The Carrot of Doom Presents...
The Camera Club
Snapped by Adam J Purcell
"... and what was it like working with him, there have been numerous rumours of conflicts during the production. They say he was especially resentful of working alongside the two of you, real life husband and wife?"
"Well, Pritchard, as I'm sure you and Julie have experienced from time to time, there is sometimes resentment that a couple such as us, " the male interviewee, George Stronman, looked at the woman he was sharing a soft sofa with, "can work together as well on screen as off!"
"That's right, honey!" the female interviewee, Emilia Vickson, continued her husband's train of thought. "I think it is sad that such a respected actor as Bill should behave as he did during the making of the film. We can only hope the Box Office recognises all the hard work we put into ignoring him."
The two interviewers, themselves a famous daytime TV couple, paused to laugh politely. The oddly nervous looking interviewer, Julie Hannigan, decided to let her now highly honed journalistic skills come to the fore. "So is it true that Bill won't let anyone see him without his wig?"
There was an even more strained laugh from the other three, with an amazing grimace from Pritchard Headley. "That's very funny, " he said very unconvincingly, "but let's move on to what the two of you have planned next."
George took up the question, "Well, of course, we have a lot more promotion to do for Star Critters and then Emilia's got a soap commercial to do and then straight into another film."
On cue Emilia took over, "George has a mini series planned and he's going to be in a computer game!"
"Are they going to 'scan you in'?" Julie piped up, clearly not understanding a thing about the subject.
"No, nothing so complicated from what I've been told!", George answered, "Apparently it's what they call 'FMV', it's just their way of saying I'm going to talk into a camera."
"That's how we like it, don't we dear?" Emilia added.
"Sounds very exciting anyway - we'll be sure to look out for it..." Pritchard said distractedly, trying to figure out what the director of the live TV programme was trying to say to him. "It looks like that's all we have time for today, no, wait - it's the weather now - oh, no, my mistake that was earlier - now... yes. Now we - that's all for today, please tune in again tomorrow where we will be looking at..." he said totally failing to read his auto-cue as he refused to believe he needed glasses.
Julie took over - reading preprepared text was her speciality, "Tomorrow we'll be talking with acclaimed comedian William Hague, our Chef extraordinaire Pierre will be showing you how to make toast and we'll be discussing genital warts in our phone-in. Have a good afternoon! Bye!"
They four of them waved enthusiastically at the back peddling camera and then proceeded to pretend to have a lively conversation as the music played out.
The red light on the front on the camera flicked off and the director called out, "That's all folks!" in his usual bad Loony Toons impersonation. The four in front of the cameras slumped in their chairs, suddenly almost comatose. "Get these good people some coffee!" the director shouted out.
One of the production crew rushed forward with a tray of coffees, a bit late off the mark, normally they would be waiting off camera with the drinks as the music finished. The steaming mugs were handed out to the both the presenters and the interviewed actors. The four of them sat there in silence as they drank their beverages, barely aware of them or their surroundings.
A little while later a large black car pulled up outside an exclusive restaurant a few miles away from the studio, right in the heart of London. Paparazzi flash guns began to fire as the doors to the vehicles opened revealing the actors Emilia Vickson and George Stronman, then came the two daytime TV presenters known nationally as Pritchard and Julie.
As the cameras caught glimpses of the foursome and the shutters began clicking each of them perked up. "It's very good of you both to take us out for lunch like this!" Emilia enthused at Julie.
"It's our pleasure. Though, I must apologise for this media frenzy - we have no idea how they found out about this..." Julie replied and the four of them laughed photogenically.
Lapping up the attention the four made their way very slowly across the narrow pavement to the restaurant, the doors held open by a pair of employees waiting to usher their famous patrons into safety. Those patrons, however, didn't appear to be in a hurry. After only a few paces they would stop again to impart some apparently hilarious anecdote. Just as they reached the door, and the photographers appeared to begin to lose interest, Pritchard suddenly turned around and began regaling the actors with the history of the surrounding area. They all began pointing about the place like crazed catalogue posers. The photographers began furiously clicking away again.
Again the photographers tired and began to pack away their equipment. As each did so their quarry began to noticeably calm down but that was exactly what always happened, except perhaps with the youngest of celebrities who often had a bit more energy and continued their excitement that bit longer.
Just as the last of the cameras stopped clicking, Julie had one final, last ditch, idea to get their attention again. She pulled her top down tightly and bounced up and down. The photographers and the other three of her party looked at her pityingly.
"It worked at that awards show..." Julie said forlornly, failing to get her desired outcome.
"You had a low cut dress on that night - not a woolly jumper..." Pritchard explained to her slowly. Slowly mainly because he was suddenly feeling quite fatigued himself, as he so often did these days, but even if he wasn't the tone would have been much the same.
The maître d' rushed out of the restaurant, ordering his two underlings to his side with a gesture, and invited the four celebrities in - it wouldn't do to have them accosted on the street outside his restaurant. The customers accepted his hint and preceded him inside.
"I have an excellent table for you, if you will please follow me." the maître d' said in a fake French accent. Emilia saw where he was looking but that table didn't suit her at all.
"No - we'll have that table over there, by the window." Emilia declared, mustering all her flagging willpower to give the statement the edge it needed.
"If you wish madam, I cannot guarantee your privacy there of course."
"That's fine." George said disinterestedly.
After rearranging the chairs and settings so the two ladies faced out the window and the men sat at the sides of the table, side on to the window rather than back to it, they got to ordering.
"Drinks ladies and gentlemen?" the maître d' asked, handing out a leather-bound menu.
"Bring your best red and white, two bottles of each." Pritchard said without looking at the choices.
"Make that four bottles each and two more glasses for me." Julie said routinely.
"Er, she likes to, er, have them lined up - saves time, er..." Pritchard failed to cover feebly.
"As you wish, sir, madam." the maître d' said nodding to his assistant, who scurried off to fulfil the order.
"Do you have a lighter and some foil?" George asked in a sleepy drone before getting jabbed in the ribs by Emilia. "Oh, er, no - forget that, I'm alright for foil these days..."
"Hey look - paparazzi!" Emilia chimed up, pointing out of the window at the two late arrivals who were now taking pictures of them through the glass. The celebrities became very animated, now with lively conversation, all smiles and laughs - in stark contrast to the drained look a few moments before.
"Do you think they can see up my skirt - I'm not wearing any knickers!" Julie exclaimed, pointing down to below the table where she was now parting her legs before the photographers.
"Ooh! I can do that too!" Emilia said, awkwardly reaching down below the table. After a brief struggle she brandished a small frilly black garment which she began twirling around her finger above her head.
The maître d' covered his face in despair.
Stark whiteness filled the small room. The four celebrities sat on the two benches, in full view of the fish eye camera up in the corner. It was the Police Stations finest cell and many a famous face had, for one reason or another, felt its hospitality.
"Do you think we will be in all the papers?" Julie asked the other three culprits.
"I'm sure we will - the four of us, how could we not be?" George said in a self-satisfied way.
"We should do something else - something better!" Emilia almost squealed at delight with her bright idea.
"Like what? Rob a bank?!" Pritchard joked.
"That's not such a bad idea!" George laughed. "Hey, didn't I hear you had a run in, George - like Emilia?"
"Not quite the same, honey - Pritchard claimed he'd simply forgotten to pay for the full trolley he'd just pushed past the tills..." Emilia said quickly.
"Unlike you - claiming you were rehearsing for a new screen role!" Julie said to Emilia. "I wish I had thought of that - what incredible publicity!"
"Even better than getting blotto and throwing up over the people's Prime Minister at a No. 10 party, Julie!" Pritchard said to put his wife down, as he so liked to.
"Do you think we could get away with it again?" George asked. "Emilia and I can claim to be researching a new role - hey, we don't need any paltry amount we would actually get from a robbery, after all. You two, though - how can we figure you into this - you're not actors."
"Erm, we just happened to be there and decided to join in!" Julie suggested. The others chose to ignore her.
"What about we were along to do an exposé on how you get into the heads of your chosen characters?" Pritchard pitched.
"That's as believable as our side of the story would be!" Emilia said excitedly. Finally a decent plan for a bit of air-time. "Anyway, it's got to be better than constantly signing ourselves into various clinics - nobody takes any notice of that anymore."
"They don't work anyway." Julie said despondently.
"Why didn't we choose a decent town? This one doesn't even have cctv..." Emilia said rather blandly as the four of them walked zombie-like up the High Street in the direction of the branch of Bradleys Bank.
At first nobody took any notice of them as they wandered through the large open double doors into the bank. Despite their famous faces their complete lack of presence meant the dozen or so people inside barely even saw them. That quickly changed.
"Isn't that Pritchard and Julie?" one of the customers whispered to her friend.
"Yes - and look - that's Emilia Vickson" the friend whispered back before noticing the fourth celebrity, "and George Stronman!"
Bypassing the short queue the celebrities strutted up to the closest of the three open positions. Both Pritchard and Julie were more looking up at the obvious security cameras than where they were going. By now everyone had stopped what they were doing to watch the famous foursome.
The customer being served was just finishing, retrieving his bank book from the odd little security hatch. He jumped slightly when he noticed he was surrounded.
"Would you like my autograph?" Julie asked him.
He looked at her suspiciously and shook his head, trying to back away from her. What dreadful perfume, he thought, she smells like a wino! He shuffled away as quickly as he could.
"Er, can I help you?" the lady behind the thick glass asked the group before her.
"We're here to rob you." George stated, somewhat over-acting it.
"It's true." Emilia said, not liking being laughed at.
"You four are going to rob this bank - and wearing that?!" the cashier continued her little laugh.
"Hey, I look very sharp in this - a Hi There magazine poll said so!" Pritchard corrected her as he looked down at his tuxedo. All four of them were wearing expensive formal evening clothes.
"You didn't expect us to wear stockings over our faces did you? It would smear my make-up." Julie declared.
"And ruin my hair." Pritchard added, unable to stop himself brushing it slightly with his fingers as he mentioned it.
"Just give us all the money you've got, we haven't got all day." George ordered the cashier. He looked at Emilia, clearly expecting her to do something, she was looking up at the closest camera. "Emilia..."
"Hmm? Oh - sorry, dear." Emilia pulled out a rather fake looking prop hand gun that they had stolen off the set of their latest film.
A distinctly theatrical gasp went around the bank as the staff and customers, all fixated on the celebrities, saw the weapon. It looked fairly realistic from a distance, if a bit futuristic.
"Give us all your money!" Emilia demanded aggressively, feeling suddenly empowered by the prop.
"Oh, fine, if that's really what you want." the cashier said and pressed a hidden button under her side of the counter. Heavy metal shutters slammed down, completely hiding the bank staff.
"You forgot to give us the money!" Julie shouted, banging on the solid shutters.
"We didn't do this for the money, Julie." George whispered.
"On the floor!" Emilia threatened the customers by waving the hand gun about wildly.
"What now?" Pritchard asked George.
"Time to go. Did you sort out the get-away car?" George replied.
"Julie?" Pritchard deferred.
"Yes - I put it around the corner last night."
"Okay, let's get out of here then." George ordered.
"That's it?" Emilia asked, the Police sirens rapidly approaching.
"Well, I'm banned from driving and I'm no good at hot-wiring..." Julie said, the buzz of being in the bank quickly dissolving into fatigue, as it was with all four of them.
"I'll, er, drive..." George said, his eyes starting to glaze over.
George and Emilia eased themselves into the front of the electric powered milk float, with Pritchard and Julie climbing into the empty open back.
Pushing the pathetic get-away vehicle to the top speed of 25 mph, George ignored traffic lights and took bends at full tilt. They were all beginning to wonder if it wouldn't be quicker to get out and walk.
The Police cars quickly located them and soon there was a large number of them 'chasing' the milk float robbers.
Within minutes a helicopter was following above them, one of the crew was zooming in on them with a video camera, to catch the evidence.
Julie perked up first. "Hey, this is just like that OJ chase! I should have left my knickers there, lost some weight and then 'proved' it couldn't have been me as they wouldn't stay up! The knickers don't fit!!"
"What is it with her?" George called back to Pritchard.
"She was always a bit, er, strange!" Pritchard replied.
"Look out - stingers!" Emilia shouted as a small group of Police deployed a stinger spike system across the road before them.
"It's too late!" George cried as the not-so-speeding milk float ran over the device.
With a double bump the vehicle slowed as the tires were punctured.
"Come on! Come on!" George coaxed their get-away car that was losing speed at an alarming rate.
"Out of the, er, milk float!" called an armed response policeman as he walked along to keep pace with the criminals.
They slowed to a stop. Emilia waved the prop hand gun at the crowd of armed police that were now surrounding them. None of the expert marksmen were fooled for a second into believing it was a real weapon.
Julie looked up at the helicopter and shook her fist at the camera.
"Please ignore the cameras, as you can probably sense they are not on. Please sit down. I'm Dr. Powell, by the way." the psychiatrist introduced himself to his four new patients as they ambled in, escorted by two brutal looking porters.
"I assume these people haven't been drugged?" Powell asked the porters.
"No, sir, they didn't need it, they were like this when they arrived."
"Docile, vacant - they must be celebrities." Powell observed.
"Er, yes, sir - you must have seen them on TV? Oh, here's their paperwork..." one of the porters said, pulling out a slim brown folder from his pocket, that had been folded into a quarter of the original size. Powell took it, gave a disapproving look to the porter and attempted to unfold and flatten it out on his desk.
"I can handle it from here - make sure we are not disturbed." Powell dismissed the porters.
As the door closed Powell looked across his desk to the four chairs opposite and the four celebrities. "I don't need to see these files. I know why you are here. I've seen this all before. Tell me your names." Powell said.
"George Stronman." George stated flatly. Powell's eyes moved to the next chair across.
"Emilia Vickson." came the next bland reply. Powell moved on again.
"You think you need, have a real physical need, for attention, publicity. Is that right?" Powell asked.
The four of them nodded in agreement.
"Why is that, do you think?" Powell questioned.
They all looked at him blankly.
"No, I didn't expect you to know. I'm sure you've heard the theory that every time your photo is taken part of your soul is captured - taken away from you."
They all looked at him blankly.
"What if I were to tell you that is true? What if it were not limited to photos but any device that captures your image - such as a movie film camera or video camera?"
They all looked at him blankly.
"What if I went further and suggested that those bits of your soul were not being captured by the devices themselves but rather the devices acted as portals to another, what would you call it? Realm?"
"That's why we feel so drained after we do a recording?" George managed to say, despite the fog that pervaded his mind.
"Yes, that is it exactly. But there is more. What if I told you these devices also allowed the captured fragments to 'shine' out onto you whilst your image is being taken? Imagine all those billions of fragments that people have lost to this. Imagine feeling even the slightest amount of that shone onto you, temporally filling the voids left in your soul. It is addictive. Better than any drug. Better than anything else for those of you who have so little left."
They all looked at him, subtle realisation creeping into their much eroded souls.
"The more you do it, the more you lose - the more your husk wants to be in front of a camera. This is why celebrities so crave the lime light and why you become increasingly dysfunctional over time."
"What can we do?" Pritchard asked, now beginning to understand why the world was becoming increasingly colourless and two dimensional whenever he was away from a recording video camera.
"You all have little left, I'm afraid." Powell declared solemnly. "I give you each a choice. You can leave here on the condition that you never have your picture taken by any type of camera again - become recluses. Or I can put these cameras on..." Powell indicated around his office.
The four celebrities looked around and noticed a great deal of cameras, of all different types. A multitude of web-cams, digital cameras, chemical film cameras, video cameras and even one or two big reel movie cameras.
"Your choice." Powell prompted as the now slow witted foursome looked about the office.
Julie was the first to move. She almost jumped out of her seat and scurried towards the biggest camera and posed before it expectantly.
"Of course, some people have less soul to begin with..." Powell commented.
The other three stood up and each selected a camera. Whatever might happen to them, it didn't matter. They needed to be in front of a camera.
"If you are sure..." Powell said without a hint of sadness or regret. He opened the top drawer in his desk and picked up a small remote control device. "Three, two, one..." he counted down slowly and then pressed the solitary button.
The room came to life. All the cameras began recording or clicking away with their shutters. The four celebrities felt themselves return to full alertness, as if waking from a troubled sleep.
"If what you say is true - how come you are risking yourself by still being here, Dr. Powell?" George asked.
"I am a, er, special case, Mr. Stronman. I am not like you."
"What do you mean?" Pritchard asked Powell.
"Think of me - think of me as your guardian angel!" Powell laughed, clearly amused by what must be a private joke.
The four of them lapped up the attention of the cameras. They looked into the lenses. And the lenses did look back. Larger and larger, more and more important the lenses became. They began to fill the world, everything else appeared to shrink away around them. Each and every camera around the room began to close in on them. Nothing was left but the imaging devices. The celebrities could each feel themselves pulled from every direction as each camera tried to draw them in. They could feel bits of themselves torn off and pulled away. With mind wrenching power they could sense the fleeting remains of their souls shredded and drawn into the black holes. For the briefest of moments they could see back out of the various lenses into Dr. Powell's office. Was that their bodies slumping to the ground? The final tatters of their souls were ripped from those bodies, consumed into the ethereal realm, dissolved into the shattered remains of every other soul particle to suffer the same fate, never again to be whole. Drifting in eternity with only the occasional glimpse of freak lucidity to torture and sustain them.