The Burial

So, over this summer I’ve been having lots of fun doing some creative writing. Some of you who have been following me for a while might remember some of my authorial intentions, so I thought I would share with you the prologue for what I am currently writing.

As it is the prologue, I don’t want to overload you with unnecessary exposition, so would prefer for the work to speak for itself. Though I am happy with it enough to share these pages with you, dear reader, please remember that ‘The Burial’ is still a work-in-progress. If you would like to have a read and let me know your thoughts – what you liked and what you didn’t like, then it would be much appreciated. You never know, if this goes well enough I might be tempted to share other bits of writing in the future…

the-burial

Blood will have Blood

When the potter began to run his wheel, Middle Dane still had a fair king. The potter was knelt at its side and had begun to bend the clay slowly to fit his requirements. Like any good potter, this artist didn’t rush. The potter took time to carve the damp clay into a wide but thin shape. His eyes examined it in fine detail, being careful not to overwork the clay by messing around with it too much, if he did then he could be forced to start over with another ball of the dark stuff. The potter would often shut out the outside world as he worked, not wishing to be distracted from his quickly turning wheel as the brownish-water ran off of the surface.

            It was because of this dedication to his work that he didn’t notice the man holding the sword as he crept up on him. The potter was engaged in his craft and was smiling as he raised the sides of his latest creation into a vase. The man with the sword held it close to the potter’s neck, pulled it back and decapitated him in one clean move. The potter’s head rolled off and onto the wheel, which kept spinning for only a moment, sending a clay-splattered head across the parlour. The brownish-water, however, was gone. In its place blood poured from the wheel into the tray.

            Lord Ser Banborus Tantalus Bullsear was always going to lead his soldiers into the palace. He had spent every year of his life preparing to sit on the glass throne inside the palace of Middle Dane – all sixty of them. Bullsear marched up the stone steps with the stubborn dignity and pride that only a serving general could possess. He was flanked on each side by more than a dozen men in the same regal, silver armour that he wore across his heavy torso. Lord Bullsear carried his gigantic warhammer, Ranstrom with an innocent man’s blood dripping from its head already. Bullsear pushed open the great doors of the palace and let light pierce the glass chair at the end of the hall.

            ‘Today the dynasty of the Reichmars will end,’ Bullsear cried as he strode confidently into the throne room. His soldiers kept the same pace as him, sharp eyes challenging any of the courtiers who were watching the coup. Light bounced off of the veteran’s bald head like he had a halo and the general’s hard-set jaw was carved into a snarl against the king of Middle Dane.

            ‘If you start this with violence then it will only end with violence Lord Bullsear,’ said King Edvard IX, king of Middle Dane – albeit at the age of fifteen not being an expert in political matters. The boy, as Bullsear still saw him, was unfit to rule as king and this time the Bullsear family would not be ignored in the search to find the next king.

            ‘Do not talk philosophy with me boy,’ Bullsear said, ‘from today my family’s name will no longer be acquainted with dishonour and a lack of luck; but instead of awesome power.’  The captain of the king’s watch, who stood before the glass throne calmly, drew his sword and stepped forward towards Bullsear, ‘Do you, Edvard son of Edvard Reichmar, and the ninth of his name and the king of Middle Dane, consent to abdicate as ruler with immediate effect with all of your powers being transferred to Banborus Tantalus Bullsear – supreme commander of your armies?’

            ‘The king will allow no such thing Banborus, and you will soon have your head balancing on the chopping block,’ the captain of the king’s watch replied coldly. He pointed his sword towards Bullsear but neither man showed any inclination of stepping down.

            ‘I don’t want to kill you Kidner – you have always fought honestly and been loyal to your king – but if you don’t stand aside then your wife will be taking a widow’s pension.’

            ‘I don’t bow to traitors Banborus,’ said Ser Kidner, ‘you have cast aside your oath to pledge loyalty to the king; if I am to die honourably then shame on you.’ He stepped forward and jabbed his sword towards Bullsear. The general reacted without comment by deflecting the sword away from him using the great warhammer. With Ranstrom Bullsear was in his element as the king’s watch ran at his personal army. His soldiers drew their swords and spears and attacked ferociously – they had nothing to fear. Bullsear sent Ranstrom through Kidner and the captain’s sword shattered, sending shards of steel everywhere, Bullsear felt a sharp bit of shrapnel hit him just above the eye and a thin stream of blood began to ooze from the thin wound. Bullsear lifted Ranstrom above his head, forcing his bulging muscles to work like they hadn’t for years, and brought it down on Kidner. The cracking sound that ensured would stick with an innocent man for the rest of his life as the captain’s skull collapsed from the power of the giant hammer.

Blood went everywhere this time and as his fellow revolutionaries dispatched their partners in the dance of a swordfight it became difficult to tell the difference between one’s own blood and that of their opponent. It was over before it had started. The last of the king’s defenders slumped and fell on his face with only a little bit of hep from Ranstrom and then only Edvard IX was between Lord Bullsear and the glass throne he had craved for sixty long years.

           ‘If you want the crown then you’ll have to cut off my head Bullsear,’ Edvard said. The general walked slowly towards the throne, hiding any feelings from the young king. In truth, Bullsear was loving his walk, he made the moment draw on as he marched across the bloody marble floor, in a minute he would be king at last, after the way his family had been betrayed nearly two hundred years earlier, as well as an entire life of plotting the downfall of the Reichmar dynasty, the golden crown would be worn by Banborus Tantalus Bullsear.

          ‘All my life I’ve been planning today, Edvard, waiting for the best moment to strike; the best time to retake the throne which has been owed to the Bullsear family for generations. All that time I’ve been debating what to say when that victorious moment comes – a cheesy quip? No, a poem from the tomes of your ancestors was another option, but I decided against that as well. I decided only an hour ago Edvard what I would say to you and your goddamn family before I cut off your head and put it on a spike, I chose to tell you the Bullsear family motto – which will stay with you for what remains of your short miserable life

       ‘Power breaks everyone,’ and with that, Lord Bullsear lifted his hammer and slew King Edvard IX, still only fifteen years of age. The veteran slowly stooped to snatch the golden crown from Edvard’s bleeding head and he turned triumphantly. In front of his elite bodyguard, who smiled and cheered like any goon would. Bullsear, covered in the blood of honourable men like a scene in an old demented story, lifted the golden crown above his head and placed it on his tough, bloodied and bald temple, ‘hail your king countrymen. Hail your rightful king!’

Aiglos

 ‘One day, my son, everything you can see from this tower and beyond will be yours to rule.’ Aiglos’ favourite place was the tower. From there he could see across the whole of Dol Minas in any direction, in the far distance he could see the Nameless Mountains, rising up from the eastern horizon, sharp black talons stabbing the sky. To the north, Aiglos could spy the Crown, the longest river in Illiad which stretched from the nameless mountains across the countryside through the Grey Mountains into the Leon Republic and the People’s Republic of Triton. To the south there were miles and miles of grass; a bed sheet of green set beneath the infinite blue sky.

Dol Minas was a city built on a scale that could only be suppressed by the red metropolis of Ath Severin on the western seaboard of the continent. It was built upon a huge green plain that had fallen eighty miles south of the crown river. The plain allowed the city to be shaped easily while, when Dol Minas was first being built, legend said that limestone had run short for a good many years in the south thereafter.

The behemoth of a city had seven sides and long white streets led directly from each gate to the vast forum which basked in the exact centre. The poor, whose number dwarfed that of any other demographic, lived in the eastern sectors of the city where the houses were smaller and the alleyways thinner to allow as many people to be crammed in as possible.

The royal palace was on the opposite side of the city with royal gardens that possessed every kind of flower in every kind of colour that could be found within the grasp of a citizen of Illiad. The palace had the huge hall to welcome visitors but behind it the building settled into the royal apartments while a courtyard sprouted up from the green gardens. Following up the stairs of the courtyard, following long battlements that took one up towards the palace roof, you could find the tower where Aiglos would often spend his early mornings and late evenings.

There was nothing like the sight of sunrise or sunset across Illiad. The sky turning a deep red as the first rays of sunshine burst into view from the peaks of the Nameless Mountains and when darkness began to return, as the rays of light drained into the Grey Mountains, it was some sight to see the waves of clouds line up across the sky before Aiglos. 

‘I will be best king there ever was father. I am going to be the main event like no king was before.’ Aiglos had told his father when he was only six years old. King Morgant of Illiad laughed and told him that a good king was modest.

‘Sorry father.’

‘There is nothing to be sorry about Aiglos. You are six years old. By the time you are ready to become king then you will have learned what makes a good king and what a good king makes.’ King Morgant had a deep voice like every king should; the way he spoke inspired love and loyalty from all of his followers.

Ten years had passed since then and Aiglos had grown to become every bit the man his father had always wanted him to be. Aiglos had big arms and broad shoulders. His face was very serious for a boy his age with a prominent chin and nose. At that moment he was swiping at a straw-filled mannequin with a glint in those brown-green eyes. The thrill of the testosterone was visibly seeping through him as he stabbed through the puppet again and again. Sweat stains making the cloth below both armpits sag slightly while whiskers had begun to sprout around his high jawline. Aiglos practised in the yard every day with the master-at-arms, and could beat every courtier in a straight-up duel. Finally the rope holding the mannequin up gave way, sending the heaving dummy to the ground with a thump.

‘Very good your highness,’ Sizergh, the teacher hired from Dol Ares, congratulated Aiglos. ‘It usually takes you longer to break the rope.’

‘Was my father watching?’ Aiglos reached down to pick up the straw man, dragging him across the yard to lean against the wall.

‘His majesty is very busy Aiglos; Lord Lambeth MacLinnock is helping the king draw up the yearly tax rate for Haymarket.’ They were doing that yesterday as well. How long does it take to hammer out some contract?

‘I thought that the whole point of having advisors was so that they did all the work and the king could relax?’ Aiglos rubbed his face in a wet towel that had been brought out for the end of his session.

‘When you’re king of Illiad I’m sure you will have the same problems as your father Aiglos. The running of the kingdom comes first. I would have thought your lecturers would have taught you that.’ Sizergh grunted. He was a hard man, bred from generations of soldiers who had taught Aiglos how to play with his sword with much more ease than the long-suffering priests who saw the prince in the mornings with the intention of helping him to learn his letters and languages. Aiglos’ whipping boy still had the scars from the last time Aiglos had skipped class to focus on his swordplay.

‘When I’m king I’ll get to do what I want,’ said Aiglos.

‘When you’re king I’ll be out of a job.’ Sizergh laughed.

‘I’m sure his royal highness will be just as keen to batter dummies when he is king as he does now.’ The speaker was around the same age as Sizergh but, unlike the master-at-arms, still kept a full head of greying blond hair; the memorabilia from two decades of service to the crown. Der Cloyne, the bustling town of which he was the lord and master laid a couple of days ride north from Dol Minas, on the banks of the crown.

Der Cloyne had long been a footnote in the history of Illiad with its lords often being of humble blood and its struggles consisting of botched attempts to get a MacLinnock married into the royal family. Lambeth MacLinnock; the man who was stood opposite Prince Aiglos and Sizergh at that moment was the first MacLinnock for a long time to have proven more than competent to manage Der Cloyne.

‘Lord MacLinnock, I take it that you and my father are done for the day?’ Aiglos removed his towel for Lambeth and continued to go through his post-training exercises. Gripping his sword and polishing it carefully.

‘King Morgant sent me to apologise on his behalf for missing your lesson,’ Lambeth had a habit of pressing the tips of his fingers together in a triangle shape as he spoke, which Aiglos didn’t like.

‘It’s okay – I’m sure matters of the realm are more important,’ Aiglos said through gritted teeth.

‘Thank you,’ Lambeths lips smiled but Aiglos could see his eyes struggle to play along. The Lord of Der Cloyne turned and walked swiftly away.

‘He doesn’t like me,’ Aiglos inspected his blade.

‘Of course he doesn’t like you. He’s an academic and you’re a warrior, academics have been jealous of warriors since time began and Lord MacLinnock is no different. You’d be surprised at how much time he spends with your younger brother.’

‘Jonah can barely lift a bastard sword with both arms; all of the lecturers love him much more than they tried to care about me. However, it doesn’t matter either way. I will be king after my father dies.’

‘Of course you will,’ Sizergh spat into the gravel, ‘I better be going now Aiglos – I will see you same time tomorrow.’ He bowed his head and marched out the same way Lambeth had.

Aiglos raised an eyebrow about his teacher’s abrupt exit but thought nothing of it. Instead opting to return his sword to its scabbard at his waist and carrying it back to his chambers.

My father could at least have had the decency to apologise himself; instead of sending his lap dog. Aiglos thought as he slid his sword into the rack by his bed. At sixteen, he was pretty much a man and couldn’t understand why some of the courtiers still treated him like he was half that age. I could cut them to shreds if I wanted to. When I’m king they’ll have to respect me like they respect father, or they can be replaced. Aiglos was looking forward to being king. King Morgant hadn’t even let him get married yet. A long line of lords had paraded their daughters before the king and the prince in the hope of seeing their grandson become king of Illiad. Some of the girls had been ugly, Aiglos admitted. Though there were a lot of pretty ones as well. My father had turned them all away though; he wants me to be king but doesn’t want me to be king. If only he could make up his mind.

The Rest is Silence: The Finale

 The 23rd of February was a Sunday, the Sunday in fact. Douglas had been in LA for a few weeks seeing a few old friends and following the age-old order of his Oscar campaign as Douglas appeared on The Ellen Show, Oprah and countless other talk shows. He was expected to arrive at the red carpet outside the Dolby theatre just after 4pm. Douglas, as a matter of habit, didn’t rise until 10 o’clock in the morning and when he did he smoked a cigarette in bed for the first time in over a year.

His day was like a whisk. One moment he was having a shower and smoking his second cigarette in an hour and the next he was in his black tuxedo and sat in a limo on his way to the Oscars. The limo was quiet and the driver couldn’t help wondering about Douglas Bower; one of the most famous men in the world and he couldn’t get a plus one to the Oscars.

‘And what are you wearing for us Douglas?’ Natasha Spinny said on the red carpet as the actor emerged from his limo into the flashing cameras.

‘I’m wearing a Fernando Gattuso,’ Douglas said, ‘I did an advertising campaign for him early on in my career so we’ve always agreed to let me wear his clothes. I’m sure he’d rather have DiCaprio or Tom Cruise wearing him instead though.’ 

‘Well ain’t that adorable!’ Natasha Spinny laughed, ‘do you think tonight’s finally going to be your night and that you’re finally gonna win an Oscar?’

‘Well I hope so Tasha,’ Douglas smiled for a brief second as he saw who was being moved towards the interview; Nicole Freedman. ‘Sorry Tash but I’m going to have to be moving on,’ Douglas maintained despite the bitch’s pleas for him to stay with her for a little longer.

‘How are you Douglas? I’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re doing the new Superhero movie for Disney?’ Academy Award nominee James Lester asked his co-star.

‘That’s just a rumour James,’ Douglas patted Lester on the back as more flashes blurred his retinas. The sound of shutters opening and closing was a constant song in Douglas Bowers ears; though it wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.

‘Well there’s also a rumour going around that I’m going to play a certain character in that movie Douglas, I’ll see you later, and Amy Adams is walking away from me.’ He hurried off to leave Douglas in the safe knowledge that he was certainly not going to do the Disney superhero movie now. At that point a small man with a fuzzy upper lip ran up to Douglas to tell him that someone would come and get him just before he was needed to present the Oscar for Best Director and to just rely on the teleprompter.

‘Thank you for your welcome,’ the first words on the prompter read and Douglas repeated them calmly in front of the applauding crowd, ‘for every film the most important person on set isn’t the star, it’s the director and tonight one of 5 amazing directors will be walking home with this Academy Award,’ he showed off someone’s Oscar with a bedazzling smile. It was much heavier than he had envisaged and he couldn’t resist just keeping one hand on it. It might be a long time before he would get the chance to cradle one again.

‘The nominees for the Academy Award for Best Director are:

Ridley Scott for Exodus: Gods and Kings (cue applause)

David Fincher for Gone Girl (cue applause)

Christopher Nolan for Interstellar (cue applause)

Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher (cue applause)

And Nicole Freedman for Death within us (cue applause)’

Death within us had already taken a couple of awards that were certainly well deserved – apart from James Lester’s which, as far as Douglas was concerned, was not well deserved. He smiled nervously and opened the envelope, his heart racing as fast as he was sure the five nominees’ were beating. The name Douglas had both hoped and feared was inside the envelope. It wasn’t Ridley Scott. It read Nicole Freedman (Death within us). Douglas knew that they were going to see each other close up sooner or later but at the Oscars on stage! He knew he should have presented the best feature documentary instead. There hadn’t been any controversy in that category since Iraq.

‘The Oscar goes to Nicole Freedman for Death within us.’ Douglas read out with dread and the applause took him aback. It was one thing to present an award but to be on stage and peer out at the audience of the greats of Hollywood was outstanding. Nicole gasped and made her way out of the Death within us area of the auditorium and walked down the carpet flanked by a standing ovation from her heroes. Douglas didn’t know if he was going to win an Oscar that night but it seemed like it didn’t matter. He could see how much it meant to her. He hadn’t understood that before but now he realised why Nicole was in tears already as she approached the stage. She’d done it. Nicole Freedman was an Academy Award winner and she deserved it more than anyone else. It had been her story, her script and her design and without her then the film that had given Douglas his best ever chance of winning an Oscar would never have been made up – let alone actually put onto screen.

Nicole moved up the steps and looked at Douglas, she moved more quickly towards them with the cheering crowd disappearing into the back of Douglas’ mind. Douglas realised what they were going to only seconds before it happened. The man and the woman moved towards each other and pulled each other into their arms and kissed like no man had ever kissed a woman before and how no woman had ever kissed a man before.

‘We’ve done it Douglas,’ Nicole said.

‘Done what?’ Douglas said. The audience were still applauding their snog and it dawned on Douglas that tears were trailing down his cheek.

‘It was us versus them Douglas – we beat Hollywood,’ Nicole smiled and the two kissed again. After they parted from their kiss a hush went over the crowd and the rest were silent. Nicole stepped up to the lector and said proudly, ‘I want to dedicate this Oscar to the man on my left; Douglas Bower…’ 

 

… FADE TO BLACK 

The Rest is Silence Part Three

It had been a couple of months since Douglas had missed the London premiere for ‘Death within us’, the fictional account of a murder mystery/thriller set in a submarine during the height of the cold war. It had been praised by critics and maintained an outstanding score of 92% (certified fresh) on the review website Rotten Tomatoes. Harry Lennon said in his review that ‘…Nicole Freeland’s vivid take on the world of submarine warfare comes up smelling of roses with a great sense of originality being spun from a concept everyone has heard before. Good performances come from the likes of James Lester but the film’s star has given himself his best ever chance of winning an Oscar as Douglas Bower plays his role using his experience as an actor to make even the smallest moments of the film into a forthcoming demonstration of his talent in cinematic acting.

If Douglas fails to win his first ever Oscar for this performance then the Academy will have to have a hard long look at themselves.’

‘According to this you and dad should go down to the bookies and deposit ten grand on me right now,’ Douglas said to his mum through the webcam and microphone that was hooked up to his slim laptop delicately.

‘Now, now Douglas,’ Douglas’ mum said in her usual patient tone that her only son sometimes despised or liked, ‘don’t go being complacent just because some critics say you’re the best thing since sliced bread. The worst day of your father’s life was when he was up for that Emmy, you remember? Overwhelming favourite but he lost to Alex Day. He was tearing himself up for weeks over that because he had never thought about not winning his Emmy – he’d even memorised his acceptance speech if you remember – so don’t make the same mistakes he did. You’re not an Oscar winner until your name’s read out from that golden envelope and you’re holding the statue in your little hands.’

‘Thank you for your confidence in me mum,’ Douglas replied dryly.

‘It’s only common sense darling,’ Douglas’ mum told him. Douglas was one of those people who visualised the conversations he had over the phone in person. His mum was stood in front of his fridge, where he was grabbing the milk for his morning tea. She was shorter than him, as all mothers are shorter than their sons with short grey hair and a calm look on her face. When both of them were younger he was a victim many times of the mother knows best look but now, as a man not far off from his middle age crises, they were now using each other as a shoulder to cry on.

‘Is dad there?’ Douglas asked over his father.

‘He’s in San Diego Douglas, you know that,’ he was reminded.

‘Oh yeah, is he still talking about that pilot to NBC? He’s 64 years old now; does he want to produce, write, direct or star?’

‘You know your dad; he’ll retire on his deathbed. Besides, Liam says that NBC are showing very positive signs that they want to pick up his show,’ Liam was his dad’s agent and someone who had been trying for years to add the younger Bower to his assets.

‘This recent positivity has had absolutely nothing to do with a certain Oscar nomination for a close relation of his, does it?’

‘You said it – not me,’ his mum said.

‘Okay, I need to go mum or I’ll be late for my meeting with Walt,’ he took his tea quickly and cringed, promising himself that he’d never eat scolding hot tea again.

‘Give my love to Walt.’

‘I always do, love you mum.’

‘See you later,’ Douglas’ mum bid farewell and they both ended the conversation.

 

‘And how’s my favourite client?’ Walt got to his feet to welcome Douglas with a hearty hug. His favourite client responded with suspicion as he settled into his seat. They were sat in Walt’s London office on the North Bank, a little way from Carnaby Street.

‘I’ve been a lot better in the last couple of weeks, since the nominations were announced especially,’ he said.

‘That sounds really good Douggie. Anyhow now that we’ve got the – small talk – out of the way we can review some of the recent calls I’ve been gettin’ from everyone in Hollywood.’

‘I like the sound of that,’ Douglas stated. Walt sized him up.

‘You sure you’re all right?’ He said and his favourite client nodded, ‘okay in which case The Academy phoned me yesterday-’

‘Why were they calling?’ Douglas scratched his nose and took a sip from a cup of water on the desk.

‘They’ve asked me to ask you if you were willing to present the Oscar for best director next month. I take you’ll be happy to present it?’

‘I’ll be ecstatic,’ Douglas said.

‘That’s good as I’ve already told them you’ll be very pleased to present that one – and you don’t need to worry about any speeches or whatever – they’ll just use a teleprompter so instead of spending a couple of hours learning a crappy script you can just spend a minute reading a crappy script,’ Walt said in the way Walt liked to say things, ‘but I’ve also got a couple of scripts sent over from Warner Bros. and Fox and Disney you know.’

‘What sort of offers? You know I just wanna press on and get my teeth into a new role. Who’s up for the films and what are they?’

‘Disney wants you to test for one of their Superhero movies. It’s a meaty role Douggie but the pay’s less than the offers from Warner Bros. and Fox,’ Walt said.

‘Get me a meeting with the director and I’ll consider it. I don’t want to piss off a company like Disney at any stage in my career. Who’s doing the Fox movie?’

‘20th Century Fox have, according to The Guardian, slated Ron Howard to direct the new Edmund Hilary biopic and he wants you to test for him. Can you still do an Aussie impression?’

‘Of course I can Walt,’ Douglas said in a competent Australian accent. The office was one of those fashionably modern buildings in Los Angeles with some so called modern art in the way outside of the main building. They weren’t too far from Burbank which certainly helped Walt to get many of his clients’ decent parts for films being made over that way.

On the desk there was the customary framed picture of Walt’s family (a younger wife and two girls who didn’t look to be much younger than Wendy, their tart of a step mum) as well as a framed photo of Walt’s star on the Hollywood walk of fame which Douglas had once tried to find on a day off in LA. But he couldn’t find it anywhere down the golden mile.

‘So the Universal Film looks good too,’ Walt turned a page in the folder he was peering across, ‘Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence – it’s an all-star cast for an all-star film Douggie. The script’s good as well and it’s all about alcoholism and stuff like that, real deep.’

‘Who’s directing?’ Was the only question Douglas asked straight away. After working with a bad director early on in his career he had veered his career plans quickly to become more picky when he chose a role, not wanting to be stuck with some arse with a megaphone for a two month shoot.

‘You don’t know?’ Walt raised an eyebrow in a Walter-ish way, ‘Nicole Freedland. Didn’t she tell you after the last one?’ Douglas felt his heart drop and he zoned out, becoming slightly obsessed with a small mark on the wall behind his agent.

‘No I didn’t.’ Douglas sunk back in his chair and sighed. Why would Nicole not tell him about this project. They were close, weren’t they? Why wouldn’t she mention a project like this? 

‘So do you want me to say yeah or try again later?’ Walt said.

‘Tell Nicole no…I can’t work with her again so soon after the last one,’ Walt raised an eyebrow at this statement.

‘You want to sleep with her don’t you?’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Douglas replied just a bit too quickly.

‘You asked Nicole out didn’t you and she said no. Come on Douggie I know everything about everyone in show business. You’re a stupid bastard Douggie; I’ll tell Nicole you’re interested.’

‘No you won’t, I’m not interested Walt,’ Douglas said without a shade of doubt in his complexion – which had become more pale in the recent couple of months.

‘Don’t be a crazy fool Douggie,’ Walt warned, ‘don’t turn down a million dollar offer just because the chick who’s directing doesn’t fancy you.’

‘I may be a fool who’s turned down a million dollar offer because Nicole Freedland didn’t say she loved me, but that’s not your fucking business,’ Douglas said and he rose and walked out of the room. He wasn’t ever going to do that. Never. Ever. Ever. Not even leaving Walt enough time to shout at him that it was his business as his agent to advise him and tell him to take a million dollar offer. Walt looked down at the printed email sent to him by Nicole Freedland and he only read the number of zeroes that trickled along the page before removing the document from his folder and putting it into the shredder.

The Rest is Silence Part Two

Douglas Bower was very unsure as to how he managed to get from Savoy Place on the edge of the Victoria Memorial gardens all the way to his penthouse on the fourth floor of the Savoy Hotel. He must’ve drunkenly teetered his way along the road past the Audis and Aston Martins, through the hotel lobby and up the famously exquisite stairs to his lodgings. Douglas had done almost all of this on automatic and he was standing over his toilet before he realised what he was doing. The light blue tinge of the toilet water became displaced by yellow piss but for a drunken man the aim was all right (relatively). The temporary moment of pleasantness that Douglas was experiencing as he relieved himself disappeared at one of the worst sounds to hear when one is alone: the sound of his door closing when he was sure he had shut it behind him when he staggered inside.

Euphoria turned to fear; he had forgotten in his drug-induced state to shut the door. He reached out to one of the glasses on the side provided by The Savoy and wielded it like a club. Douglas opened the door and given a second longer he would’ve glassed Golden globe nominee Nicole Freedland but instead his director turned and instinctively hit her star on the side of his face; forcing him against the wall as the glass smashed onto the carpet. Silence fell.

‘Shit Douglas, you could’ve killed me!’ Nicole stepped away in shock as she took in the smashed glass on the floor, Douglas’ bloody hand and his bruised temple as well as the pungent smell of booze that stank in the room like a dead dog.

‘I thought…you were…an intruder, a robber?’ Douglas pushed himself away from the wall and fell into Nicole’s arms. She was a strong woman, albeit quite small compared to him, but nonetheless she managed to support her leading man across the penthouse before lying him down on the sofa.

‘Douglas, I thought you’d stopped?’ She eyed the empty whiskey bottles left to rot on the kitchen table.

‘I have Nicole,’ Douglas panted.

‘That’s not what it looks like to me you bastard, you missed the premiere Douglas. This was our big moment wasn’t it?’

‘Yeah,’

‘Do you know how long it’s taken me to get this project done Douglas? Four years!’ Nicole lay down next to Douglas. Neither of them was sure what feelings Nicole was feeling and which ones she was showing. Was Nicole feeling spiteful, honest or just tired?

‘That’s a long time,’ Douglas remarked.

‘We could win Oscars for this Douglas, do you realise that? Look at us? I’ve been directing for nearly twenty years now and all I’ve got to show for it is a Hollywood Star and a Golden globe nomination. Seriously! Anyone can buy a Hollywood star nowadays and the Golden globes that year were a joke. Then there’s you-’

‘-Then there’s me,’ Douglas nodded childishly.

‘Yes Douglas; eighteen years ago they said you were going to be the next big thing to come outta England and you moved to LA and you did B-movies and then you did TV and then you did proper films: Omega, The Journalist, Looking for Colours, the holocaust one – that was good that was – and you got four Oscar noms in 7 years. I don’t see your statuette?’

‘Never got one, the bastards in charge saw to that all right,’ Douglas said.

‘Proper bastards they were Douglas too,’ Nicole said, ‘but this time’s different ain’t it? The critics love our movie more than their own ugly spawn, you should’ve seen them at the end, this time we’re both gonna get our Oscars to put on our mantelpieces because I got you and you got me.’

‘That’s right,’ said Douglas.

‘Of course it is – it is all right,’ Nicole patted her actor on the shiny red cheek that a minute earlier she had smacked into the wall of The Savoy. She considered him for a long beat while Douglas looked up at the grand lights on the ceiling, ‘Douglas.’

‘Yeah Nicole,’ Douglas said and he turned to look into her brown eyes as if they were sparkling stars.

‘Your fly’s undone,’ she said and she got to her feet. Nicole Freedland scratched her nose which Douglas decided she didn’t deserve – a large growth in the centre of her face that was almost a mountain on its own. He looked down to close his fly but struggled to get it shut without jamming it against the inside strip of trouser. The moment had passed and his director retreated backwards towards the door, ‘you don’t need to come to the after party Douglas – you’ve drunk enough already. I’ll see you tomorrow at the press junket,’ she left and Douglas Bower was alone again.

‘That couldn’t have gone more tits up,’ Douglas said to himself and he reached for the television remote. He only had the patience to scroll through the first hundred channels: Jeremy Kyle repeats, Top Gear repeats, some shitty action film from the 90s and a football documentary. He turned it off with disgust and poured himself a cocktail.

‘I hate being me,’ Douglas said, ‘I could have been born in the thirties before camera phones and Facebook and Twitter. Then I could have died a couple of years ago before people went to the doghouse,’ he took a swig of his cocktail and cringed at the aftertaste.

 

‘If we don’t work together Nathan then all 3 of us will die in here,’ Douglas’ character told his fellow conspirators.

‘What’s the point Morgan?’ The man called Nathan replied, ‘the fuzz have got us figured out completely. They’ve got evidence man, evidence!’

‘And I like the fact that you are in with the three musketeers: all for one and one for; all shit when in reality this whole thing is about you Morgan. You and no one else you’d like to think, but it’s not like that Morgan. Me and Nathan have been dragged into this mire by you and you alone,’ the third conspirator, Scott said.

‘If it wasn’t for you two and your constant mistakes then I could be at home in peace and quiet!’ Douglas said through the prism of characterisation he had placed himself under.

‘No shit Sherlock, come on man…oh shit – sorry I’ve lost it guys.’

‘Cut it there guys,’ Nicole Freeland called from the other side of the set, behind the huge camera that was staring right into Douglas’ face. It was like being on Big Brother with the camera watching even the slightest move he made.

‘What was the line?’ BAFTA nominee James Lester asked as Nicole came over to debrief them.

‘It was…’ she pulled a huge slice of chunky script out of her pocket and opened to the appropriate page, ‘you say No shit Sherlock, but then again maybe you’d like to think of yourself as a Sherlock Holmes and saving us all with your cranium?

‘Seriously Nicole, you want me to say that?’ Lester read over Nicole’s shoulder, ‘who writes this dribble? Hasn’t he ever been to screenwriting school?’ He shook his head.

‘Actually, James, he is a she,’ Nicole said and she walked off, leaving the three stars of the film to discuss the script themselves.

‘Are you that dumb James?’ Douglas asked Lester, ‘a nomination for the BAFTA rising star award doesn’t make you some kind of God. Nicole wrote what you so eloquently described as dribble,’ he followed Nicole off set. He caught up with her and saw that, although dignified, she looked very cold yet sad.

‘Nicole wait please, you know how much of a twat James is,’ Douglas said.

‘After 3 weeks filming with that prick, bitch please, if I were his mother I’d have to cry myself to sleep every night, terror.’ Nicole replied to show off her coldness with an expression that definitely seemed to be close to proving that looks could kill.

‘Yeah, actually I was just wondering if you wanted to go out sometime…get a bite to eat or catch a film.’ Douglas asked. Nicole sized him up; obviously considering whether or not he would be a match for her and if a director-actor relationship could work.

The man and woman kissed as if it were their sole purpose in life that night. Douglas was feeling so much warmth being generated from the embrace of their lips and it was unlike any kiss that he had had in his life. As they fell onto the bed in his apartment (just round the corner from the studios) he was suitably enlightened that this – between him and Nicole – was something special. The two of them could understand each other properly unlike they had with their previous girlfriends and boyfriends who perhaps didn’t have much of an affinity with their partner. A casual observer would’ve noted that the chemistry between Douglas and Nicole was flawless and that one could mistake them for acting out a relationship in a film. Douglas drew stick from his friends in the Hollywood circles for his weakness as a womanizer on screen and off screen. Even in one of his best films, Looking for Colours (in which he played a colour blind artist) his kissing scenes were wooden despite having one of the best looking actresses out there being available to play off of. Regardless, this gap in his acting ability had not been sighted by the legions of girls screaming at him and voting him sexiest man of the year in consecutive years (which earned him even more stick).

‘What do you want do next?’ Douglas panted at the next pause in their questionably violent snogging.

‘I think you know what Douglas,’ Nicole said, ‘but I’m afraid I need to edit the script that James Lester called dribble,’ Douglas’ fantasy twisted itself from his mind and pulled his consciousness back from the brink to push it back onto Nicole inside the huge stage at the studios.

‘Sorry, my mind was elsewhere,’ Douglas said.

‘I said that I need to edit the script tonight, we’ve obviously got some pivotal scenes coming up which must be perfectly scripted. If not then this film’s stuffed isn’t it? I don’t know how we are going to making this film any good when the dialogue’s worse than a dirty sex line,’ Nicole did spend the subsequent evenings working on the script to James Lester’s satisfaction.

 

The film launched well and went uphill from there. The critics loved it. The audience loved it. Harvey Weinstein loved it. It was no surprise therefore, that in the middle of January the phone call came through to congratulate Douglas Bower on securing a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars, while Nicole had also received the nod for best director. Douglas knew that this year was going to be his time. Finally.

 

The Rest is Silence Part One

The last image of Douglas Bower’s face heralded applause from all one thousand and forty three seats in the cinema. As the easily distinguishable features of the world’s most famous actor faded to black there was no doubt that Douglas had earned yet another Oscar nomination; some members of the crowd went so far as to give Douglas (whose name in silver was to headline the following frame) a standing ovation. If Douglas had been there then he would’ve appreciated it.

‘Has anyone ever told yer that yer look lot like that actor guy?’  The bartender leaned over  to whisper in the ear of Douglas Bower.
‘Yeah,’ Douglas took a swig from his glass, ‘and I’ve taken a lot of shit from it over the years.’
‘Unlucky mate; though I thought he was good guy an’ all. Doesn’t he do lots of charity werk and stuff?’
Douglas shrugged. ‘Not for a long time; if there’s one thing that annoys me it’s all this crap about fake celebrities who go to a hospital for 5 minutes, take selfies with all the kids without a please or thank you before getting out of there like their scared of getting the plague or whatever and flying to the launch of a new perfume or fashion label on a golden Mediterranean island. No respect for other people and especially the ones who deserve it,’ Bower reflected sadly, the server hanging onto every word.
‘Wow; that sounds like a rehearsed rant if ever there was one,’ the bartender refilled Douglas’ glass, ‘at least you can’t deny that Douggie Bower is a crackin’ acter eh?’
‘Every time he appears on screen I cringe, unfortunately no one else does so,’ he got to his feet and pushed away the half empty glass. He was swaying like a fan of Soul music with alcohol dying his blood a murky brown inside.
‘Leavin’ are yer? You’ve put £122 on yer tab mate, you can pay in cash now or whatever; easiest to you to be honest.’
‘Send the bill to this address with my name and they’ll cover tonight,’ Douglas pulled a folded white bit of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket as if he was still in school and tucked it into the tender’s hand before turning to walk out of this most modest of high-end London bars.
‘Wait mate!’ The bartender called after his patron, ‘what’s yer name?’ ‘Douglas,’ the intoxicated Douglas Bower bowed out of the bar as the server realised he’d been duped by the world’s most famous actor. He unfolded the piece of paper and on it in Douglas Bower’s untidy handwriting read:

Warner Bros.
Studios Leavesden,
 Building 2,
Warner Drive,
Leavesden.

The server stood quite still for a moment before cursing Douglas thinking sourly ‘not even the common decency to sign a photo,’ as he looked at the almost blank wall designated to display signed photos of the bar’s more famous patrons.

Douglas Bower, however, had already managed to escape The Fairest State and was making his way off Adam Street towards his headquarters in his hotel room in the Savoy a couple of blocks over. He clutched his pockets and sighed; he didn’t know why he had given up smoking but it felt pretty shit now. No cigarettes forced Douglas to massage his dry cheeks out of idleness. Douglas wasn’t sure how many minutes it took him to stagger from Adam Street onto Savoy Place between The Strand and the drizzle-struck Victoria embankment gardens: one, two, four, ten? It was the sharp jolt of energy in his pocket that revitalised him and the world’s most famous actor need seconds to pull out his smartphone and press down hard on the green bubble.
When Douglas was a struggling trainee in his early twenties he upped sticks and moved to Hollywood hoping to become a millionaire by that time the following year. Unfortunately not even a business as mad as show business was that forthcoming and so Douglas Bower found himself playing Jack Rodgers in a production that screamed B-movie from all departments. Bower was playing a cowboy thus picking up some skills in the drawing of a gun (or smartphone) from his trouser pocket. It had actually been on that very flop that Douglas had met the man who was now calling him: Walt Katz.

‘Next time you decide to do a no-show, can you please give me fair warning first?’ Walt obviously sounded furious, but that wasn’t rare. The subtext of hurt in Walt’s beefy California tones made Douglas listen to his agent a lot more concisely than he would ever do when he was sober.
‘The premiere didn’t go well?’ Douglas bellowed.
‘Nicole was very embarrassed that her star; the most famous actor in the world, couldn’t be bothered to show up. You could’ve gotten away with it if you turned up two and half hours late to the film but the moment the credits rolled and your seat was still empty she turned on me like a dragon or something! Please tell me a damn good reason why you didn’t show tonight,’ Walt barked.
‘I got distracted Walt,’ Douglas said, ‘I’ll be at The Savoy inside a quarter of an hour; tell her to meet me in my room if she’s still braying for my blood.’
‘She wouldn’t be the only one Douggie. There were nearly four thousand chicks waiting for you in Leicester Square tonight and having the agent smile at them seemed to insult more than appease.’
Douglas swore and braced himself for the oncoming bad news, ‘how bad exactly has the fallout been Walt?’ ‘You’ve been the top trend on twitter since ten past six this evening and not in a good way,’ Walt said and his client cringed as a virtual dagger- probably brought on Farmville- buried itself into his chest, ‘are you going to the after party in Blackfriars?’
‘The only thing I have any incentive to do now is to go back to the Savoy and sleep until the cleaner screams at me in Spanish tomorrow afternoon.’
‘Spanish, Douggie?’ Walt mused.
‘They’re always Spanish or Mexican in these places; makes it much, much cheaper for the accounts up until the point their visa expires,’ Douglas told his agent.
‘If a reporter ever asks you about your hotel arrangements never tell them that, Douggie.’ Walt added a farewell before being devoured by the monotone of the redundant line. Douglas had got to the stage where he was losing the adrenaline brought on by his alcoholic intake and becoming happy – far too drunk – but happy.