“Why don’t you get a job? It’s not as if you have anything better to do.”
“Sheesh Mom it’s literally the first day of summer break…”
“I’m just saying, make yourself useful. It’s not going to kill you.”
Rayne starting scanning Craigslist for any short term job listings. She figured she could find something short term near her neighbourhood just to get Mom off her back. Some pocket money would be nice too.
“Babysitter….shop assistant… waitress…..script enforcer.. what in the world is a script enforcer?!”
She read on.
” URGENT: Looking for stand-in Script Enforcer
We are a travelling theatre troupe looking for a Script Enforcer to ensure everyone keeps to their role and lines. Our current Enforcer has fallen ill and we need one for our performance tomorrow evening. Please reach out if interested, pay negotiable.
No prior experience needed, bring an open mind and can-do attitude”
“Well that’s me, can-do attitude.”
She tried Googling ‘Script Enforcer’ but did not find anything beyond some weird short story in an obscure blog. Rayne reasoned it was probably an internal job title. She called.
“Hey hi I’m Rayne, calling about the uh script enforcer role?”
“Hello! This is Alex, glad to hear of your interest. Listen, I can’t talk right now but if you want to drop by the park we are at Lincoln’s field beside the playground, that’s where we are setting up for tonight. We can talk then?”
“Cool – I’ll be there in 30.”
“Great see you.”
Rayne turned up at Lincoln’s field and made her way to the tents where a few men were setting up the stage for the performance this weekend. Everyone looked exceptionally happy for some reason. She heard murmurs of the ‘old bastard falling sick’. She found Alex sitting at a table in the biggest tent, wearing a charcoal grey three piece suit. It was clear he was the manager.
“Hi I’m Rayne, I called earlier?”
Alex turned, and smiled while beckoning her to the seat across. She sat down.
“Alex here, good to meet you. Look this is fairly straight forward, basically Dylan’s out of action due to a bad stomach and I need someone to fill in. Tell me, are you comfortable with hurting people?”
Rayne was taken aback. She had never hurt anyone in her life, other than that one time where she slammed the door into Mom’s face by accident.
“You heard me right. It’s not as bad as it sounds. All you got to do is press a button whenever someone messes during rehearsal and they will get a little reminder that’s all. The pay is 500 an hour, for four hours tonight.”
Two thousand dollars were a lot of money for a student like Rayne. It sounded too good to be true, but she had been wanting a new bicycle for a while now…
She accepted. Alex passed her a phone that was running just one app. The only interactive item on the screen was a red button. She was told to press the button whenever anyone forgot their lines or if Alex thought the performance was not good enough.
“What happens when I press the button?”
Alex flashed his smile again.
“As I said, they get a little reminder. Nothing serious, sure it hurts a little but no harm done. You see all my actors are hooked up with something that triggers their nervous system when you press that red button. They feel it but there’s no real damage. Science and all.”
Rayne did not like what she heard, but she was already there and that new bicycle looked amazing in red. After all, he did say there was no real damage…
Rehearsal time came.
Rayne watched on nervously beside Alex. They were seated right in front of the stage.
Then, the moment came.
One of the actresses forgot her lines. She was debating the benefits of orange juice on stage and stuttered for a split moment.
“This is when you press the button darling.”
She could feel Alex’s eyes on her. In fact, all eyes were on her. Rayne’s mind was blank. Her hands turned clammy. She closed her eyes and pressed the button. She tapped it ever so lightly, almost wishing that would lessen the pain.
Silence. The actress winced, and apologised. The rehearsal continued. Rayne was breathing again.
“That was easier than I thought”
As the rehearsal went by, Rayne grew more and more into her role. She began making decisions on her own, pressing the button whenever she felt there could be improvements. The movements were stiff, emotions were lacking, the dialogue was flat. All reasons to press the button.
Rayne had never felt such control over others. It was almost…liberating.
The rehearsal ended.
“Looks like you’re a natural.”
Alex paused, then continued.
“I have to confess – this isn’t a stand-in ….but an audition. And you passed. Do you want the job?”
If Rayne was surprised, she did not show it. She agreed on the spot, intoxicated from how powerful she felt during the rehearsal.
“Welcome, I will have the contract drawn up. Oh one last thing before it’s official…”
He led her to a much smaller tent. Behind the flap was an old man, bounded and gagged. He stared straight at the two of them. Nothing but fear in his eyes.
“This is old Dylan here. He was getting uncomfortable with the job, said it didn’t feel right after all these years. Well, we can’t have old Dylan spreading rumours about our quality control methods, can we?”
“I suppose not.”
Alex smiled. He took out a phone, pressed something on the screen, and kept it.
“Now, if you really want this job – press the red button.”
Rayne pressed it. Dylan howled. He could not scream, but his howl was almost primal and definitely painful. She jumped. With or without real damage, Dylan was suffering.
“Don’t stop now darling. There can only be one script enforcer in our little team.”
Rayned paused for a second.
Then she pressed, and she pressed, and she kept pressing…..
Thanks for reading. I sat on this piece for 2 months, largely due to things happening in my personal life and I not knowing what to write.
Pushed through tonight after a long day at work. I guess Rayne’s development was to reflect my belief that many people are just a nudge away from a slippery slope.
Let me know what you think