The Last One - Alexandra Oliva


The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn’t yet feel ill, and he’s no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he’d be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He’s been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-shirt reads: COFFEE IN, GENIUS OUT. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.

The opening credits. A flash of leaves, oak and maple, followed immediately by an image of a woman who described her complexion as “mocha” on her application, and aptly so. She has dark eyes and large breasts barely contained in an orange sport top. Her hair is a mass of tight black spirals, each placed with perfection.

Next, panoramic mountains, one of the nation’s northeastern glories, green and vibrant at the peak of summer. Then, a rabbit poised to bolt and, limping through a field, a young white man with buzzed-off hair that glints like mica in the sun. A close-up of this same man, looking stern and young with sharp blue eyes. Next, a petite woman of Korean descent wearing a blue plaid shirt and kneeling on one leg. She’s holding a knife and looking at the ground. Behind her, a tall bald man with panther-dark skin and a week’s worth of stubble. The camera zooms in. The woman is skinning a rabbit. This is followed by another still, the man with the dark skin, but this time without the stubble. His brown-black eyes meet the camera calmly and with confidence, a look that says I mean to win.

A river. A gray cliff face dotted with lichen—and another white man, this one with wild red hair. He clings to the cliff, the focus of the shot manipulated so that the rope holding him fades into the rock, like a salmon-colored slick.

The next still is of a light-skinned, light-haired woman, her green eyes shining through brown-rimmed square glasses. The editor pauses on this image. There’s something about this woman’s smile and the way she’s looking off to the side of the camera that he likes. She seems more genuine than the others. Maybe she’s just better at pretending, but still, he likes it, he likes her, because he can pretend too. The production team is ten days into filming, and this woman is the one he’s pegged as Fan Favorite. The animal-loving blonde, the eager student. The quick study with the easy laugh. So many angles from which to choose—if only it were his choice alone.

The studio door opens and a tall white man strides in. The editor stiffens in his chair as the off-site producer comes to lean over his shoulder.

“Where do you have Zoo now?” asks the producer.

“After Tracker,” says the editor. “Before Rancher.”

The producer nods thoughtfully and takes a step away. He’s wearing a crisp blue shirt, a dotted yellow tie, and jeans. The editor is as light-skinned as the producer but would darken in the sun. His ancestry is complicated. Growing up, he never knew which ethnicity box to check; in the last census he selected white.

“What about Air Force? Did you add the flag?” asks the producer.

The editor swivels in his chair. Backlit by the computer monitor, his dark hair shimmers like a jagged halo. “You were serious about that?” he asks.

“Absolutely,” says the producer. “And who do you have last?”

“Still Carpenter Chick, but—”

“You can’t end with her now.”

But that’s what I’m working