“It’s a travesty about the studio’s other actors going AWOL, Herr Wilhelm, but to now have the opportunity to work under Babelsburg’s best director is just… well…” The tarmac under Joachim’s clunking boots softened to grass. “I’m just such a huge fan of yours. Der Kinderclown. Liebesnarren in München. Komödien und Tragödien. The wit. The humour.” The grass gave way to mulch. “I couldn’t agree less with those dumbfounded critics who say that you’re losing your edge. You’re a master, Herr Wilhelm. A visionary. A Deutscher Filmpreis must be imminent. I’d put my life on it.”
Behind him, the ageing director coughed. “Fingers crossed, Jürgen.”
“It’s Joachim, Herr Wilhelm.”
“Quite so.” The mulch turned into mud. “Um… Herr Wilhelm?”
“What is it?”
“May I just… query something?”
“Well, it’s a bit of an awkward question, really, but… I… well… I… it’s that… you see… I––”
“Just spit it out, man!”
“Well, why am I blindfolded, Herr Wilhelm? It’s just, you didn’t tell me earlier when you put it on me, and now I’m somewhat confu––”
“Oh, Jacob, there’s no need to fret.”
“Fretting, Herr Wilhelm? No. Certainly not. Of course.” A pause. “Also, while we’re on the subject, where are we going exactly? As, again, you didn’t say back at the studios, and I’ve got duties later, you see, and so I was wondering if it would not be too much bother for us to––”
The director’s guiding hand strengthened its grip on the young actor’s shoulder. “Stop worrying, my dear boy. It’s all under control. Come now. This way.”
After many stops, starts and stumbles over tree roots, Joachim’s blindfold slipped as they arrived in the shadows of a woodland clearing. Within the clearing, Joachim noted a shovel and a very large pile of soil. Next to that, a very deep hole.
“So, Herr Wilhelm,” he mumbled as the director forced him to the hole’s precipice. “Is this new picture also a comedy? As the title, Das Schrei, suggests that maybe––” Pained murmurs rose from the darkness below. Peering down, panic punched Joachim in the gut. “What’s that down… oh, god… is that… are those…”
“Failed attempts, Johan.” Herr Wilhelm plucked a portable voice recorder from his pocket. “But you shall be different. I can tell.”
Eyes blazing, he shoved Joachim hard in the back.
At last, he had found it.
Originally from the West Country, Tom now lives and works in East London. In 2019, he reached the final of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge.