Read part one here
I still don’t know how we got here. It doesn’t feel real. This is like a fever dream.
How in the hell did Eric Hastings III bag an Oscar nomination?
Okay, let’s back up. My name is Valerie Lewis, but you already knew that. I’ve told you my story before. I work for the actor Eric Hastings III, a third-generation legacy actor, charming drunk, and a cannibal who needs flesh to survive.
Believe me, I don’t know how it works either. I’m scared to ask. What I DO know is he needs to eat to survive, at least once every two weeks. I’m the unlucky schmuck who got the job to get him fresh meat, but it’s not all bad. I may have to clean his messes, cover his ass when he has a public meltdown, and provide dinner and entertainment, but over the past year, I’ve gone from really hating this to kind of finding joy in it.
Eric’s made my job much easier ever since I introduced you all to him. He’s been off alcohol for 9 months, he’s been complimenting me frequently, and has been much more appreciative of the work I do. Because of this, I’ve made corpses tastier: I learned different ways to cook human meat based on Eric’s descriptions of people. It’s morbid, but it’s effective.
“Yo, Val! We gotta go!” I could hear Eric outside.
“C-Coming!” I put my headband and glasses on and opened the door.
There he was, Eric Hastings III. My boss.
“Really? The cat’s-eye glasses? This is the ACADEMY AWARDS, Val!”
“I know, I know! I think it looks nice with the dress though!”
He looked me up and down. “Okay, you’re right. Let’s go.”
We went out to the car. Eric ran his hands through his hair and slicked his brows back.
“Here, Eric, open the glove box.”
He opened it and saw a present I got him. Inside was a fancy set of cufflinks and a pristine watch that I had engraved with the phrase “Third Time’s The Charm”.
“Whoa, Val! This is awesome! Thank you so much!”
I smiled. “Of course. I’m really proud of you, Eric.”
I remembered when he got the letter of his nomination. I don’t think any human being has ever been this happy about a supporting actor nomination before, or ever will be. He was so happy that we watched his film that night: a dark introspective horror-drama called The Face on the 45th Floor, about a man who can’t stop seeing a face out of his window, despite the fact he lives on the 45th floor of his building. He played the landlord, a cruel man who is revealed to have been intentionally torturing the main character. His performance was so good that people made memes and compilations of some of his most popular scenes and lines. I was so shocked by the depth he gave to this character, especially considering his previous works have been direct-to-VOD teen slashers.
He earned this.
“Hey, do you think Indigo McCabe will be there?” Eric asked while putting on his cufflinks.
“I mean, she’s nominated for best actress.”
“Oh shit, for real?”
I chuckled. “Of course she is. Other than you, she gave the best performance in your movie.”
Eric smirked. “You know it’s okay to prefer other actors to me. I’m a big boy.”
I smiled. “Just shut up and adjust your watch.”
I wasn’t just saying this. Everywhere I go I see people who quote him. I’ve seen people who are cosplaying as him. Hell, I’ve seen some fanart of him. A year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined this. But here we are, the king of bad movies being awarded.
“Oh, who else is nominated for best supporting actor? I never checked.”
He didn’t check? Uh-oh.
“Well there’s Connor Dane, for The Last Days of Blackbeard.”
“Of course, he really killed it.”
“Eduardo Jimenez, for Horticulture.”
“Shocking, but not surprising.”
“Ron Timms, for My Ailing Body.”
“Again, not surprising.”
“…And finally, Yancey Simpson for Bait…”
Eric went silent and stopped smiling.
“That son of a bitch.”
I mean, he’s right.
Yancey is a real son of a bitch.
He’s the son of Eric Hastings Jr.’s assistant. The one that let him die. As he grew up, he’d visit his mother, telling him to go into acting. When he began his career, it was at the same time as Eric. Their feud is still talked about today, with some people on Eric’s side due to the circumstances of his father’s death, and some on Yancey’s because Eric is a dick.
“Hey, don’t worry! I’m sure he’ll lose. Nobody liked Bait, I’m not even sure why it’s nominated.”
He smiled. “Thanks, Val.”
We arrived at the theater and made our way down the red carpet. Not many actors bring their assistants with them to these things, but Eric thought I deserved to feel like a star for a day. As I walked down the carpet, people took photos of us. I was interviewed by gossip columns. I saw other actors and actresses.
I felt good.
“This is wonderful!” I whispered to Eric as we walked off the carpet.
“I know! I’ve never been this esteemed!”
“I’m sorry, why are you here?” A sniveling voice said.
Yancey. His greasy hair covered a single eye. His pale skin almost made him look translucent.
“Hi, Yancey.” Eric said. He’s trying to be civil.
“No, answer the question. Why are you here?” Yancey retorted. Did neither of them read the nominations?
“I’m nominated for best supporting actor.”
Yancey belly laughed. “No way! No possible way!”
Eric didn’t respond.
“God, you’re funny. You gotta be lying. You just gotta! Not even your dipshit father made it here!”
“He won best actor before either of us were born.”
“Nuh-uh!” Yancey snapped.
“God, Yancey! Can’t you be civil for once! This is supposed to be a celebration of acting and you’re treating it like a competition!” I said. I’m tired of him.
“Sorry, I don’t take opinions from assistants!”
“Don’t you talk to her like that!”
“Make me, pussy!”
“HEY!” A loud, booming voice said. I immediately identified it as Eduardo Jimenez. “Yancey, stop acting like a fucking idiot. Nobody likes you. I’m not even sure why you’re nominated, nobody liked your disgrace of a performance.”
Somehow, that didn’t perturb Yancey. “I don’t give a shit if you like me! I just give a shit if this guy wins!”
“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YANCEY! SHUT UP!” The voice of Indigo McCabe yelled. Yancey must have realized nobody wanted to talk to him, because he went inside the theater.
Eric sighed and looked at me.
“You okay, Val?”
“Yeah, of course. I’m more worried about you. I thought you were about to punch him.”
He laughed. “Nah, I’m more chill than that.”
Eduardo and Indigo approached us.
“Hey I’m sorry about him.” Eric said.
“Don’t apologize, kid. Sometimes we got haters, and sometimes they’re our fellow actors.” Eduardo said.
“Yeah, you two enjoy the night. Eric, you earned this. It was a pleasure to work with you. And Valerie, keep him in check.” Indigo added.
“Thank you, guys.” Eric said.
We made our way inside and took our seats at a reserved section. Eric even contacted the Academy to get me a seat next to him.
“This is it, Eric. This is the big day.”
He smiled. “Thank you, Val. For everything.”
As soon as the seats were full, the show began. A musical number from a movie I didn’t watch started. I looked at Eric who looked at me, both sharing the single thought of ‘just get to the damn awards.’ As soon as the number was over, the awards began. Best makeup and hairstyling. Best animated short film. Best live action short film. Best documentary. Best score. Best original song number (ironically, the song from the opening lost.) Best sound mixing. Best sound editing. Best supporting actress.
Best supporting actor.
They went through the nominations one by one. When they reached Eric, they showed a scene that proved why he belonged here.
The scene begins with Eric’s character sitting in a recliner, talking to a tenant.
“Sir, I just don’t understand. Why are you hiking rent? What the hell is WRONG with you?!?” The tenant asked.
Eric leaned forward and took his glasses off, making eye contact with the tenant.
“Because I need money, Francis. Do you need money? I don’t think so. I need money. I don’t care what you think is ‘morally ethical’ or ‘legal.’ I’m your FUCKING LANDLORD. Do you understand me? YOU WOULDN’T HAVE A HOME IF IT WASN’T FOR ME. So don’t you EVER backtalk me again. Never forget how LUCKY you are.”
The scene ended. A scene that’s considered up there with the likes of the coin flip from No Country for Old Men. Eric never raised his voice. He didn’t have to. His anger was muted, almost silent. Yet somehow it managed to feel more brutal than a yell ever could.
The applause was uproarious. Eric was crying. I was too.
The moment of truth. The actress on stage slowly opened the letter.
“And the oscar goes to…”
She stopped. She had to reread the letter. She squinted, then frowned.
Nobody applauded. Eric had no emotion on his face. Even the band didn’t play music for him. Yancey didn’t care that he was hated. He didn’t care that the award wasn’t deserved.
He just cared that Eric lost.
I was fuming.
I tuned out his speech and kept my eyes on him. I refused to let this go. I watched as he made his way out of the theater.
“I’m gonna get some fresh air, Eric.”
He said nothing.
I made my way to the now abandoned outside. No press. No cameras. Just Yancey.
“Hey ma! Thanks for telling me about that forger. I got myself an Oscar and I didn’t even have to work for it!”
You son of a bitch. You intentionally La-La Land-ed Eric?!?
I don’t know why, but at that moment, I snapped. I slapped Yancey as soon as he hung up and took the Oscar from his hand.
“Wh-Who are you?” He said.
I didn’t respond and shoved him. He lost his footing and fell backwards down the stairs leading to the theater. As soon as he hit the bottom, I heard a crack. I looked down the stairs and saw the bloodied, mangled corpse of Yancey Simpson.
I know I should feel bad, but I don’t.
I stuck my fingers in the back of my throat to make my eyes watery and hid the Oscar in a bush. I sprinted back into the theater to give the performance of my life.
“OH MY GOD! YANCEY’S DEAD!” I screamed.
Everybody poured out of the theater, trying to see the body. Eric ran up to me and took me by the arm. We ran outside and pushed through the crowd so Eric could see the body.
“What the…” He said.
“What do we do?!?” Another actor said.
In the midst of the crowd, I pulled Eric to the outskirts and put my hand in the bush, revealing the Oscar.
“Val, you didn’t…”
“COME ON, ERIC!” I loudly whispered.
We made our way to the car, alongside several other people. We booked it out.
“Eric I’m so so sorry.”
Eric looked at me. “Val, I eat people. Why the hell would I be mad?”
To be honest, I forgot that. Eric looked into his Oscar. He stared into his reflection. He saw underneath, it said: “ERIC HASTINGS III, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR.” He smiled.
“It was always mine.” He said when we made it back to the house.
I smiled. “I’m so proud of you Eric.”
He said nothing and kissed me.
A year ago, I would have fought back. I would have never let this happen.
That’s a year ago. That was before Bob. Before Yancey.
Too soon, he broke away.
“You’re too good for me.” He said.
I smiled. “Lemme make you some dinner, Eric.”
I searched the fridge as Eric undid his tux.
“ERIC! WE DON’T HAVE FOOD!” I shouted.
“THAT’S OKAY!” He shouted back.
We heard a knock.
My blood ran cold.
Eric walked slowly up to the door and shakily opened it. It was Eduardo Jimenez and Indigo McCabe. They were holding a bag.
“We know, Eric. We all know.”
I ran between them. I couldn’t let him get hurt.
“Nonono! I did it! He didn’t tell me to do anything!” I panicked.
Eduardo and Indigo looked at each other and laughed, throwing the bag on the ground. Eric opened it, gasping. Inside was the bloodied corpse of Yancey Simpson. My jaw dropped as I looked at the senior actors.
“We thought Eric may want a celebratory dinner!”
“Eric? Did you know that…”
“No! How did they know?”
Eduardo walked up to Eric and laughed.
“Buddy, your assistant follows you everywhere. If that’s not a dead giveaway she’s your body collector, I don’t know what is!”
Indigo smiled. “Typically, actors rely on each other for meat, so it’s always obvious to us when we see a good kid like you running around with an assistant.”
I was in a state of confusion, which gave way to relief. None of us are in danger, Eric gets to keep his Oscar, and we now have friends to confide in.
I cleaned and prepared Yancey, making some pan-seared “steak”, meatballs, and clay-roasted thighs. We drank and the actors ate (not me, I opted for a grilled cheese) and the night was good. At some point, Eric grabbed my hand and looked at me.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better assistant.” He said.
Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Hastings III, my favorite man in Hollywood.
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