It was maybe three, four in the morning and we’d just wrapped. Everyone was breaking down the set, lights, cables, monitors, props. They did this quite rapidly in order to get a little sleep before the next shoot, a few hours away. Alone, I hurriedly stored all the remaining food and legal drugs — coffee, no-doze, ginseng, bear claws — sprawled across the craft services snack table, impatient to get on to the million other minor tasks I still had to do before I could sleep.
Someone from the shoot, an extra possibly — an old woman, I think — walked up to me and fell forward, dead. I alerted a couple of the larger grips and they carried her off. After the thousandth thing was put in its place, I zombie walked through the location, a weird resort complex ringed by our RVs, equipment trucks, and tents. From a grass-flattened field near the outer buildings, I heard someone moaning in the dark. I fumbled around and found an old guy, dying, having a heart attack. I tried to attract attention, but the thirty or so people who were still working or heading off to bed seemed indifferent to me.
I started CPR. I lifted the head, checked for breathing and pulse. I blew in the mouth once, then pressed on the chest and breathed into the mouth some more. I soon realized I had no idea what I was doing. I tried again to flag somebody down, but still no one paid any attention to me. I felt really bad, but couldn’t stop, despite the mistakes I knew I must be making. My hands and forearms grew numb with pain and cold. In an attempt to stem the nausea and retching, I had long since stopped looking at the body, even as I put my hands and lips on it.
After the generators switched off one by one, the only sounds came from my exertions and some distant chirping of crickets or frogs. I felt like I was falling through space towards earth, from hundreds of miles above. Then I was floating in a gray mist.
Eventually, people from the shoot started moving in the distance as a tentative dawn colored the sky. Alone, or in small groups talking softly among themselves, several emerged from nearby shadows. I was still tending to the old man’s body, but felt deeply shamed and did not meet their eyes. My body mechanically performed compressions, but my head was shunted to the side. The people milling nearby did not voice alarm or query at my actions. They would come near, bend over the body momentarily, then stand and walk away.
I looked down. In the dim light, I could not make out the figure, but I was sure it was there. Something was there, anyway. I gathered up the body in such a way that I could perform my CPR better. The flesh was cold and kind of gooey.
Another person came near, paused beside me, then took part of the body away, eating it. A group of others converged and did the same.
I tried to save a small fraction, the area where my hands were going up and down, the chest. That was still there, as well as some other parts.
Fighting back revulsion, I made my face hard, narrowed my eyes, and focused as well as I could on the object of my nightlong attentions. There were gaping, ragged holes right where I had been bending down to blow life into the body.
I realized I was chewing on something.
I shook my head violently — no — then performed CPR with my hands ever more strenuously. It was getting lighter now, light enough to see out to the parking lot. I stopped the heart massage and lifted my hands. There was no actual body left except whatever was underneath them.
The thing lay in a flat cardboard box. It was a mashed down, half-eaten piece of pizza. I stood up and went back to work.
AJD once worked on some film and video shoots. They are an old person now.