Fanny does not seem to notice Mr. Text and Mr. Subtext sitting on either side of her at the breakfast table. Eugene does, though. The sight is enough to turn the scrambled eggs to ash in his mouth, but he soldiers on. He is British, after all.
Cecily wipes away tears. “Forgive me—I don't know where such silly notions have sprung from. I'm afraid we were given to understand you were...”
“Indisposed,” says Mr. Text.
“Dead,” says Mr. Subtext, who is sharpening silverware.
“Absolutely not,” says Eugene. “I'll admit I had a late night. I was up 'til the wee hours making love to a handsome man.”
They freeze; Eugene waits for the script to reassert itself.
“That sounds lovely,” says Cecily, after some time. “Would you like to go shooting this afternoon? The weather is delightful.”
“With Frank Stallard, actually,” says Eugene, fixing his eyes on Fanny at the opposite end of the table, who doesn't move. His nasty little problem hisses and claws at him, but he swats it away. “You remember him—I think I mentioned him?”
“Or perhaps croquette?” Cecil asks, sounding strangled.
Fanny is still frozen; it takes her a little longer to come unstuck. When she does, she stands up, and flings her napkin. Disgust is written across her face with the subtlety of an actress playing to the back of the hall. “If you're going to be like that, Eugie.” She storms off. “Honestly—you are foul, you know that? It's my wedding day—why can't you behave?”
“Yes,” says Mr. Text. “Behave.”
“Kill yourself,” says Mr. Subtext.
“There's never been a man,” shouts Fanny from the door, and slams it.
“There'll never be a man,” says Mr. Subtext. “Kill yourself.”
Eugene thinks about Frank's fingers awakening bursts of colour inside him. “You'd have to put the noose around my neck first,” says Eugene cheerfully.
“That,” says Mr. Text, “can be arranged.”
“I do so love being out on the water,” says Cecily, trailing her fingers in the water.
“One admits it is rather pleasant,” says Mr. Text, who is sitting primly in the bows. “Water: the unheeded elixir of our continued existence. Its uses are endless.”
“Good for drowning in,” says Mr. Subtext.
“A dangerous sport, archery, don't you think?” An arrow sprouted from the target by Mr. Text's face. Cecily was an alarmingly good shot.
“Might get stuck like a pig,” says Mr. Subtext. Eugene aims an arrow at his head.
“Beautiful stairs, these.”
“A broken neck is quick.”
“Ah, Mr. Watkins. Kind of you to join us. I trust you have had a nice day.”
“Your last day.”
“Thank you, Mr. Subtext. I think we're are perhaps a little past that now. Mr. Watkins... perhaps you would like to take a seat, as it were.”
Eugene sat at the dressing table. His face looked thin and drawn in the mirror, as if an illness had sucked away all his health. His nasty little problem was turning circles in the back of his head, biting. He could see neither Mr. Text nor Mr. Subtext in the mirror; it was only him alone with the noose that hung waiting.
This is not how your story ends, says Frank.
“I've already told you,” he said. “I'm not doing it. You'll have to do it yourself.”
The dressing table meets his face in a mess of blood and bone. Something cracks. Blood and gristle spray the mirror. Fingers grip his hair and jerk it back painfully.
“Perhaps I haven't been clear,” Mr. Text says in his ear. “My fault, no doubt. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that have a say in your ending.”
Eugene spits out a tooth. “I won't do it.”
Mr. Text steps back and purses his lips. He nods to his brother, and Eugene's face meets the table a second time. Two more teeth give way; his eyebrow splits.
Eugene coughs up words covered in blood. “You can hurt me all you want—won't change my mind.”
Mr. Text sighs. “Let him go,” he says, and Mr. Subtext releases his fingers. Eugene's head dips, half-broken and barely able to hold himself up unsupported. He can feel his eyes thickening shut.
“You have surprising spirit,” says Mr. Text.
“For a nancy,” says Mr. Subtext.
“Perhaps once again I have misjudged my approach. Neither guilt nor violence have worked. You are a proud man, it seems.”
Eugene levers himself to face them. Mr. Subtext paces restlessly, licking his bloody knuckles. Mr. Text watches thoughtfully.
“We are agreed, are we not Mr. Watkins, that a happy ending is not an option. But perhaps you are under the misapprehension that your timely death at your own hands is the only story we could tell.” Mr. Text leans in close; Eugene can smell his breath—the metallic tang of celluloid. “I'm afraid you are mistaken, Mr. Watkins. Perhaps we will allow you to live past your sister's wedding. It would be a shame to ruin such a wonderful event at all; she looked so lovely in her dress. I'm sure you'll agree. Which is why none of us will be too surprised when the butler finds you dressed in your sisters evening gown and rouge. Quite a scandal, but no-one will be too surprised. You have that nasty little problem, and they've always thought they'd catch you getting in garters one day.”
Eugene laughs up blood.
“No—quite, quite. Scandalous, but comedic really.” Mr. Text turns his back. “Let me think: there are other stories, of course.” He runs pale fingertips down the hang-rope. “Your sister has conceived a child—did you know? On her wedding night, no less. The young Felix Suresha Jr. as will be. A bonny lad—a very bonny lad.”
“We could give it five, six, seven years perhaps. And then—Junior and his uncle, one weekend when dear Sister Fanny is away visiting her husband. Oh, don't look at me like that—you wouldn't, you wouldn't, but it hardly matters, does it? It's believable—we can tell ###i/i### one.”
“Dirty queers,” Mr. Subtext agrees.
“Or, there's a nice dignified death,” says Mr. Text, and yanks on the rope.
The rope is rough on the sore skin of his neck. Mr. Text and Mr. Subtext look up at him approvingly. “Good boy,” says Mr. Text.
The voice is coming from somewhere Eugene can't quite see.
Mr. Text turns to Mr. Subtext. “Brother dear, would you like to do the honours and kick away the stool?”
Mr. Subtext rubbed his hands together in glee.
There is no fourth wall in my bedroom, Eugene realises with a = near-death clarity. No fourth wall—just an empty space. All of the rooms are like that, come to think of it.
Mr. Subtext kicks the stool, and it wobbles beneath Eugene.
Frank is there, where the fourth wall should be. He is waving at Eugene, calling his name.
“Remember,” he is saying, “this is not how your story ends.”
Mr. Subtext draws back his foot to kick the stool again, and Eugene makes his choice. He pulls the noose from around his neck and, as Mr Subtext draws near him, Eugene kicks him square in the nose. He squawks, surprisingly high-pitched and girlish, and falls backwards, taking Mr. Text with him.
Frank extends a hand. “This way!” he says, and pulls Eugene between the walls of his bedroom.
Mr. Text shoves his brother off him, and scrambles up. “This is quite beyond a joke,” he calls after them. “There is no escape.”
“We're going to murder you and chop you into pieces,” adds Mr. Subtext.
Frank pulls Eugene in a direction that he can't quite name, a direction he's never quite looked in, and they are running hand-in-hand through corridors full of items that Eugene can't quite comprehend.
“We will cut you,” calls Mr. Text from somewhere behind, though with Frank's hand clutching his tightly, Eugene finds the threats sound empty.
“We will cut you and you will bleed,” says Mr. Subtext.
Eugene scurries to keep up with Frank, who is striding through the corridors as if they are intimately familiar. “Where are we?” Eugene asks him.
Frank looks back at him. "Let's call it behind the scenes,” he says. “Through here.” They duck beneath cameras and lights, stepping over thick cables that snake the floor, and then they are the wedding. The hall is crammed full of guests, and at the centre of the top table his mother is making her speech. “Her father is sadly unable...” she begins, and then they are off, darting through the crowd. Behind them, Mr. Text and Mr. Subtext cut a swathe, pursuing Eugene and Frank in a deluge of broken crockery splintering like bone.
“Here,” says Frank, and they duck from one scene to another, to another: here they are on the rain-swept scene where Fanny bumps—literally—into Felix outside the Ritz; here they are in the centre of the maze where Fanny sobs over the misunderstanding that has briefly separated her from her beau; here they are in the motor-car where he declares his love, shaking with the movement of the engine as the road projection glides behind them. And then, opening a door in a spectacular sunset, Frank leads them into darkness.
They sink as in deep water, until Eugene finds his feet, steadying himself against Frank. At first the dark is absolute, and then there is both light and sound: enormous white letters that appear above their heads, and an orchestra that swells to a rousing crescendo.
“End credits,” says Frank. “We're nearly there.”
He turns to Eugene, who is struck by how heroic he looks, with his blond hair and tight purple shirt and now, behind him, his own name rising in a bold letters: frank stallard.
“Don't think this will stop us,” says Mr. Text from somewhere in the darkness.
The brothers appear, ripping through the letters as if they are made of tissue paper, sharp fingers snip-snipping them away until they are shredded into so much paper snow, drifting upwards and out of sight.
“We can cut anything,” says Mr. Subtext.
Eugene grabs Frank and pulls him away from the advancing brothers, further into the dark, ducking below letters and leapfrogging names—assistant director, main cast—until—”Best boy grip: we're nearly there!”—they are confronted by the outline of a white horse rearing on its hind legs.
“Stop,” calls Mr. Text. He sounds out of breath. “This game has gone on quite enough. You cannot possibly hope for a happy ending!”
Mr. Subtext strides towards them. He snaps his fingers in a scissoring motion, and they glint silver and sharp. “Ungrateful!” he says. “We try to do you the service of putting you on film, and when we give you the ending you deserve you throw it back in our faces!”
“Quite right, Brother,” says Mr. Text. “I'm disappointed. If we show... homosexuals on film we must enforce the Code. Misery and death. We needn't have shown you at all!”
“Nowhere else to run,” says Mr. Subtext. The scissor fingers flash. Behind him, Mr. Text holds up the knotted noose.
Frank places himself between Eugene and the Censors. “What you boys don't realise,” he says, “is you are bound by not only the Code, but of your time—and your time is running out.”
The horse rears one last time. Everything goes black.
They cut me from the credits, you know? As far as the history books knew—until recently, I suppose—was that it was directed by Frank Smithee. It was a different time. They didn't like what I did with the Eugene character. I didn't want him to die, you see, but the censors said I had to, otherwise I couldn't show him at all. I wasn't allowed all that stuff that went beforehand if I didn't... oh, I don't know... punish him, I suppose.
We've moved past that sort of archaic story now, but... well. That's why I'm so thankful for this opportunity—I never thought I'd live to see the day and to have it found and restored like this... That's what this deleted scene is all about. It's the ending I thought Eugene deserved.
The Censors disagreed with me. But then again... where are they now?
Eugene lies on his bed, the warm sunlight from the window casting his skin gold. Beside him, the handsome man from the reception turns beneath his sheet, opens his eyes.
“Morning,” says Eugene.
“Morning.” The man leans closer, and whispers in Eugene's ear.
“This is how your story ends.”
Eugene wraps his arms around him, kissing him again. “Thank you.”
Red No. 2 is the fiction section of Harlot Media, serializing one story per month. New installments are published every Friday. We focus on queer, intersectional, #ownvoices fiction with an eye for the strange and beautiful. Submit to us through this form.