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And Sarah was staring at Alice, and Alice could hear her heart beat.

Thud thud. Thud thud. Thudthudthudthudthudthudthudthud-

Breathe, you stupid bint. She blanked her mind. Quit thinking like an idiot, and listen to her.

"So, I'm sure you've been briefed but what we do out here on location is a lot harder than that intern work back at Cannes. We've got some quality actors out there and it's going to be your job to ensure they perform well."

She's entirely deluded. She's nuts. She's gone off the brink. Alice tried to feel a flash of triumph at getting her evaluation so stunningly right. Instead she felt a sick twist in her stomach. I'm not prepared for this, am I?

"And you would not want to screw that up, would you, sweetie?"

Sarah's stare was still there. Alice gulped, and nodded, too vigorously. She felt like a puppet.

"Because then I would have to fire you, and that would be very unpleasant."

This wasn't real. Alice felt like she was in a nightmare. One of the horrible kinds, where she couldn't move or speak. Just nod jerkily, and shudder. Hide it (be quick!) by picking up Sarah's bag.

"Good, I'm glad you agree - we're going to have to find an actor for this next scene, so I want you to find someone who fits the bill. With an independent film such as this I know you understand that your duties will be both varied and difficult. In essence you're going to have to get your hands dirty."

Alice forced a smile when she nodded this time. Calm, confident. Like a film production assistant. You know what you're doing. Trick this girl, Alice. Make this con. You know what you're doing.

Because she really didn't want to think about finding an actor for the next scene right yet.

"Now obviously I won't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do so there's nothing to fear little lady and, this will look fantastic on your resume. I assume you've read the script so before we get started did you have any questions for me?"

Yes. What the hell is your script? What delusions do you have? Do you just think you're making a slasher? How did you get this bloody cracked so fast?

These were not the sort of questions Alice could ask. And right now she was trying not to swallow compulsively, not to nod jerkily, not to break down crying. She was trying to keep her eyes from aching, her throat from burning, her stomach from giving up completely. She was trying not to freeze like an animal. She was trying not to feel like an animal. She was trying not to play dead, because her heart was skipping, thudthudthudthudthud, like a rabbit's heart.

Stop thinking like a scared girl. Pretend. Be. Pretend it's a movie, and you're the assistant.

If Alice was working on a movie, she wouldn't have chosen a slasher. But oh well--stop thinking. Delude yourself for a second, or you'll bolt, you know it--now she had to think of this sight as she would (shut up, brain!) as she would if she knew what she was doing. An assistant from Cannes. Nervous, but trained. Does this place echo?

"No questions." Her voice came out quiet, but calm. She kept her mouth stiff to avoid a tremor. Her accent, perhaps, was helping now. Disguise the stiffness in her mouth. "Although I will admit I wasn't briefed on this site beforehand, and wasn't told what you were planning for it, so I may be a little behind at first. I apologize." Smile apologetically at her. An apologetic smile was far too easy. She kept her mouth stiffened upward, to keep it spunky, dry. "I was assigned here rather suddenly, so I'm afraid I may have many silly questions in the future."

Her voice was quiet, but smooth. But her feet were still unmoving, stuck, like a girl in a nightmare, frozen.

I won't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do.

Alice shuddered again, disguised it this time as an aborted trip-fall as she tried to step and shifted Sarah's heavy bag on her shoulder. At least it made her feet move. She scrambled up. "God, I'm wearing horrid shoes for this terrain." Making small talk. Her voice echoed faintly. The acoustics were good here, but she really didn't want to think about murdering anybody.

Oh lovely. Now I've had an idea.

It took less effort this time to speak clipped, crisp, tremorless. Her idea was good. She wanted to explore it, and try not to think about other things.

"The soundtrack for this scene. I've been told the soundtrack thus far has been minimal, but I've got a bit of an idea if you're willing to hear it."

She swept her hand around. Think about it like a movie. "This place has wonderful acoustics. Any recording we do here will be excellent, and will have the sort of hollow, haunting quality we want for at least a bit of the next scene. Our next--" A drop of hesitation "--actor is going to be here, is going to be worked up, is going to get more worked up as the scene goes on. I've been sent with a bit of recording equipment--as well as another camera--and we ought to get his heartbeat down on a track. Lay music over it, or keep it minimal, but it will be a nice rhythm-" keep wanking, keep wanking, oh God, make things up "-build tension as the scene progresses, and end lovely--with the death, and the silence. It's a bit of an odd idea--I'm afraid I've watched too many French films--but I wondered if you would consider it."

Thudthudthudthudthud-

Heartbeat symphony.
--------


Alice Boucher was a liar.
Liz Polanski played with fire.

And who the hell is Radio Asuka?
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