Gothic gloss with murder


 How it was, or how it was bound to have started, I guess, or maybe I know or maybe it isn’t even true at all (they say I lie, they say I lie all the time – do I know if they are telling the truth or not? – I don’t know).

It was bound to have started, as they say, on the same page. There we were, all of us, on the same page, in the middle of this uncanny medieval fully realized dog and pony show.  Ladies with purple implanted contact lenses and breasts so light and separated they were practically meringue. On the day the crews arrived, there was a merenge band and a procession, and then the pagan crowds and extras attended masses and tasted the unintentional solace of cream, a golden orb, a reconversion, a moment of voluptuous forgetfulness with penance on top.  

So it was like this, the beginning of this story, which took place on a set and was therefore not real even in its beginnings, and the cast was a cast of characters that lived both on and off the set and there were beginnings, endings, and continuations. There were masks throughout, masks assigned by directors, masks assigned by convention and the agreed upon.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it was a yet another remake of Frankenstein, directed by (say) Kenneth Branagh, and let’s say it is cast with a dozen high-dollar stars. On this morning, the camera glides and turns and hovers over gothic stone and tumbling water falling over statuary in a grey English garden where everyone’s skin is chapped. The skin of Our Star is chapped and she is absolutely diva mad, diva mad. A local boy runs to the village apothecary and brings back a substandard brand of chapstick and a tub of udder cream at the recommendation of the storekeeper, which causes hooting and mooing and a general heightening of awareness that no-one much likes this particular diva, although of course with that bright white skin and the translucent eyebrows she is absolutely the right bride for this particular wedding.

After that, there is a shift in the ranks. In the gaffs and grips and best boys and best girls and extras and sandwich bringers there is a presentiment of death, and filming moves into the time of a crazy moon, shining iridescent, from some angles shining blood red, from others a wet, untouchable white, shimmering in damp English air.

The girl has been wearing her peasant costume for a week now and has begun to believe in herself. Her vowels stretch and flatten, and she has started chewing on her consonants, like some old weaving woman from central casting. She is much petted and pampered; this is the girl who put the udder cream in a small ceramic jar with a picture of zaftig sirens dancing in a pinkish white circle all round the edges. The cool cream sooths the diva’s skin, and the girl photographs well. The filming continues and the villagers light their torches and roam the streets just a little lit by the extra ale the film work is bringing them, and altogether the village and the film crew feel that things are as they ought to be. Fish’n’chips, yes, ale, yes, pretty girls with floating bosoms, yes. Plenty of things to slap one’s knees about over a pipe in the Fox n Swallow with your mates.

When things happen and there is a budget several times larger than the annual GDP of a small struggling country, sometimes people forget who they are. Which is to say that when it all started, back there as I was saying, there was no actual attempt to murder either the boy or the girl, who were only extras in the village that isn’t a village, the village that is a set of strong lights gathered around an ancient stone building, where villagers lit their torches and then the children were burned truly and spectacularly by the masses, who discovered method acting that day, what with the ale and the witchy moon and the presentiment of death.

Unless of course I am lying about the whole thing, which is what I’ve been told and which I’m not sure that I believe or don’t. I do have the sense that I was an extra, too, or actually that I am an extra still.  There was the mob scene, then the blind bearded fellow, then the little girl (who was too old for the part, I told them, but see nobody listens to me particularly). And next thing you know you’re packed in the back of a truck and hauled off to somewhere safe. Or maybe you’re just disappeared, looking for a fresh  costume, one without the ashes and blood, or a vehicle that can drive in the darkness outlining the ring of strong lights around the stone and the bonfire, or looking for some exit from this airless place where you’ve gone to examine the changes, the gloss, the notes on the edges of this page.

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5 Responses to “Gothic gloss with murder”


  1. 1 kangaroocahier May 11, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Brilliant! I love the details and diction, and the puzzles, hints, and oscillations of un/reality.

  2. 2 Teresa May 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Thank you, Kangaroo — I’ve been doing backflips over tenses within this story, the narration has a lot of ambiguity about time sneaking through it.

  3. 3 lollyloo May 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Reminds me vaguely of the metafiction aspects of The Stunt Man. Peter O’Toole is as the possibly-crazed director, who plays god suspended in a crane over the set, and may or not be trying to play god with the stunt man’s life.

  4. 4 Anonymous May 13, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    “breasts so light and separated they were practically meringue”
    It’s always these touches that make your stories so good to me like a surprise chocolate kiss in the middle of angel food cake.

  5. 5 Teresa May 13, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    @ Anon – thanks, what a lovely comment. I can almost taste that chocolate kiss.

    @ Lolly – I don’t think I ever saw The Stunt Man — I went and looked it up and it does sound like my cuppa tea. Actually, I imagine my mom’s got it, she’s got everything Peter O’Toole ever made. And I find metafiction hard to resist, don’t you?


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