We’re so pleased to introduce original fiction by Brian Evenson as part of our October showcase. In “Room Tone,” Filip needs to finish his movie. And he’s almost done, except for the room tone. “But Filip found himself unable to sleep at night, thinking about the room tone, thinking about the several moments in the movie where you heard the wrong silence.” You’ll love this quiet and scary story about getting things just right.
“It was a weird day, everybody seemed a little off.”
At the last possible moment he found the perfect house. It was empty and spacious and hadn’t been updated since the seventies, which was exactly what Filip wanted. It was for sale, with the old couple who lived there now both in hospice and their children living on the other side of the country and eager to sell. To lease a place like that for a few weeks would normally have cost well over what they had budgeted for locations. But Filip had a word with the realtor and since they only needed to film at night, she struck a deal with him that involved a lump cash payment of three hundred dollars, a sum that Filip suspected would never make it farther than the realtor’s pocket.
“We have a deal,” she said. “Remember, at night only. In no earlier than six at night, out by seven in the morning. And for exactly two weeks, starting tomorrow.”
He agreed. Of course he did. He figured at the time that the time limit was just so the realtor would feel like she could ask for more money if they needed a few extra days. Besides, Filip had things under control. He, Filip, was the heart of the project: he had written the thing, he was directing it, he was handling the sound, he was doing the editing in post-production. He had grown up down the street from the cameraman: they had a rapport, so even if he wasn’t the cameraman he knew exactly what this particular cameraman would do. The actors, too, were all people he had gone to school with. Which meant that he could see in his head exactly how every piece of the project would go.
But then again, there was the lighting person, who he didn’t know, who the producer had brought aboard. He was union, which meant he saw this all as a job, complete with overtime. And the producer himself, who he didn’t really know, who had come through the cameraman, was a friend of the latter’s father. And of course the woman doing wardrobe, the makeup artist, a best boy, a gaffer: they were unknowns too. But, yes, basically, he had his finger on the pulse of the project. He was sure that he could get it done.
* * *
On day eleven of the shoot, he went by the realtor’s office. “Done already?” she asked. “No discounts for days not used.” But when she realized that Filip was there for precisely the opposite reason, she said, “Let’s not talk here.”
They walked to a coffee shop around the corner. Over a confused drink that the coffee shop referred to as chaider, Filip explained that there had been unexpected difficulties, that they were running behind. Just a day or two, that was all they needed. He was happy to pay for it.
“No,” she said.
“As in no,” she said. “It can’t be done.”
He just needed a few days, he told her. He could pay her double the rate he’d paid before. They needed it to finish the movie.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “No.”
He opened his mouth to speak again, but she had already leaned far back in her chair, her arms folded across her chest, her mouth a straight line.
“Why not?” he asked.
“The house is sold,” she said. “I’d sold it before you and I struck our deal. He moves in the day after you finish.”
“Isn’t there a way of pushing the closing back a day or two?”
She shook her head. “He wanted to move in earlier than that. I’ve been stalling the escrow just to give you the two weeks I promised. But I can’t give you a minute more.”