The people who said it wasn't really acting just didn't know how effortless Jackie made it look. Hit your marks, watch your eye line, flash that perfect smile that never changed but never let it look fake, stick to the script and make the whole thing look and sound totally impromptu. All while dealing with the unpredictability of someone on the other side of the mike who really wasn't acting, and having to play off of their unscripted answers. Jackie might not look like she was acting, but the people who looked like they were acting never made it anywhere in this business.
She bared her teeth for just a moment, glancing at herself in the mirror to make sure her honey-blonde hair looked good. One advantage of the location this time, she had plenty of mirrors to look into. "Check, check," she said, then looked over at Gary, her cameraman. "Pick-up mike working? That a good level?"
Gary gave a thumbs-up. And showtime... "This is Jackie Christopher for 'Hollywood Insight'," she said, giving the camera her most dazzling smile and turning up the energy in her voice. "And we're here today with one of the wizards of Hollywood, Edwin Stanton, who's going to show us a few 'tricks of the trade' in the special effects industry!"
She turned towards Ed, making sure to swivel just enough that the camera could still see her face, and gestured to the cosmetics equipment in front of her. "So, Ed, with CGI being so big, how much of your work is still spent in front of a make-up table?" Although her smile never wavered, inwardly she grimaced. This was going to be a tough one, way tougher than a pre-recorded puff piece like this should be. She'd been getting this weird vibe off of Ed ever since they showed up, a sort of strange mixture of lust and terror that had left him looking down at his shoes when she was looking at him and looking up at her breasts when he thought she wasn't paying attention. It was probably a good thing Hollywood had come calling, or instead of a 'wizard of Hollywood', he'd be 'that creepy guy who lives in his mom's basement and makes models all the time.' Until they found all the bodies, of course. Then he'd be 'such a quiet boy, who would have thought?'
That was probably unfair, Jackie admitted. Lots of nerdy guys were uncomfortable around strong, confident women without taking it all the way out into creepy psycho territory. He probably just felt happier around plastic women who didn't talk back. But even if he was just a normal, everyday loser, Jackie knew she was going to have to do all the work in this interview. With Ed so withdrawn and awkward, she was going to have to fill in all his silences and--
"Oh, you'd be amazed, Jackie," Ed replied with a sudden, charming grin. "Sure, computer graphics have their place, but a lot of the tricks of the trade haven't changed in fifty years. Some of the best effects are the simplest." He picked up a bucket from behind a table. "Take this, for example. It's one of the staples of the special effects industry, used for everything from stage blood to fake tears to artificial perspiration." Astonishingly, he shot her a wink. "And I don't mean CPR."
Jackie might have been surprised, but she'd been working in television long enough to be able to roll with the punches. "Sounds interesting!" she said, peering into the bucket. It looked like it was filled with water. "Is it some sort of 'secret formula'?" She added a flirtatious lilt to her voice. It wasn't really any kind of innuendo, but the right inflection would make it sound like one. And that wouldn't exactly hurt her Q rating.
"Actually, it's mostly just glycerine," Ed said, popping on a latex glove he pulled from his pocket and swirling his hand around in the fluid. Sure enough, it moved less easily than water, flowing around his fingers with a slightly oozy thickness. "Everybody in the business adds their own little special ingredients to make it do what they want it to, and I'm no exception, but it starts with the same stuff you buy in the corner drugstore. Go ahead and touch, it's perfectly safe."
Jackie looked around for a moment. There didn't seem to be a box of gloves anywhere, and Ed hadn't mentioned this bit anywhere in their pre-show talk. Jackie started to get the feeling she'd been played. "If it's so safe," she said, trying to make it sound playful, "then why are you wearing a glove?"
"It's slippery stuff," Ed said smoothly. The glycerine wasn't all that was slippery, she decided. "When you're doing a lot of delicate work, it's easier to wear a glove to handle it than to wash your hands a lot. But really, it's harmless. You're probably wearing glycerine right now in your lipstick. Go ahead, see how it feels."
Jackie couldn't stop herself from wincing as she tentatively dipped her fingers into the clear liquid, but she at least managed to make it the kind of cute grimace that would make audiences squeal and giggle. Honestly, couldn't he have warned her about this? It wasn't like she couldn't fake surprise. But no, he probably just wanted to make her squirm a little. Jerk.
"There," he said. "Not so bad, is it?" Actually, it wasn't. It felt a little cool to the touch at first, but it also felt nice and silky smooth against her skin. She rubbed her fingers together, noticing the way they slid easily over each other. "We use it for lots of things. It doubles for sweat, tears, drool--the alien in 'Alien' drooled glycerine, for example. Well, they actually drooled K-Y jelly, but that's another formula based on glycerine."
Jackie took her hand back out of the bucket, noticing the way that the liquid drizzled slowly off her fingers just like the drool from the mouth of a slavering alien beastie. She felt the thin coating of slick fluid warming up against her skin, going from that initial cool sensation to a pleasant, almost numbing warmth. "So how are you going to use this today?" she asked, getting her mind back on her work. "Going to mix us up a batch of stage blood?" She gave the last words a nice shuddery tone, the kind of thing that would play well in the weeks before Halloween.
Ed grinned conspiratorially at her. "Oh, your audience has probably already seen that one, Jackie. Let's give them something a little more interesting, shall we?"
Part of Jackie felt a little bit irritated at the way Ed kept going off-script, but she let it slide off as she matched his smile with her own. Sometimes these interviews went places you didn't expect them to. It wouldn't do any good to get upset about it now. Jackie let go of her irritation with surprising ease and said, "What did you have in mind, Ed?"
He pulled off the latex glove, then reached into a drawer and pulled out a tray of what looked like little black circles. "Well, I thought we might do a little transformation on you, Jackie. Just to show the folks at home how easy our special effects wizardry really is."
Actually, Jackie thought, flicking the excess glycerine off her fingers, that did sound like a pretty good idea. They could always edit the piece down, time-lapse out some of the boring make-up parts and give it a little 'before/after' angle. And besides, it might be neat to get turned into a monster. "Sure!" she said. "Where do we start?"
"Well," Ed said, holding up the tray and patting the make-up chair, "when we do the same character applications for a lot of people, we have a sort of assembly-line process. Basically, we add the applications uniformly to every person, and that lets them retain their distinctive looks while making them recognizably similar. For this application, we're going to start with the eyes. Just lay back, relax, and don't worry about a thing."
Jackie turned to the camera and wiggled her eyebrows just a little. "So what will you be turning me into?" she asked as she sat back in the chair. "Werewolf, vampire, zombie? Maybe a Klingon?" That should gain her a few points with the geek crowd.
Ed ratcheted the chair back into a reclining position, and leaned over her with a medicine dropper. Above him, she saw her own reflection in another mirror--that was a nice touch, she thought. It let someone see everything that he was doing to them without having to sit up and possibly disturb the make-up. He probably got a lot of curious subjects in a job like this. "Actually, I've been working on some concept designs for a sort of slave drone--all good creature effects start with the design, and we work from there. Here, the basic concept is that all these people have been turned into mindless thralls to a sort of wizard, and he's drained out their free will so they'll do whatever he says. Hold still."
Before Jackie could even speak, he dripped a few drops of fluid into each eye. "This is more of the glycerine mixture--it'll help the contacts go in, and it also numbs your eyes just a little bit so they feel more comfortable. Just hang on a moment while it does its work."
Jackie blinked a couple of times. It didn't sting or anything, but it made her eyes feel...weird. Sort of cool, and super wet, like she was trying to hold back tears... "You're sure this is safe?" she asked, hoping it sounded endearing.
"Perfectly safe," he said, looking at his watch. "Just trust me, Jackie."
"OK..." she said, trying to hide the doubt in her voice. He'd already turned out to be a much better interview than she was expecting, and this did sound like a lot of fun, even if she'd much rather be a zombie or a vampire than a "slave drone". She noticed that she'd stopped blinking. She felt a sort of glassy numbness in her eyes, like she never needed to blink again. Probably the excess moisture or something. She stared vacantly up at the ceiling, distracted by the novelty of the sensation. Something felt oddly timeless about it; Jackie had never realized how easy it was to lose track of time without the simple pattern of blinking to provide a sense of rhythm to events. After only a few moments, she felt like she'd been lying there and staring at herself forever.
"Looks like we're ready," Ed said at last. The sudden transition from silence to speech made his voice seem louder, more resonant. He moved away to the table, and Jackie winced at the sudden brightness. The whole room seemed painfully bright now, like her eyes couldn't adjust to the lighting. It was hard to focus her eyes on the image in the mirror, but her pupils seemed so much larger than before. They'd dilated all the way out to the very edges of her iris. But before she could ask Gary if he noticed it too, or wonder out loud if that was supposed to happen, Ed had already turned back to her. He held the tray of black contact lenses in one hand, and he'd already fished one out with the other.
"Just perfect," he said, looking down at her. Jackie relaxed a little. It sounded as if that was normal after all. She decided that she was clearly in good hands, and she didn't even flinch as he lowered the lens onto her eyeball. Her blink reflex had totally vanished, now.
He pressed the other lens into position. They felt good--they weren't quite opaque, just very dark, and the net effect was like wearing a pair of sunglasses right on her eyes. It helped to reduce the painful brightness of her dilated pupils, leaving her vision slightly unfocused and hazy, but otherwise normal. "There you go," he said, moving the chair back into an upright position. "Looks pretty good so far, right?"
She stared into the mirror. A version of herself with solid, jet-black eyes stared back, unblinking and expressionless. Jackie shivered. Something about those eyes, the way that they seemed to glisten like pools of oil...it made her really feel like something had been sucked out of her. "It does," she said quietly, almost forgetting what she was answering as she gazed transfixed at her own reflection.
"Now for the next stage, the costume," Ed said. "A good costume is vital--normally, we work with costume designers here, but sometimes we have to come up with something ourselves." He held up what looked like a shapeless mound of black rubber. "Go ahead and take your outfit off, Jackie--don't worry about me, I've had to do full body molds before. You don't have anything I haven't already seen."
Jackie could feel her outrage at the crudity of the suggestion, but it somehow seemed like there was a wall of dark glass between her and it. From the way he stared at her, Ed was making it pretty damned clear that while she might not have anything he hadn't seen, she had plenty he wanted to see all over again. She wanted to throw the costume back in Ed's face and give him a good slap to boot, but her ability to say no seemed to be on the other side of that wall too. The anger that she knew was there just seemed to slide off of her like it was coated in thick, slick, slippery... "Um, Gary?" she said, her hesitant words the only tangible sign of her internal struggle. "The camera..."
Ed waved a hand dismissively. "Go ahead and keep rolling, Gary," he said. "You can always edit it out later, or blur it instead. You're fine with that, right, Jackie?"
Panicky thoughts--thoughts of Gary leering at her, of the footage winding up all over the station, on the Internet, masturbated over by anyone with a computer--they scrabbled at the wall in her mind, trying desperately to find purchase on that slick glass and climb over into the numb, empty part of her that seemed to be in control of her mouth and body, but the wall was just too slippery. She could picture those thoughts touching it, coming away coated in slime that felt so pleasantly warm to the touch... "It's fine," she said distantly, her fingers already unbuttoning her clothes.
She stood up as she pulled her blouse off, staring straight ahead without blinking at Gary and the camera. He had a slightly shell-shocked expression on his face, like he knew he should stop all this, but at the same time like he'd wanted to film her stripping for too long not to go through with it. She undid her bra, letting it fall to the floor from fingers that felt oh-so-pleasantly-numb. Jackie connected it all together then, as she noticed which hand felt slick and warm and happily sedated, but the understanding felt meaningless. It was just a random fact, floating all alone in the blank, drifting part of her mind that just kept growing every second. Ed hadn't ever actually mentioned a movie in all this, had he?
She stared at Gary, knowing that he would help her, that he would rescue her from all this if she could only muster up the strength of will to explain what was happening to her, but she was already too helplessly obedient to tell him how helplessly obedient she was. The trap was inescapable.
"There you go," Ed said as she stepped out of her skirt and peeled her panties off. "Now, this outfit is latex, and it's kind of hard to get on without something to help it slide over the skin. Lots of people use powder, but I find that my glycerine mixture works a lot better." He reached over and grabbed the bucket. She noticed idly that he'd put his latex gloves back on. "Now, this might feel a little cool to the touch at first..."
Jackie inhaled sharply as she felt him smear the slimy liquid onto her body. His hand moved easily over her back, spreading the cool fluid all around with ease as his fingers glided over her skin. It did feel cool at first, but soon it felt so warm, slick and warm and soft and wet... Wet, she realized. She was getting so wet right now. She was so turned on. She hoped Gary didn't notice. She really hoped Ed didn't notice.
He did. She felt his slick, slippery fingers sliding around to the front of her body, coating her breasts and her nipples with glycerine and then trailing down her stomach to brush against her pussy. Jackie felt her breath come quicker now, time seeming to distort until that brief moment of contact became an orgasmic eternity. "That's right," Ed whispered in her ear, too quiet for the microphones to pick up, and his words just seemed to echo in the emptiness of Jackie's mind until she couldn't think of anything else. She was naked, blank and empty and horny with her body all slick and shining, and it all just felt...right.
Ed finished slicking up her body. "Time to put on the slave suit, now," he said, and Jackie reached over languidly and picked it up from the arm of the chair. It slid on easily, the latex stretching over her flesh and then clinging tightly to her every curve. But the layer of glycerine between flesh and suit made it feel so natural, so easy to move in that Jackie felt like she'd been born to it. She slipped her fingers through the holes at the ends of the arms, sliding seamlessly into the suit as though it was an extension of her being. Absently, she noticed the flaps cunningly worked into the crotch of the suit, looking like extensions of the design. She knew what Ed would use them for, and she shivered at the thought, whether in fear or anticipation she wasn't sure.
She felt Ed's hands on her again, sliding over the latex with a lover's thoroughness. He pretended to be merely squeezing out the air bubbles and making sure it clung tightly, but the pressure of his fingers against her clit told a different story. She was already too docile to move, but she knew he could tell from her tiny gasps just what effect it had on her. The slickness along her crotch wasn't just from glycerine.
"Now, we'll do the make-up work," Ed said, guiding her gently back into the chair. He took the gloves back off, and reached over for a piece of flesh-toned latex. "The slave drones are all hairless--if this was for a long-term role, we'd actually have the actress shave her head, but for a short-term role, we'll just use a bald cap." He carefully pinned her hair into position, then settled the cap into place over it. "Hold still again," he said, as he began to carefully glue it into place.
Jackie felt her body settle into total passivity. All of Ed's words felt like irresistible commands now, echoing in the stillness of her mindless mind and lulling her into docile acceptance. The doubts, the anger, the fear...all the lingering remnants of the woman she had been now just seemed so distant and muted that Jackie wasn't sure if they were even there anymore. They just felt like they had sunk under a tide of dreamy, satiny sleep, and every time she tried to touch them they slipped away even deeper. All she could do now was obey. All she could be now was obedience.
She heard Ed's words distantly, barely even noticing them. They merely confirmed what she already knew. "The nice part about doing this work in front of a mirror is that it really helps people get in character. They really identify with the role when they see it take shape in front of them."
He picked up a brush, and reached for some cosmetics. "Now I'm just going to use a little make-up to make you look pale, almost translucent--like your thoughts and resistance have been drained away completely." He started with a dusting of pale powder, then painted on her skin with tiny brushes. Helplessly, she watched in the mirror as he traced little blue veins onto her flesh. A wider brush gave her lips that same pale, icy blue color. He even applied false nails to her fingers, each one a blue so translucent as to be almost imperceptible. Finally, he dusted shadows under her eyes, giving them a hollow, sunken look that emphasized the jet-black, endlessly staring orbs. She couldn't see anything of herself anymore. There was no Jackie left in the mirror. There was only a slave drone, a mindless thrall.
"Of course," he said, "this doesn't look so good on camera right now--it looks like make-up, not like a part of your skin." He took out the bucket again, and reached for another brush. "Yet another job for glycerine!" he said, smirking to the camera.
Her breath escaped in a soft, gentle sigh as she felt the mixture coat every inch of her exposed skin. She felt her resistance evaporate, no longer even hidden or imprisoned but utterly obliterated as the cool fluid warmed itself from her body heat. She stared into the mirror only because that was the direction he had faced her, and saw only an empty-eyed drone staring back.