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CUT! by Gabriel Land


When in Rome? Do like the Romans do. Unless of course you belong to the ancient tribe known as the Gutterites (a special sub-class of heathens and barbarians). Yup. Gutters have been around since the Romans invented the arch and started building roads, don't ya know!!!

CUT! by Gabriel Land

“Friends, Romans, countrymen,” the Emperor shouted – the opening to what he just knew was going to be the best speech of his life. “Lend me your ears!”

The crowd standing before him roared. They loved their leader. His heart thumped in his chest – not because he was anxious but because he was awash with pride for Rome.

He waited for the cheering to die down before he spoke again. It took a while. Then he continued.

“I come to ...”

Just then, one of the men closest to the podium cut him short.

“What have you accomplished for Rome, Caesar?” he shouted. “All you do is sip wine from the vantage of your throne room, with a harem and servants at your beck and call!”

The Emperor clenched his teeth. This petty peasant dared to question his leader's supreme authority?

“Very well, upstart!” the Emperor said, as the crowd murmured with simmering unrest. “If you believe my power to be fraudulent, I shall prove it not.”

The Emperor brought his hands across his chest and parted his tunic so his bare torso was made visible to the crowd. Across it were the souvenirs of his conquests in Germania – multiple scars from the slashes of barbarian swords.

The crowd gasped and fell back to a hush – silent enough to hear a pin drop on the cobbled square.

My authority,” the Emperor proclaimed, “is forever etched into my skin. Look! My chest is a map detailing the roads that lead to our beloved republic.” He paused for dramatic effect before continuing.

“Make haste then, rival. Open your tunic and show the crowd what marks you have collected in the battlefield, on the frontier.”

The Emperor and the crowd waited, but the aspiring revolutionary did not speak again.


He was silent, at a loss for words. He stared back at his leader momentarily before lowering his head and looking at the ground in shame.

The Emperor closed his tunic and lifted his hands in the air, commanding the crowd's attention. The five thousand-strong audience patiently awaited the rest of his speech.

But, just as the Emperor began again, there came another interruption. This one from an electric megaphone.

”Cut!” the Assistant Director yelled from the sidelines. “Back to one!”

The Emperor sighed. What was it this time? He had nailed it! Every word had been perfect. He deserved an Oscar for this, goddammit. He'd prepared meticulously for this part.

“What now?” he demanded as the Assistant Director walked up and stood by him.

“Not you, you were perfect,” the AD said. “It was hair and makeup. They fucked up your scars again.”

"Shit! Again? This is ridiculous!"

“I know.” The AD turned and yelled for hair and makeup. Soon the team arrived and the Emperor parted his tunic once again so they could fix the peeling layers of silicone.

“I smell an Academy Award,” the AD said, watching the team go to work. “If not best picture, at least best actor.”

The Emperor smiled. “Me too,” he said.

Then he remembered something else he wanted to talk to the AD about. “Hey, what about that chariot stunt? Can we shoot my fall from behind? I'd rather my double did that. I'd hate to get hurt.”

The AD nodded and winked. “Yes of course. They don't give out Oscars for stunts anyway, right?”

The Emperor and the AD both laughed.

Meanwhile, out in the crowd, the Second AD was screaming at the extras to be more enthusiastic during the cheers.

The Emperor closed his eyes as a makeup artist touched up his liner. His stomach growled and he wondered what catering was cooking up for lunch.

Damn. It was good to be the king.

Gabriel Land is a novelist and screenwriter living in SE Asia. You can find his work on Amazon and visit him on his web site.