestured to the petite grad student with turquoise hair standing in the background. She was holding a stick that was taller than her and glaring menacingly.

“We’re gonna give him a good scare.” said Joan.

I would almost definitely get the blame for this. “Um, I don’t think that’s the best idea–”

“Aw, come on! You know that you’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this. He deserves it–a taste of his own medicine.”

“Wait, what are you gonna do?”

Clarence grinned. “Nothing, nothing of consequence, my dear, fretful Phoenix. We’re just gonna shake his trailer a little, make him pee a little. And then we’re going to laugh a lot.”

“Why would you–”

“Ironic, yeah?”

“You’ll get caught! All he has to do is open his door and–”

“Oh yeah, you can hold it shut for us!”

“This is ridiculous–”

“Come on. Nobody ever had any fun following the rules–”

“They’re not coming, Clarence,” Dot said with annoyance, “But as long as everyone’s getting soaked, we’ll be enjoying ourselves out here torturing Phil, and they don’t even have a shelter…unless you count that sad water mattress.”

“But Phoenix,” Joan grinned. “At least let us have a little fun?”

“Okay, go bug him,” I grumbled. “Don’t hit me, though. I just want to sleep.”

I crawled back into the tent and started to use my sticker-coated bottle to dump water out of the tent. I was shivering so much that it was hard to even aim right. In the meantime, Clarence ordered Joan to circle to the other side of the trailer, and Dot readied her stick like it was a rifle.

Dot beat the side a couple of times before retreating around the corner. She and Clarence intently watched Phil’s door to see if he would stick his head out, but there was no response. Figuring that the show must go on, Dot tried again, and this time I saw the light from Phil’s window shift around, but he didn’t investigate much. I quickly hurled more water out of the tent once it started to seep under my jeans.

By now Joan and Dot were both slamming their branches into the side of the trailer, hard enough that it might even dent if they kept it up. Clarence leaned himself into the door as Dot and Joan shook the trailer from underneath with their sticks, meagerly at first and then with increasing superhuman strength, venting their frustration and ultimate fear of Phil.

Phil was circling the inside of his trailer like a hamster. Clarence had to grit his teeth to keep the door from spilling open. “Phoenix!” Phil hollered, not sure where I was. I ducked into my tent and fumbled to turn my lantern off. “You out there? What the hell is going on!?” he yelled, or tried to, but then Clarence managed to click the door shut, catching Phil’s fingertips in it for a moment. I admit that I felt a little bad for him at the time, but I was only doing what he’d done for me: pretending that I was asleep and nothing was going on at all.

The trailer started to squelch angrily, wheels grinding against the cinder blocks holding it in place. Before I could get too nervous, I heard the suction of wheels sliding away. I lurched out of the tent in time to see Dot and Clarence bouncing away from the trailer as it precariously leered over the slope. I had to push it back into place or break its fall or something, but my instincts only permitted me to watch, unable to scream, as the trailer tipped downwards and into the dip with the sound of clean-cut thunder.

Joan’s branch, still lodged somewhere in the exhaust pipes, dragged her a good few feet before she managed to release her while-knuckled grip on the branch and shakily sat up from the mud to watch the ensuing catastrophe to the music of the symphonic downpour.

The trailer skidded in a semicircle against the tall growth and rainwater. An influx of objects rattled around inside of it like little toys, masked by the rain that weighed heavier on us by the second. We kept on watching as the trailer contemplated tipping over and then finally, after what felt like hours rather than milliseconds, collapsed into the cushion of the mud. We gawked at the overturned mobile home, silenced at last. The action sequence was over.

Nobody spoke. I managed to be the first. “What just happened!?” I barked. “What was that!? I told you it was a bad idea, I told you–”

“You did. But you didn’t stop us, either.” Dot said as Joan cautiously stood up and approached us. Still trembling, she reached upwards for Clarence to take her arm.

We all gaped cluelessly at the trailer. In that moment, I hoped that another one would topple sideways and crush all four of us, too–then we could get rid of this awkwardly guilty feeling. There was a sense of responsibility that we hadn’t expected to crawl out of a pathetic prank, and now we were staring down the barrel of it.

“Phil…?” Clarence called out halfheartedly. No answer. And I got the sense that this time he should’ve given us quite the answer.

“We should check on him,” I said.

“What?” said Joan. “Don’t! Then he’ll know it was us!”

“What are you–”

“This is probably a trap, I’ll bet he’s just looking for an excuse to fire me!” Joan’s voice started to shake.

“Joan,” I said slowly. “This isn’t about you. I’m going to check on him. If he’s not all right, we need to get him to the hospital.”

I shakily marched towards the dark outline of the trailer, my boots slogging through the cold mud. I heard Dot start to follow me, and then Clarence, and finally Joan, from a distance as I warily found my grip on the greasy metal underbelly of the trailer. Clarence caught my foot when it slipped. He gave me a push as I grit my teeth and clutched the pipes. I hauled myself onto the upside of the trailer, facing the wrong side of the rain as it chattered my teeth and nearly threw me over.

Quivering from both cold and nerves, I rose to my knees and awkwardly rapped on Phil’s door for the umpteenth time tonight, except that this time I had to kneel and bend down to do it. “Uh, hey, Phil? It’s me, Phoenix. I…are you all right, I mean, can I come in?”

I waited for Phil to respond, with Dot and Clarence leaning over the edge of the trailer to see. Radio silence. I gripped the door handle and felt like I was obligated to say something like “Are you ready for this?” or “Well, let’s go,” but Clarence gave me a nod and I figured I should just rip off the bandaid. I opened the door a crack and slid into the trailer.

The first thing I observed once I’d descended to the left wall was the Alice in Wonderland effect that the sideways perspective of the room warranted, as if I’d been indefinitely transported into an alternate dimension of plastic anarchy. I almost didn’t note my foot making a quaint, warm splish sound on the wall bending beneath my feet. When had Phil’s trailer started leaking–

I looked down. It wasn’t water. My sopping boot was absorbing a grim red as it stood in a spreading pool of what was unmistakably blood–real blood, not the fake stuff that we used for shooting scenes. It was soaking into the curtains and pages of notes and other miscellany that had been tossed out of place during the fall.

I became aware of other people in the room when Clarence lost his grip on the doorframe and fell next to me to buckle to his knees and gag as she saw what was beyond that–a big, shiny microwave lay tossed near the kitchen table, having smashed the counter and parts of the wall as it fell. And beyond that lay Phil. Dot gripped Clarence’s shoulder and stared at the mess in a confused manner. I didn’t know what to do; none of us did.

I crouched forward, pushing the microwave aside. “Phil–” and then I stopped in my tracks, too shocked to scream. The microwave had done to Phil what it had done to the wall. Phil’s bossy, visionary brains were spilling out of his skull and onto the plastic wallpaper, tendrils reaching outwards every few seconds as more blood pumped out beneath it; desperate to drag it all back, to rewind and fix this horrible, bizarre accident. The rest of Phil was about as kinetic as a rock.

“What the fuck,” I sparsely whimpered through my thin breathing. Joan slipped through the door, and when she saw the mess (specifically the human remains) she instantly caught the beginnings of a scream. Clarence lunged to his feet and covered her mouth before she could make any loud noise. “Shhh! Do you want to wake everyone up? They’ll all come running!” he hissed. Joan swatted his hand away from her face. “But we can’t just leave him here!”

“Well, let’s use this time to think, hm? Now maybe this doesn’t concern you, but rest of us are marinating in–Phil. How are we supposed to explain that?”

“We could just say we found him,” said Dot.

I mustered the nerve to speak. It came out shrill and scratchy. “They’d still take us in for questioning. And what else could’ve happened, with all four of us?”

“There has to be something!” Dot snapped.

“W-we can’t keep this secret, we killed him! We killed him,” I was starting to panic. It gripped the center of my chest and spilled my arteries and lungs into my stomach as my hands compulsively reached to pull out my hair.

“We don’t have to view it like that,”

“What do you mean?”

Dot sat down on a built-in cabinet like it was the most natural thing in the world. “Well, calm down for a sec. First of all, were any of us really thinking about killing him?”

“No, but…” Clarence started.

“Right. We were only trying to scare him a little. Therefore, no, Phoenix, we did not kill him.” Dot said pointedly. I shifted uncomfortably. It didn’t seem like we could just mark this off as an accident if we were still the catalysts. We’d get manslaughter at best.

Dot continued. “Joan’s right that we can’t just leave him here, but screaming will only make things worse. We need to make a plan. We need to–” Dot stopped as she observed something on the ceiling next to her. “Huh…”

We all shifted our gazes to see the small, circular security camera barnacled next to the skylight. “Oh, shit,” Clarence mumbled.

“No, wait,” Dot said. “We don’t have to destroy it. We could actually really benefit from this–”

I gaped at Dot in disgust. “Benefit? How could we possibly benefit from–”

“Let me talk! We’re making a horror movie that centers on supernatural occurrences,”

“Yeah, so?”

“Weird stuff is always said to happen on the sets of horror films. Think of the great ones from last few decades: Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Conjuring–on the set of Psycho, a stunt double got murdered! On set! Think about it–these are all wildly successful movies. Yesterday, this was just another mediocre indie film, but now? An Oscar-nominated Hollywood patriarch gets killed in a horrible, inexplicable accident on set? That’s one big attention sponge, the box office’ll be flooded! We’re gonna be rich.”

I wanted to say something. I wanted to argue with Dot, protest that this would be unfair to Phil, or that we wouldn’t go undetected, or that this was just plain amoral–but then I noted that with Phil gone, I could be bumped up. I remembered how hopeful I was in college, how ecstatic my parents were when my name flashed in the credits of a true crime docudrama, how my high school theater director once told me I had the potential to change the world with a camera and a crew. And I remembered what I’d hollered at Phil mere minutes ago: there had to be more. Was this my shot at more, right now?

And say it worked in my favor. Could I interpret this lump of a script we were working with in such a way that it would be socially relevant, could I get everyone working on it back on their feet if I only put up a fight for my talent in the face of our co-producers? “I’m in,” I heard myself say, afraid of the trailer staying quiet for too long. I wasn’t exactly thinking outside of best-case scenario. Everything was blurring together, I didn’t see any other way. Perhaps I’d feel less guilty if I kept the secret long enough.

“Good,” said Dot. “Clarence, can you doctor the footage?”

Clarence nodded. “It’ll be rough, but I can do it in a couple of hours, easily by morning.”

“So you’re in?”

“Guess so.”

“Okay, that leaves Joan.”

The three of us looked at Joan, who backed away.

“Come on, don’t say no,” Dot urged. “You’re the last person. You don’t even have to do anything differently. You just have to keep your mouth shut.”

Joan’s eyes were watering. “Um–”

“Say you’ll do it. It’s barely anything. How badly do you want to be an actress, Joan? You dropped out of high school for this movie, this is the only way that you’ll ever be successful. This benefits you, you’re going to be famous, on the cover of all next month’s gossip magazines, walking down the red carpet for your convincing performance and how much money it earned you.”

I nodded. “You’re scared, I know. But you can channel it into your performance, got it?”

Joan wasn’t responding. I placed a hand on her shoulder. “Joan?”

“I don’t want to,” she whispered.

“Joan, please,” I said kindly.

“No.” Joan shrugged away from me and faced Clarence and Dot. “I don’t want to.”

Dot shrugged. “Okay, fine. You don’t have to.”

“What?” said Joan.

Dot reached into the jumble of Phil’s silverware at her feet and fished out a steak knife as she stood up. “We could have an alternate ending. The great director Phillip H. Emerson was swept into an affair with his gorgeous starlet. Real classic twenty-first century romance, a refined older fellow banging the brains out of a barely-legal teenager. Juliet was what, twelve? That lines up. But when she found that her darling lover was dead…”

Joan looked on the verge of vomit.

“She just couldn’t handle the circumstances…so she killed herself…” Dot advanced toward Joan. I stepped between the two of them, but Dot brushed past me. She crammed the knife handle into Joan’s hand. Joan was petrified, she couldn’t even shake her head. “At least, that’s what they say,” Dot murmured.

“Dot, don’t,” said Clarence. “That’s not fair.”

“N-n-not fair?” Joan stuttered. “Not fair!? She’s threatening my life! That’s beyond not fair, that’s beyond anything he ever did to us!” Joan gestured to Phil’s eerily motionless body.

“It doesn’t matter what it is. Do we have a deal?” said Dot. Joan reluctantly nodded. Dot released her grip and Joan covered her face with her hands.

“Good,” I said. “Also, Dot? If you threaten anybody here like that ever again, I’ll see to it that you’re fired.”

Dot twisted herself towards me, and before I could move I felt the knife digging into my chest ever so slightly, yet so heavy centering in on my rib cage. “Nobody will listen to you. You’re crazy. I mean, you developed a dangerous obsession with Phil and couldn’t keep working without him, isn’t that right?”


“Or, maybe I don’t even have to do the dirty work–the cops’ll do it for me, because your ambitions caused you to kill Phil as his power over you became so enraging. I’m sure the camera recorded you yelling at him, right? We could all hear you, you were being awfully loud, really. We could probably edit around that in just an hour or so.”

“Dot–” Clarence protested.

Dot scurried to the door so that she and her intimidating steak knife were blocking it. “Right, Clarence?” she said. Clarence looked from Dot to me, and then back to Dot. He was starting to panic, and he didn’t answer Dot. “Or I could just kill you.” said Dot.

“No!” I blurted out frantically. “Okay, okay, you can keep your job, I’ll even advocate for you, just…don’t hurt anyone.”

Dot chuckled like something was remotely funny. “Awesome. Clarence, go doctor the footage. I’ll get rid of any evidence that we were here, y’know, fingerprints, dirty clothes–Phoenix, you’ll work on that with me until Clarence is done, and then, only then, you can sound the alarm that this whole shitshow exists. Joan, go back to bed, you’ll just get in the way.”

“Mm,” Joan said absently. She folded her arms across her chest and climbed back out into the rain. Dot followed her out and we heard her hands and knees examining the flank of the trailer. Clarence and I exchanged a long, unpleasant glance; for everything that we’d been through since we were eighteen, neither of us could think of anything to say to each other. I felt disgusting.

At this point, the outdoors appeared a refuge to me, so I briskly followed Joan outside. She was shuffling through the mud and looked astonishingly small. “Joan!” I hollered. Joan froze. I was standing on top of the trailer when I realized that I’d tracked my off-brand boots around the interior. Dot would be pissed. I crumpled downwards, shivering in the rain, as I rapidly unlaced the only shoes that I’d brought, knowing that I’d soon have to burn them. “Hey, Joan, are you okay? Should I walk you back?” I continued, skidding on the jump down. Joan didn’t look at me, but she nodded. I put my hand on her shoulder. She bitterly shrugged it off.

Neither of us said a word or attempted to take any form of shelter from the downpour as Joan navigated past trailers and storage units to find her own spot. I tried to focus on the suction sounds that our feet made in the mud, the softly cold feel on my bare skin, and in spite of myself I imagined we were sludging through a whole sea of Oscar-nominated brains.

“This is it,” said Joan, breaching the consistency of the sounds around us. We’d stopped at a big teardrop trailer with a gold star on the door. She unlocked it with a stiff arm. “I hope she doesn’t decide to kill us,” she said.

“Oh, Joan. She won’t–”

“She would’ve! Back there, in the trailer! You saw that look in her face, I…I’ve rehearsed and rehearsed with the other actors here, but none of them can create an expression like that. I sure can’t. I don’t think that anyone can unless they mean it.”

Dot had been scary. The way that her jaw got all tight and formed a miniature smirk, the cold glint in her eyes that gave a new meaning to apathy, the rigidness in her legs and shoulders that she couldn’t quite conceal…in some odd way, I’d never seen a performance quite like it in all of my movie binges, nothing so real, so honest and desperate. I saw it in Phil, too, even if it was only what was left of him: there were essays devoted to playing dead, but I’d never seen a real dead body. The movies exclaim life no matter what, but now Phil was just gone. This shit was too terrifying for common audiences to handle. It wasn’t fun once you got to that point.

“I’m sorry.”




“If…you promise not to stab me or anything, can I sleep in your trailer for tonight?”


“Wh–Joan, it’s scary out here–”

“You’re scaring me. I don’t–it’s just, Phoenix, I thought you were a good person, and then you just agreed to cover up the fact that you helped murder your boss–”

“Shhh, someone’ll hear you–”

“I don’t care! I can’t trust you. You and Clarence, I thought you guys were…well, you’re both just as bad as Dot, and I trusted her too–”

“But Joan–”

“She was nice to me! She seemed cool! We used to talk about feminism through forms of art, and now she’s, you’re all–”

“We all want the same thing!” I snapped. Joan just looked at me, eyes full of anxiety from how well I could see them. I cringed at how shallow I felt as I kept talking. “We want to be rich and famous. Like Dot said.”

“And now we’re going to be,” said Joan. “But did we do it right?”

“I bet nobody does it right. And anyone who does probably doesn’t deserve that spot anyway. Huh?”

Joan smiled crookedly. She didn’t mean it one bit. “I guess the big man must’ve had his secrets.”

“Oh, of course he did. And his final ‘fuck you’ to his annoying grad students was passing the curse on…I should see about making that into a screenplay. You write what you know, right?” I forced a grim laugh.

“Yeah…I guess. Good luck capturing any of the reality, though.” Joan darted into her trailer and slammed the door. I heard it lock and I heard Joan start to cry and I was once again stranded in the rain, with no consolation or kindness left towards or in me. I covered my head with my arms to stare up at the dark, gushing sky and wondered where I was going to spend the night now.



Fran-Claire Kenney (she/her) strives to bring themes of mental health and queer visibility amongst other social issues to her work. She is a high school junior living near Philadelphia and working towards a joint career in creative writing and directing. In her spare time, Fran-Claire plays guitar and consumes a great deal of radical fiction.