Dry Mouth / Cattleskin (M-Reshape)
A story about an actor who can only watch.
The actor woke up to his assistant calling him. “They need you in Makeup FX today. They need to make you a new head for the scene where your father’s head blows up.”
The actor rolled over in bed, groaned. “Good morning to you, too.”
“There will be a car to pick you up in thirty minutes. Will you be ready?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. Getting up, he knocked over an empty bottle on the side table. It rolled off and smashed on the floor.
The studio smelled like glue and sawdust and synthetics but was full of lights and mirrors. There was a severed head on a shelf, skin gray drizzle, sickly, cold, tongue stuck out flaccid between bloated lips, slick of stringy black hair like dead roots. Neck stump hidden, buried under slumped fat. Eyes open, staring. The actor had been led to, seated in a makeup chair directly on the other side of the room, then left alone. He sat there. He couldn’t help but stare while he waited. It looked like it was supposed to be a woman’s head but he couldn’t be sure. He sat there and waited. There was the sound of a power saw somewhere.
Three guys with ponytails came out from somewhere behind and gathered around him. They were all skinny.
“Okay, we’re going to get started now,” said the one wearing an Impetigo shirt under his flannel.
“Great,” said the actor.
They tied a smock around his neck and fit a thin plastic tube in his mouth. They started applying slabs of white paste to his face and head. He closed his eyes, fixed his lips shut, set his teeth inside his mouth. The paste was thick, heavy, spread slow across his skin, down the back of his neck. It was incredibly cold, like a congealed snowdrift.
“Try not to breathe in too much,” said the guy standing behind him.
The actor realized he was biting down on his tongue unconsciously. He tried to relax. The guys kept working on him. They said things to each other occasionally, things like “… Over here … Got it … Whoa … Nice … Okay ….” He let it recede into the background. The paste slipped over his ears in slow drooping waves and blunted his hearing. The dim impression of light beyond his eyelids was covered over, disappeared. Eventually, he could feel everything was buried under the paste. He sat in quiet darkness while they continued worked over him. They worked over him for a long time. All he could hear was his breathing. It was loud inside his skull.
As if from somewhere distant and far off, he heard one of the guys say: “Okay, now just sit there for 40 or 50 minutes while it hardens.”
The actor listened to his breathing. Nothing else to do. He had to breath through his mouth. His nostrils were completely covered. Earlier, he had pulled some of the paste up into them by accident, forgetting what was happening and trying to breathe normally. He wasn’t sure what would happen if it got in his sinuses, in his throat. The guys hadn’t said anything about that. He felt ragged. He had a headache. The paste clung to his skin like a second skin.
In the darkness, he sees a woman.