Tropical rain threw itself down around Sheila as she pounded on the wooden gate that separated her from the safety of The Compound. Minutes later, when no one came to her rescue, she turned to the small security camera attached above the door. Falling to her knees, she began to sob loudly, overcoming the insistent drizzle of the rainfall. "I don't want to die out here, let me in, please let me in!"
Behind her, distant rustling became a pulsing thump. Sheila swirled around, flinging her back against the walls of The Compound. With wide-eyed terror she stared out into the endless forest that engulfed her, and wondered where Devon and Miguel had gone off to, wondered what was out there ...
The cameras rolled on the two giggling women as they gorged themselves on a meager supply of chocolate. Licking her fingers with a guilty grin, Debra admitted to the camera, "It's better than sex."
Three weeks into production of the as yet unsyndicated reality show The Compound, and it had already devolved into a predictable boreathon. Cameramen sighed as the girls gave them pouty looks, while the alpha males fought whenever they could. Most had signed up for a lark, looking for fame, fortune, and adventure, realizing too late they had been suckered into a raw deal.
Basically, they all sat around "The Pound" trying to form alliances and backstab each other, while dealing with Survivor-style hard living. No running water, no electricity, no living amenities. Just the clothes on their back, a few candles and matches, and a lot of ennui.
Already several of them suspected the show wouldn't be picked up, unless there was some plot twist. Maybe a mole among their ranks? Or maybe all but one were moles playing a prank on the other? Maybe they all had a terrible secret? Whatever it was, most of them were anxious to go home. The contests were asinine, the alliances petty, and it never stopped raining. About the only relief the group had was the constant interjections of the show's affable host, Dave Davidson, always quick with a joke and a chance to win a phone call or a Milky Way.
The most bizarre thing about the whole show was the voteoff. It was typical at first: gather around, bitch at each other while maintaining your own superiority cum nobility, and throw your vote in the box. But when they had announced that Devon (who had gotten the matches wet on Day 1, an unforgivable blunder) was getting the boot, two burly men in tribal gear approached him and stood him up roughly. Over his vocal protests, he was dragged to the front door and unceremoniously tossed out. The group sat in stunned silence. Later, they showered themselves with kudos for being less of an asshole than Devon, who was no doubt sitting on a jet back to Miami with a martini in hand.
By week 8, things had gone from bad to worse. The production still hadn't been picked up for syndication, and the budget had been slashed. More ejections had come, and now only two contestants remained: the chocolate-craving Debra and her boon companion, the dashing surfer Trent.
Now Dave was talking to them, off-camera, about the last week of the show. There'd be one more contest, a weeklong one, and the winner would take home the big prize. Debra asked cheekily, "Will the others be coming back to give us a piece of their mind?" She was struck by the change in Dave's demeanor - he turned 8 shades of white in about five seconds, and quickly changed the subject. Debra went to sleep that night thinking about that look. Creepy.
Trent just ran and ran, his legs pumping faster than they ever had before. He wasn't sure he could even hear it anymore, but he wasn't about to stop. After what seemed like hours, he slowed down and turned around.
There was nothing behind him.
He began cautiously walking south towards The Compound. He and Debra had been dropped off on the north side of the island, 30 miles away from home, with only a compass and a week's worth of food. First one back to The Compound takes home the prize. Some twist, Trent thought sarcastically. He knew he'd be the winner, but he hadn't counted on the island being so dangerous. The echoed silence of the jungle was frightening enough as it was, its lull ready to give away to a rush of mayhem at any second. But it was the things moving in the jungle - invisible things - that got him moving. Finally, something had gotten close enough that he could see what was after him.
That was right about the time he had started running.
Now he hiked further south, weaving in and out of the thick foliage. It was getting dark. He and Debra had been out here for two days. They had kept together at first - hoping they could split the prize - but eventually Debra had told Trent to go ahead. It was a gracious defeat, really, but Trent knew Debra needed the money badly. He had promised to give her a fair share for her hard work throughout the show. He was working out the share in his head, when he came to a clearing in the jungle. In the middle was a lump of clothes, loosely arranged, a signal of some sorts. But when he approached the pile, Trent suddenly became violently nauseous.
It was a body.
Or rather, what was left of it. Blood had soaked the ground all around it. Viscera surrounded the spattered clothes, the clothes themselves filled with what had once been a person. Trent took a deep breath and stared hard at the clothes, trying to figure out what was going on.
He recognized the clothes as Miguel's.
Miguel had exited the second week, much to almost everyone's surprise. Nice enough guy, but very low key - maybe too much so. And now what was left of Miguel was sitting in a bloody, dismembered pile in the middle of the jungle. Trent's nausea surfaced once more. After he finished vomiting, his ears perked up. The jungle had come alive once more. The ground began to pulse lightly.
Something was moving.
Trent took off again, running for his life. He made his way through the jungle, not stopping to look around him. If he had, he may have noticed a few other articles of clothing. Or a recently cleaned human femur, lodged between two small trees. Or the decomposed head of Week 5 castaway Pearl, the 70 year old former firewoman and wartime riveter.
Or the tiny ground-level cameras recording his every move.
A man walked into the small gonzo porn shop at 8th Avenue and 46th. He went up to the counter, and flashed a small badge at the proprietor, who nodded and pointed to a red velvet curtain near the back.
Inside the cramped room in back was a screen, 40 inches wide; 10 chairs, most filled; and an A/V setup worthy of its current location. The man sat in a chair near the back. The movie was already in progress.
Onscreen was a young woman crying in front of a wooden gate. It was raining. A small graphic in the corner identified her as "SHEILA." The viewing room was quiet except for Sheila's sobs and the crunch of popcorn.
She began screaming at the camera, begging not to die. This brought on a few hoots from the moviegoers, prompting the proprietor to rush in. He begged them in a terse whisper to keep quiet. Then he paused, transfixed by the movie.
A large beast had entered the camera's view, its back to the monitor. It was easily 8 feet tall and covered in hair. As it let out a small growl of victory, Sheila's weeping turned to hysterical gasps. Suddenly, the beast was upon her, biting and tearing at her with a carnal viciousness. Her gasps faded, replaced with a single piercing scream, quickly cut off by a blunt blow. Blood sprayed across the gate of The Compound, eliciting a chorus of muted applause from the watchers.
The beast dragged Sheila's lifeless body out of camera view. Luckily, he left behind a small memento: her forearm had been torn clean off and now lay pitifully in front of the gate, blood seeping out into the wet ground. The men watched with curious fascination as a small man came on the screen and picked up the forearm with tepid daintiness. They booed as he bagged the part, and hissed more as he wiped away the blood from the gate and ground as best he could. With his exit, the gate looked brand new.
A rough cut took them out into the jungle. A new graphic appeared in the corner: "ALEX." One watcher sighed with disgust and ripped up a stub of paper as an older black man ran across the screen. Another man got up and crossed out the name "Alex" from a small chalkboard hanging on the wall. "Four down," he said, "six to go." Then he returned to his seat, waiting for a winner to be declared with bated breath.