"Come on, folks, let’s get some footage rolling!” Diana waved at the cameramen, who rolled their eyes, but started shooting. “Try to get interesting angles—this is to cut into the final video. She wondered again why she’d agreed to this. She hated Christmas, hated its commercialization, hated its ubiquity, hated the fact that one started to see Christmas decor before Halloween. Yet here she was, on Halloween morning, directing a video full of cliché Christmas stuff. But this was the only time she could book the space for two days running and still have the video ready to release on time.
And Mhairi, the lead singer, wanted the song out this year, as a memorial for a childhood friend, who’d been lost to a gang drive-by in August. This would be the first year since high school that he didn’t dress up as Santa to give out toys to needy kids. She wanted to release the video on his birthday, November 29. Diana couldn’t argue with that.
Mhairi was standing there in a worn coat open enough to show cleavage and a Peace On Earth t-shirt. Her hat and scarf were fetchingly placed. She held her electric guitar held absent-mindedly in fingerless gloves, talking to one of the backup singers, who was dressed as a police officer in a form-fitting uniform. The officer was just standing there.
Diane sighed. “Come on, Amy, take some notes about the crime while Mhairi talks. And Mhairi, stop talking about your Halloween costume, we might get some viewer who can read lips.”
Mhairi nodded, launched into one of her anti-crime tirades, and the “policewoman” brought up the tiny notebook, and her pen started moving.
More back-up singers shuffled around, taking pictures, taking notes, occasionally, with a camera focusing on them, picking up something from the stage and bagging it. In short, trying to look like crime-scene officers despite the obviously fake, very form-fitting uniforms.
Behind them is Patt, in torn blue-jeans and jeans jacket. Instead of a hat, Patt’s dyed her spiky hair red and green. Her drums have fake fronts, so they appear to be plastic, for verisimilitude. She had a metal frame beside her, with chimes, cymbals, and several different shakers. She was frowning as she shook some plastic Maracas. They sounded different than her real ones, but she had admitted she wouldn’t take the real ones into a snowstorm.
“Patt, can you look shocked instead of irritated?” Patt looked up, startled out of her reverie, and Mark caught her wide-eyed look. Diana smiled—digital was so much better, you could see if the cameraman got the shot. “Good, Mark, Patt.”
Honey, the bassist, is more into the spirit of things, clothes-wise—Santa cap and long, sparkly blue skirt. She’s managed to get some of the fake snow to dust the lower half of it, irregularly. T-shirt with an angel under a feathery white—well, Diana supposed it was a jacket. It looked more like extended angel wings for the t-shirt. However, she’s smiling.
“Honey, girl, you just saw a murder. And now the police aren’t letting you play, and you’re not getting any tips. What’s to smile about?”
“It’s going to be a great video!” Honey answered, but she snagged a backup singer, who got her notebook out. Somehow Honey suddenly looked haunted. She started pointing and waving toward the crime scene, retelling the scene they’d shot that morning. Hastily, Diana noted the time stamp for Honey’s mike—they might be able to actually use some of this. Honey could have a future as an actress, she thought.
When Diana thinks they have a sufficient surplus of footage of the undisturbed crime scene and the musicians in it, and Honey reaches a good pausing point in her storytelling, she nods. “All right, everyone, check your tuning. We’re going for the main event as soon as you’re ready.”
They shift a little, everyone looking intense. They can always lay a new sound track, but the video is being done on a shoestring budget; if they have to recreate the crime scene, it’s money out of the band’s mostly empty pockets. And the carefully-choreographed and rehearsed plan will mess it up. They have at most three takes before it’s unusable.
They fiddle and check their positions on the stage, then return to repeating the questioning. But this time is different. Now, there’s a rhythmic cackle of static, allegedly from the “police radios”. Patt tapped her drums nervously, in time to the static, and the bass player joined in.
The policeman talking to Mhairi flips a page on her notebook. “Let’s go over this one more time.”
The Mhairi strums loudly, and sings.
We were singing Merry Christmas
Wishing peace to everyone
The other two musicians joined in.
People shopping, having fun
When someone in a ski-mask
Came running through the crowd
And that laughing dime-store Santa
Started screaming really loud
Then Santa’s blood was falling
And he was weakly calling—Stop!
They just clean up after it’s done
All the pretty lights and glitter don’t mean a thing.
It’s what you do, what you say, even what you sing—
Are you the villain or the cop?
Mhairi skidded in the snow, into the fake blood—spoiling the crime scene, in the very first take. If this didn’t look good, there went any chance Diana might get to the Halloween party. She pushed a button, whispered into her mike, and Mark adjusted his lens for a closeup.
Or do you just clean it up?
The camera caught the lead singer, splashes of red blurring the word Peace on her t-shirt, blood and crime-scene tape on her guitar, but somehow not dimming the bright chords. The bass squealed behind her, and sparkly chimes played a demented “Jingle Bells”.
Diana lost track of the lyrics, redirecting the camera crew as Honey and the backup crew adjusted the choreography to surround Mhairi, on her knees in the center of the by the outline, somehow playing guitar and using it to point right at the heart of the image, without missing a beat. One of the cameramen managed to move smoothly to an angle where Patt was again in the background, and she whispered to Patt to look at him, as if looking out at the crowd.
The band finished. “Hold your places everyone. Let the cameras get a few more shots!”
Diana watched her monitors, made a few suggestions, then called for a break. She turned off the police lights and lined up some pieces of tape to watch again. She’d have them do the song again, telling the camera crew to aim high, get close-ups, avoid the mess on the floor. But she didn’t think she would need much from the second shoot.
As she watched the footage, the band and crew gathered around her, murmuring comments, indicating scenes they thought worked well.
As the band on the monitors got to the end of the last chorus, Mhairi looking plaintively up, spattered in fake blood and snow, everyone had hushed to silence.
Instead of cleaning up?
Honey nodded. “Yeah. Yeah.”
Mark added, “That will be one kick-ass video, if I do say so myself.”
Mhairi looked pensive. “Think it will change things?”
Honey patted her arm. “It’s not magic, it’s just music.”
Patt frowned. “Music changes how people think, which changes how they act. If they listen. And look at you there, covered in blood—I think this’ll get people listening.”
“I hope so.” Mhairi blinked, eyes shiny. “I’d like to think I can make a difference, anyway.”
This was why Diana had agreed to do this. Working with people who had a creative vision this powerful was worth it. Even though it meant looking at Christmas décor nearly all day on Halloween.
“Let’s do one more run-through of the song, for close-ups, and then clean up.” Diana smiled. She would be able to make the Halloween party after all.
This is an entry in Brigit's Flame's October mini-contest. The prompt words were Times Square, musician, and verisimilitude.
This is over 1000 words, but still still within some definitions of flash fiction, for #fridayflash purposes.
Sorry about the lack of a cut-tag--that screwed up the html somehow. Happy Halloween, everyone!