By Eric Farrell
“K? K? Is that you? Will someone, for god’s sake, get that damned thing working. Let’s get a move on.”
Frustration stemming from Josiah Clausewitz, standing a taut six feet tall at the end of a well-populated conference table. His impeccably tailored suit shimmers twinkling sapphire as his shoulder muscles tighten in anger.
The poor video connection out to one of the “at large” committee members teases a loss of face for Josiah. Each one of these people around the table represents an entity in on this investment. Any indication of poor planning could spell disaster for the project, that’s how tenuously held this meeting was. He locks eyes with several of those in physical attendance. Those piped in remotely from their little spaces eked out in the world stare meekly at whatever lifeless camera films them.
“Welcome,” Josiah begins, a dashing glitter blue shimmering across his suit as he shifts his poise. “This is the first meeting held for Zeitgeist Media, the new leading edge in advertising. I am thrilled to host the committee responsible for all decision making regarding our newest venture. I am also representing the subject of this groundbreaking business opportunity, Mrs. June Heather.”
June Heather struts steps into view with all the overconfidence of a 24-year old fledgling actress. She’s a product of Zeitgeist Media’s prized algorithm for finding the perfect advertising asset, selected during a particularly arduous casting call in the heat of some sweaty summer day. The perfect age to conceivably become successful, publicly flaunting her wealth with ham-fisted pomp and circumstance via social media. She’s dressed in a modest checkered pencil skirt whispering only a few naughty possibilities, Josiah’s choice. A blouse, that same shimmery iridescent material, a liquid silver silk with two top buttons diving into her cleavage. She smiles so genuinely, she’s so damn innocent, Josiah sighs, hating the inherent nature of casting some poor struggling actress for what Zeitgeist Media is about to do to her.
Four months later, here Josiah is, sweating the same steady stream of bullets through his undershirt. This meeting is a progress report, to begin quantifying the individual returns on each board member’s investments. Zeitgeist has already paid off the algorithm techs running Instagram. June Heather’s follower count, augmented by the click farms spanning south India, has hit two billion in just these short few months. This woman, played by the infallibly real June Heather, has becoming a major social media influence. Cue Jocelyn Reese, as wily and conniving as they come, fully recognizing the theoretical gains from advertising her makeup line through June Heather. Next to her, that ghoul from big pharma, working a diabolical slow burn on Heather June. They’re orchestrating her announcement through Instagram of having clinical depression. The script writers have perfected the timeline, down to when they jack the prices up on the antidepressants Heather so delicately supports down the line.
Heather smiles, she’s there to answer any questions her partners may have. That’s what she considers them, partners. That Jocelyn Reece, that big pharma ghoul hunched all slovenly beside her. K, once again connected via video, representing whatever online dating app Heather’s unknowingly going to endorse. All of them are building this social experiment together, orchestrating it, with Heather as the face.
Zeitgeist has researched a multitude of outside characters Heather June may conceivably run into in real life. Like Brandon Ogawa, that loud-mouthed loser that Heather legitimately went to high school with. He’s been set to match with Heather once she begins using the dating app, a move written in the script in the very near future.
She begins to feel herself becoming one with her character.
A year has gone by. Just like that; you can even go back and relate to each and every photo Heather June has lived through if you want. You’d see the first photo of her and Brandon Ogawa, a month into them dating. The sparkle in her eyes. How lucky could I be, she asks herself, figuring such an easy acting gig and legitimate soulmate a blessing. And the script she’s following, those captions to each post she’s copying and pasting from, it’s so uncanny to her how real it all rings true.
It explains everyone’s demeanor. Billed to naïve Heather June as a living social experiment, this gig felt so rooted in reality, it was as if the people around this table directly felt the strength of her acting prowess. It felt like art, all of it, even the conception of the baby in her stomach. Brandon Ogawa’s child.
Imagine all of this, and then imagine Josiah Clausewitz walking silently to the door to lock it.
“Heather,” he sighs, and right then and there Heather sees something she’d not previously seen the whole year working with him, just the greatest sheen of guilt gushing in his eyes.
“We’ve made some changes to the immediate script,” he begins, immediately gulping down that knot of pain in his throat. “due to the plummeting profits of some of our partners in this room, we… we are writing Brandon off.”
The glassy stare from a few committee members wonder if Heather June realizes what this means. Her silence indicates that perhaps she doesn’t.
“Zeitgeist Media has decided to kill Brandon. He will die in a car crash next Tuesday. Given the delicate circumstances… Zeitgeist has put a hold on your account. Any interference or breaking character will result in direct legal action. Heather…”
She builds the courage to blink her tears back enough to meet eyes with Josiah. He’s crying too, at the fucking hell of it all. He puts his hand over hers.
“Brandon is going to die. But you are going to live on.”