Cassandra - YA steampunk
Where did the casting director find this guy? Villians-R-Us?
I grunted as I hung from the Cliffs of Broken Glass, my fingers barely holding on to the plastic edges fifteen feet above the soundstage.
“See what happens when you mess with me?” Captain Aragno said in a bad imitation of Jack Black. He pointed down at me, his head back in laughter. “Let’s see how you get out of this. Your precious Mikaehl can’t save you now! So long, Princessa!”
Aragno laughed again and stomped away. I watched his saggy belly sway above the ridiculous codpiece as he strutted down the back ramp and over to the nearby table. He took a quiet drink from a large Nalgene bottle and winked at me, the feathers in his hat blowing madly from the force of the wind machine beside him.
Ew. He really was awful. But enough of him. I had a job to do.
Refocusing on the ledge, I started swinging my legs up, trying to get a foothold. The sharp plastic edges dug into my fingers, but I pushed down the pain.
At a training day about a year ago, my father took me to the Navy Seals training grounds in North Carolina and we worked on dangling techniques.
“Keep your arms slightly bent,” he had said. “Try to pump if you can, keep that blood flowing. You don’t want to tire out your muscles too quickly.”
It’s not easy to get tired muscles moving, but I worked on it tirelessly for weeks after that. I had bigger guns than Madonna for a while there. It was awesome.
I had been hanging for nearly five minutes now, and my muscles were definitely burning. I pumped my arms like Dad had taught me and I swung again, barely missing my foothold.
“Need a break?” The director said from below me.
“No!” I yelled back, voice shaking with the effort. I made sure to keep my face away from the cameras.
Pull it together. Pull. It. Together.
I gave my legs another swing and finally found purchase. I gripped the plastic and rubber grass for all it was worth, and heaved myself up and over the edge, where I landed with a thump in the fake dirt. It smelled like someone had just whizzed in it. I smiled anyway, sure that I had bested my own personal record for hang time with a successful completion.
“Cut! Alright, Pom, you’re in.”
A girl dressed exactly the way I was approached me from the right. Her corset was just the tinniest bit tighter and her boobs popped out over the top the way I wish mine did.
“You could have been more graceful, you know. Everyone’s going to make fun of the way I did that. We’ll have to cut out all of your grunts too.”
I stared up at her flawless skin and sighed. “Pomegranate, I—”
“Really,” she interrupted. “Get out of the frame.”
I groaned and rolled towards the cliff edge and looked at the fifteen-foot drop. Pom gave me a shove off the edge with her manicured foot.
Pom’s giggle faded as I fell away from her. I barely managed to get my hands up and my knees in the right position before I slammed against the hard mats.
The air left my lungs for just a second and I sucked in a renewing breath before I lifted an arm to wave off the waiting medic. Tingles spread through my body before slowly fading away. A few laywer heads raised but quickly bent back down into their iPads and smartphones.
They don’t worry much because I, Alison Arroway, do not get hurt. It’s one of the rules.
I’m the stunt double for Pomegranate Posy. Normally you can’t even be a stunt double until you’re 18 but my dad’s history with the studio managed to get me a “limited contract” with Pom.
I can’t do the really serious stuff like hang from real cliffs, but Pom wouldn’t even fall backwards onto mats so the studio really had no choice but to hire me, a perfect match in both build and skin tone. Pom’s a goldmine, they’d be nuts to just fire her. She can just look at something in a shop window and it’s sold out in an hour.
But I really can’t complain. I just need to stick it out until I’m eighteen and then with Pom on my resume I’ll be sure to get lots of job offers.
When the director called, “Action!” again, Eric rode in on a white horse, his logo-clad armor shining in the bright lights of the studio. The horse didn’t seem to like the feel of the fake cliff under his hooves. It’s eyes reminded me of that dramatic gopher video everyone and their dog saw on YouTube a few years back.
It didn’t really matter anyway, as soon as Eric jumped off the horse and wrapped his arms around Pom, pulling her up from where she lay atop the cliff above me. A trainer crept beside the horse and led it away. That horse probably got paid as much as I did today.
“Oh Mikaehl, I was so scared! I wished and hoped for you and now here you are!”
“My dear Princessa! Have no fear! We are together now and you never have to worry again.” He pulled the can of Armor from his pocket, popped the tab, and took a long drink. He looked up at the center camera and flashed his signature lopsided smile with a cheesy wink.
All eyes in the studio focused on Eric and Pom’s faces as they leaned in for the kiss.
I couldn’t look. Pom and Eric have about as much chemistry in this commercial as their last film, Zero to Hero. At least that one had an amazing sword fighting scene. I got to take three weeks of fencing lessons. Pom was adamant that no “knives” would come anywhere near her long strawberry blond hair.
I gripped my copycat braided wig and pulled it from my head. I watched the people around us, the men behind the cameras and holding boom mics, the makeup people waiting with palates for touch ups, the caterers wistfully looking in Eric’s direction and wishing they were in Pom’s shoes.
“And, CUT!” The director yelled. He rushed over to Pom and Eric and gushed about how well the scene turned out, how he could really feel the passion behind their words, how Pom really seemed to have struggled and how her sense of relief at being rescued by Eric was felt throughout the entire studio lot.
Pom pushed Eric away with a long and slender arm. “God, your breath stinks.” No less than five crewmembers thrust out their tins of mints.
I stuffed my face into the wig and tried not to laugh too noticeably.
No one seemed to care that Princessa saved herself there, that all that grunting and pulling I did meant that the princess didn’t really need the prince to save the day after all. If he hadn’t shown up, she could have walked into the sunset on her own like a bad-ass. She deserves the energy drink, not him.
Swarms of people gathered around Pom, dabbed her with swabs, and handed her soft damp cloths and bottled water as the makeup and wardrobe teams did their best to clear off the dirt she picked up.
Most moviegoers don’t like to see dirty heroines. Dirty was my job.
As I gathered up my things I glimpsed the plane ticket for Portugal between a list of things to pack and a list of rules while there about what is and what is not acceptable to talk about to the press. Pom’s next movie was scheduled to film in Portugal for two weeks and every time I saw my ticket my heart sped up a little. I pulled it out and scanned its face, seeing my name and the date. Less than twenty-four hours and I’ll be spending two weeks in sunny Portugal. I might even get a day or two off to go sightseeing.