HOLLYWOOD ELITE • by Anamarija Slatinec

The Director yells “Cut!” on the sound stage and Security descends to escort the actors to their trailers — code for holding pens. The actors are fed genetically engineered food pellets to promote optimum weight, complexion and youthfulness. Exact amounts engineered by scientists paid by the government to keep quiet about what they do. If you refuse to eat them, your bodyguard force feeds you. If you eat too many, they pump your stomach. This is the Hollywood Elite, engineered for your entertainment.

The Hollywood Film Elite and big time Rock Gods are chosen at birth and raised to be stars. When it’s their time to be catapulted on the unsuspecting masses, the “Next Big Thing”, they are assigned their persona. In a space best described as a conference hall and at an event akin to a job fair, the future celebrities are gathered and assigned titles along with job specifications.

“Congratulations, you will be America’s Sweetheart. Take these pills; they will give you dimples and bright eyes. No drinking alcohol for you, though.”

“Felicitations, you will be the moody method actor. You will have great critical acclaim but must be unpredictable and intense at all times. You will drink a lot and rarely be coherent.”

“Greetings, greetings! You will be a pop star who parties too much and has a drug problem. This is cocaine and you will need to get used to taking it regularly.”

Hollywood Elite is just another term for prisoners, and the world is oblivious to it all. You know those talented actors found dead in their homes of drug overdoses? A bright star stolen too soon by a despicable habit? That’s not an accidental overdose. That is a politically engineered PR decision. That is punishment for anyone who thinks they can just quit the business, the electric fence zapping the lamb that strayed too far. You don’t quit unless they tell you that you’re done or unless it’s in a body bag; a pretty, perfectly engineered corpse.

I’m sitting in a bar in Downtown Los Angeles when a news story appears on the TV.

“Film star and Hollywood darling Allegra Myles will have her funeral held this afternoon at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It will be open to the public and press as Ms Myles had no living family to attend. The red-haired beauty was found dead last week after a tragic car accident took her life while on her way home to her Malibu beach house. It is believed that she had been drinking and missed a turn which led to her car plummeting 30 feet over a cliff and then bursting into flames. It was her bodyguard Tony Silvera, a veteran in the business who had been with Allegra since her breakout role in The Dancing Wolves, who found the wreckage. He explains that she had given him the afternoon off but when she didn’t come home that night he immediately feared the worst and went looking for her. Crowds have gathered at her Star on Hollywood Boulevard to leave flowers and mourn the leading lady.”

The bartender polishing glasses behind the large oak bar clicks his tongue and shakes his head.

“Goddamn shame. She was so young and talented. Seemed like a nice girl too.”

I nod in agreement. She was a nice girl. I take a long swig from my scotch and relish the burn from the amber liquid as it crawls down my chest. The bar smells musty, like stale beer and old cigarette smoke embedded into the walls from years of nicotine abuse.

I catch my reflection in the mirror behind the bar and flinch. I’m still not quite used to what’s staring back at me. Black hair, hacked off in a hurry. A broken nose set in a cast and dark bruises under both my eyes — a result of the nose job I gave myself by bashing my head against a wall until I blacked out. I notice the bartender staring at the bruises too.

“You need me to call anyone for you, sweetheart?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks. I have to get rid of that deadbeat boyfriend of mine.” I try a small smile and a ‘why else would I be drinking in a dingy bar in the middle of the day’ shrug. Trying to be unmemorable is difficult when your face looks like a bruised toenail, but even I don’t recognise my reflection. I finish the scotch and take out some crumpled notes to pay but he just shakes his head.

“On me.”

I mouth thank you, put my large sunglasses back on and step out onto La Cienga Boulevard. Tony is waiting for me in a black Lincoln in the alleyway behind the bar with a change of clothes. I don’t know what I would have done if Tony hadn’t staged that car wreck. I still don’t know where he got the body and I don’t want to know.

Someone once told me that hiding in plain sight is the best way to go unnoticed, and I have to get ready. I have a funeral to attend.

Anamarija Slatinec is an Australian writer living in Sydney. She spends most days reading, writing and making impassioned speeches about things nobody cares about. She has been referred to as “delightfully strange”, which she liked, and her father says her writing is wonderful, so it must be true. You can read some of her work at Pure Slush and Every Day Fiction among other places. You can find her online on Twitter @Ana_Slatinec and her blog Anaventures.

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