Smart phones can make people do the dumbest of things. Like kill each other, for instance. OK, you can’t blame a smart phone for murder, Lola knows that. And, look, she only ever wanted to video people having a fun time. Naturally, she feels bad that she started something that would end up hurting people. She feels kind of stupid that she was there most of the time, but missed some of the vital scenes. Such as blood oozing from a fractured skull pooling in mud. She has to remind herself, over and over: you never get all the shots you need even when you do your best.
If Lola was asked, What’s your opening scene for this story?
This is where she’d start.
The last YouTube video Lola and Myla do together, Baaz is there, whipping it up like some Hollywood clown. It’s Halloween, the same month the UK is due to crash out of Europe, no matter what, and they’re all round at Myla’s house, having fun trying out different costumes and videoing each other like it’s a behind-the-scenes kind of trip.
“Who are you again?” Myla asks Baaz.
Lola whip-pans to the corner of the bathroom to find Baaz with a spray can in his hand, streaks of red paint like blood running down his chubby face which he’s painted a ghostly white. “He’s part Ronald McDonald and part Pennywise the clown,” Lola says (off-camera). “Are you ready for your dance, Baaz?”
Baaz has been sucking on helium balloons and talking in this weird high-pitched voice ever since he got into costume. “Yeah, I’m ready! Let’s do it!” he pipes with a mad giggle.
“I think it’s too cramped in here, we should film this downstairs,” Lola says, directing her cast.
So they all rush down the stairs to the kitchen. Baaz gets into position in front of the cooker. Big tubby guy, shoulders sloping forward, clown face on, he looks like a total freak show now that he’s bathed in fluorescent light.
“And… action!” Lola calls. She clicks the soundtrack she’s cued up on her playlist, and as the music starts up, Baaz launches into a funny street dance, swapping his hands across his knees, shaking his rolls of fat like sexy jelly.
Lola’s really impressed. Where did he learn this shit?
Baaz slows down and stops. He leans in to camera: “You wanna piece of me?” he says, in that same high-pitched voice. “You want a McNuggie? Want some hamburgers?”
“That’s actually really creepy,” Myla remarks. Lola pans right to pick up Myla’s reaction. Myla cracks a smile likes she’s a little freaked out as well.
Lola pans back to Baaz to find him hugging an axe, simpering like a lunatic.
“Oh, shit!” Myla exclaims. “Where did you get that?”
Baaz is grinning at them, like a comedy horror slasher killer on the verge of uncontrollable giggles.
“He’s completely lost it,” Myla tells the camera. “I think he’s been smoking my stuff without telling me. Baaz?”
Baaz can’t stop giggling.
“Is that a real axe?” Lola asks.
“Heeeere’s RONNY,” Baaz goes, dementedly. He charges at camera, his axe – and it’s definitely NOT a plastic prop – raised above his head. The girls scream as Baaz spins round and charges back to the other end of the room and bumps into the fridge and falls on the floor in a fit of helium giggles.
“Can you believe this is a top graduate who wants to apply for a job in the Foreign Office?” Myla says to camera.
“I think Boris would approve,” Lola jokes.
“Well we won’t be taking him trick-or-treating, that’s for sure.”
The girls head back upstairs, leaving Baaz, aka Ronny/Pennywise, sipping a rum and Coke with ice. Hopefully Myla’s mum won’t be returning home early tonight.
Myla gets back into her chair before the bathroom mirror and picks up a flesh-coloured cap. She starts to pull it over her head… “I tell you, this cap is squeezing my brain so hard, I can’t…” Myla turns back to face the mirror to have another go. “It’s like a bloody condom! Forget Lord Voldemort, I’m going to end up an evil Humpty Dumpty!“
When she’s got the cap on, as best she can, Myla begins dabbing her forehead with a small brush and white make-up. Lola moves in for a closer shot, taking care not to catch her own reflection in the mirror. “This is going to ruin my career prospects when I get out of uni and employers come across me in this video of yours, Lola. I might have to sue you for loss of earnings!”
“You look like one of those bald geishas,” Lola remarks.
“Thanks!” Myla has a fun, wicked laugh when she pretends to be insulted. She’d make a good witch in a panto.
She resumes dabbing her face, which is almost completely white now. “Now my nose.” She puts down the brush. “I’m always having to fix my nose, Lola,” she says, alluding to some plastic surgery she had done three years ago to ‘fix her adenoids’. She picks up a piece of putty-like latex and presses it around the side of her nostrils, building it up slightly to make herself more like her character.
Now dabbing her lips with a red brush, she turns to camera: “Did you know, if the circulation is cut off to your head, your hair falls out?” Always these absurd morbid facts about death and decay, Lola thinks to herself.
“That’s not bad actually,” Lola remarks, invariably the voice of robust encouragement in these team situations.
“If I stand back...” Myla stands back and tucks in her chin. “Oh God, why didn’t I get into something sexy instead?”
Lola glances behind her, listening out for sign of Baaz, who just said he was going to get changed. Keeping her voice low, she asks Myla, “Why’s Baaz acting so weird?”
“He’s trying to impress me.”
“What d’you mean?”
Myla goes to the door and peeps through the gap, keeping an ear out. She nudges the door to.
“I told him off,” she says quietly.
“I can’t talk about it right now. Let’s do this first.”
So they return downstairs to the living room where they plan to video Myla as Lord Voldemort in action.
They find Baaz seated on a chair wiping the white paint from off his dark skin. He looks despondent, but perhaps that’s on account of his still being in character, drunk, or both.
Lola directs, as Myla, wearing a black cloak, stands before a backdrop, wand in hand. In a wheezy voice to camera, she utters Harry Potter’s name as if cursing him forever more. (On the finished video that Lola will cut later, and to the accompaniment of music that Lola will pinch from Harry Potter the movie, Myla will fire her wand at camera, and lightning will shoot from its tip and, thanks to Lola’s VFX wizardry, it will crackle with blue electricity.)
Myla’s so much more convincingly witch-like than I am, Lola thinks, stepping in for a closer take and asking Myla to repeat the action.
The backdrop down, costumes and make-up off, Baaz on his way home to his parents’ house, Myla drops on the sofa. She peels off the head-crushing white cap and shakes free her thick, dark hair, finally out of character.
“Life’s more fun just you and me. Don’t you think?”
Lola reads more disappointment than celebration in the tone of her best friend’s remark. She wonders if Myla feels either we don’t do this enough, or: it’s a shame I have more fun doing this childish stuff with Lola than flirting with my male friends.
“Boys kill the magic if you ask me,” Myla says, looking down her arm to the wand, limp in her hand.
“Baaz is OK,” Lola says.
“Baaz is great – when he’s not groping me.”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. Too much recently.”
Lola feels slightly disquieted by this revelation. Does she mean, just now? Like, when Baaz was round earlier getting into costume? She’d just assumed Myla and Baaz liked to fool around like primary school kids, tickling each other and stuff. But now Myla’s used the ‘g’ word, maybe – eugh…
“So what about Blake?” Lola asks. “Is he–are you…”
“Bitch, spit it out!”
“Are you… together now?“
“No.” Myla gazes at the ceiling as she says this. Then – “Well, sort of. I had to, like, push him back, though – over there – ‘Bad dog, bad dog!’”
“He was obsessing.”
“He wants to spray his load in the back passage.”
“I mean, sorry, but no.” Myla puts up her hand like a Stop sign.
Lola feels weird having these conversations; she knows she’s supposed to be into sex, or at least, have done it and formed an opinion about it, BUT, here’s the thing, she hasn’t. Not even in a virtual sense. No guy has even touched her. Or even tried to. Not there, not anywhere. And now that she’s no longer a student, everyone who doesn’t know her well assumes she’s done it, so she feels she must play along with that assumption – or be laughed, shunned even. Not long ago, she could be honest with Myla at least. But even with her, she’s begun to think that maybe it would save everyone some embarrassment if she made up a story – although she’s not sure she could pull that off; Myla would know somehow, and catch her out, and then Myla would never believe her again on this topic unless she saw her fucking on camera or something.
God, it’s all too complicated.
Myla sits up, tucking her feet under her bum.
“Maybe he’s secretly gay,” Lola says, vaguely hoping she might come across as clued-up for a change.
“I think it’s totally a macho thing with him. Like it’s a way to dominate someone. Like he wants me to be his be-atch. He can be such a Neanderthal. I don’t know if he even cares about me. Like this thing with Freddie, he could help me out, but he does nothing. I think he secretly enjoys seeing me under pressure like this.”
Lola doubts that: ‘this thing with Freddie’, as she calls it, was largely her own doing, but she senses Myla’s hankering for an argument – and that would only spoil what’s been a fun day together.
“Did I tell you his dad’s a gangster, a hitman? Or he says he is, anyway.”
“A hitman?” This is SO extreme, someone must be taking the piss.
“Yeah. He is a bit weird, his dad, so he might be, I don’t know.“
It’s hard to know whether Myla’s made this up or is pondering the truth of what Blake’s told her.
She springs to her feet and goes to check her phone lying on one of the cardboard boxes containing their props.
Lola looks out the French window to a boxy patch of lawn littered with statues of animals. Myla’s mum, Mazia, has a thing for garden statues, ornaments in general. Although she’s originally from the Lebanon, (arriving in the UK as a refugee in the eighties) it would seem she’s adopted certain English working-class traditions as her own.
Myla puts down her phone and perches on the sofa. She casts a questioning glance at Lola. “I’m bored again. I need more magic.”
Lola aims the wand at her, making a lightning sound between her teeth. Myla throws her arms up and drops ‘dead’ on the cushions. She lies there with her eyes slightly open, not breathing. She does a very convincing dead person. It’s actually rather unsettling.
This would seem a fitting moment to turn off her camera, Lola decides. Besides, her battery’s nearly dead.