Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Manchester, UK
Halloween Entry: Dead Air
Mmm. Been a few years since I've written prose.
The last few days had been traumatic for the whole team. A record number of staff had taken compassionate leave or taken time off, citing stress as the cause of their temporary departure. Black armbands had been worn as a mark of respect, and more than one toast had been made to departed friends.
Roger Burne had been an exceptional talent in the field of sports journalism. To some, it was a great shame that he had remained in Burnley, the town of his birth, where opportunities for job progression in his chosen profession were scarce to say the least, but it was his love and enthusiasm for the local sports scene that made his reporting stand out above his peers. When representatives from the national TV networks came calling from London, Burne politely declined their offers time and time again, despite the ever more substantial potential salary. He had reached the sports desk of Look Northwest: News at 6, the pinnacle of local television news and sport and nobody could take that from him.
In a perfect world, that kind of passion and loyalty would be rewarded with a long and happy life. In the real world, things rarely work out that way.
At 9:45am on December 21st, 2008 Roger Burne was killed in a bizarre, one-in-a-million accident when a light aircraft pranged into his golf cart as he approached the 7th hole at the West Lancashire Golf Club. The pilot of the aircraft was miraculously unharmed, however the official police statement released that evening confirmed that Burne had taken a propeller to the face and upper body, killing him instantly. The coroner commented that it was the worst injury he had witnessed in some forty years of practice.
Which made it all the more surprising that on the following Tuesday, Burne reported for work.
The sports desk had been manned on Monday by Izzy Sitterson, a junior reporter. A second fill-in stint had been pencilled in for the rest of the week, but as she timidly edged backwards into the mauve facade beside Duncan Hallow’s weather wall, her face frozen in terror and her throat holding back the cream cheese bagel she had just devoured, she decided to just let the old man have his seat back.
The fetid corpse shuffled towards makeup. The intense heat from the studio lights betrayed the bitter chill that permeated throughout every crew member. As the distracted floor manager gestured to the catatonic, yet usually bubbly Yvonne and Terry with his clipboard and wiped away the dribbles of Diet Coke from his beard, a hushed silence fell across the set. Was the producer really going to allow this horror to be seen live on air? Would this happen every day? Could Burne possibly maintain his usual level of intelligent discourse when interviewing the recently sacked manager of a failing football club?
Yvonne picked up a tray of cosmetics and a large brush, glancing nervously at Terry who had lost all feeling in the right side of his body. It was an impossible task they faced and it was getting closer with every scrape and moan. Where to start? The lack of skin on Burne’s forehead negated the need for foundation, but the lights would certainly reflect off the bone. These concerns were alleviated when Mike Preston, executive producer, stepped in to lead the reanimated bastion of journalistic integrity away and into a dark corner. Mike was going to ’have a word’.
Usually, this meant a difficult situation would be dealt with in a timely fashion. Mike was known for his diplomatic nature and as such, had a solid friendship with nearly everybody in the team. These same friends now feared for him as he guided his former colleague with a firm arm around the remains of his shoulder.
News anchor June Fox finally managed to peel herself off her seat and take a few tentative steps away from the desk. Straining to hear Mike’s words yet unwilling to venture any closer, a few choice phrases drifted across the room to her. Words such as ‘unique opportunity’, ‘discontinued’ and ‘required to employ a certain number of disabled people’ gave her pause for reflection. She was friends with Burne once. Hell, until two days ago, even. Maybe a role could be found for him in some department.
What’s more, this was a unique opportunity! A local news team with undisputed first access to a sensational story, bound to be picked up worldwide within the next few hours. Even the bloggers couldn‘t trump them. As an added bonus, this could just be the ultimate tale of triumph over adversity. One of their own, come back from the dead to once again find gainful employment! The story would write itself, but Look Northwest: News at 6 would write it better anyway. In three minutes, the program would begin and the world would change. She could taste it.
The palpable feeling of disappointment when the screaming started eclipsed the fear. Seemingly, the majority of the crew had also come around to the idea that they were a part of something big, something groundbreaking that could catapult any one of them to fame if they played it right. Seeing Mike’s blood gush out of his neck in rhythmic bursts and onto the studio floor had put an end to all of those thoughts.
Six o’ clock came and went with nary a camera rolling or a boom mike lowered. The locals phoned the network in their dozens, demanding that something be done to ensure the news would never be delayed or disrupted again.
No complaints were to be made in the studio, however. The whole sordid affair lasted mere minutes. All eyes were now fixed on elderly Cyril Benjamin. Due to be the subject of a light-hearted interview about prize-winning vegetables in the lifestyle section later in the program, he had instead simultaneously become a hero and a new classification of murderer by decapitating Roger Burne following a feeding frenzy which had claimed four more lives.
To think, the woman in the green room had considered the shovel to be unnecessary.