Elimination Night - By Anonymous


“LOOK AT ME, Bill,” said Len.

I looked.

“Now, tell me what you see.”

I had no idea where he was going with this. I didn’t really want to know, to be honest with you.

“I see… your face,” I said.

“And tell me, Bill,” Len went on, “is my face betraying any sign, any hint—any indication whatsoever—that I might actually care about the logistical difficulty of performing the task I delegated to you? Is my face telling you that, Bill? Is that what you see?”

“No,” I sighed.

“Good. Now, please give the judges the run-through. And chop-bloody-chop. We’re on in ten.”

With that, Leonard Braithwaite—Supervising Producer of the Most-Watched Television Show on Earth—twirled on his heels like the backup dancer he used to be, and took his ridiculous English accent and even more ridiculous suit over to the other side of the room. Clotted cream and baby blue, that was today’s color scheme—with pinstripes so wide they could have been rolled onto his pants by one of those lawn painting machines they have at Wimbledon.

Len is an asshole, in case you haven’t figured that out already. I would go so far as to say that he’s an asshole’s asshole, such is his lifelong dedication to the craft of assholeness. Len also couldn’t exist anywhere outside of reality TV. Take that faux bronze wet-look man-perm: “The Merm,” as it’s known here backstage. In the non-TV universe, such a hairstyle would be nearing the outer limits of credibility if its owner were merely approaching middle age. As it is, Len can’t be a day under seventy-five. It’s the teeth that give it away: an unnatural shade of white, with the lumpy, thick-grained texture of medieval church cabinetry.

I stared at the clipboard in my hand, as if that might somehow make the next ten minutes of my life any easier. Attached was the run-through Len had just mentioned: a twelve-page script for the eleven o’clock press conference, which would take place in the auditorium downstairs and would be streamed live on the Internet to a worldwide audience of two hundred million people (or so the Rabbit network was optimistically claiming). If you believed ShowBiz magazine—the holy text of industry gossip that lands on every desk in Hollywood once a week—an entire billion-dollar-a-year franchise depended on our not screwing this up. As, therefore, did all our jobs. So it was strange that Len wanted to put me in charge of the run-through. It wasn’t unusual for him to over-delegate, of course: He did it all the time, usually so he could take one of his five-hour lunch breaks at Mr. Chang’s. But today was different.

Today mattered.

I tried to calm myself. What was it my old meditation tutor used to say? “Imagine yourself as a majestic mountain.” I closed my eyes and pictured Everest, but my inner mountain wasn’t cooperating. Besides, when I first moved to LA, I promised myself I’d never turn into the kind of person who would say “imagine yourself as a majestic mountain” unless in mockery. So instead I just stood there, watching as four crew guys carried a vast airbrushed banner—in colors that looked suspiciously like the branding of a certain global hamburger chain—through the pre-show lounge area. “PROJECT ICON: THE DREAM REAWAKENS! ” it read.

Len had told me to fire the sign writer weeks ago. I had yet to find the right moment.

“Nine minutes until we’re on!” a voice behind me yelled.

I had to do the run-through. If only I hadn’t left my jar of little green pills in the bathroom cabinet at home. How else was I going to find the courage to address a room full of celebrities? Unless… unless I did what I’d been fantasizing about since my very first day at Project Icon, and quit. It wasn’t like I owed anyone here anything. I could just walk out, right now. I’d be at the baggage carousel at Honolulu International before dinner. Then a fifteen-minute taxi ride to Waikiki Beach, and then—oh, yes!—one of my sweet, handsome Brock’s frontal lobotomy mai tais, served under the hundred-year-old kiawe tree in the bar of the Huakuwali Hotel to the romantic, albeit slightly cheesy rhythm of hula music.

Only that wasn’t the plan.

No, the plan was to keep working, keep saving, until I had enough in the bank to leave this place and never come back.

Only then could I get on that plane.

So my name isn’t actually Bill, just FYI. It’s Sasha. Bill was—sorry, is—the name of my immediate boss, Bill Redmond, whose duties as assistant producer