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The Greatest Showman – Chapter 105

Chapter 105 – Difficult to distinguish between true and false

The shooting of ‘Buried’ went extremely smoothly, to the point where one might say it exceeded expectations.

The entire burden of the production rested on Renly’s shoulders. All other tasks were minimized to the extreme, and the progress of the production depended entirely on the quality of Renly’s acting. If he was in a bad state, continuously making mistakes in a scene, a single shot could take hours, thereby ruining the entire day’s work. However, if his state was excellent, only a few simple takes would suffice, and sometimes even bring surprises. Shooting five to six scenes a day would then pose no problem at all.

Fortunately, Renly was in an excellent state, one might even say he was on fire.

In less than five days, the shooting progress had already surpassed two-thirds, far exceeding expectations. The filming is estimated to wrap up in the next two to four days. Even for an independent film with a small budget and scope, that is truly incredible.

This is excellent news for the financially strapped production team. If shooting were to extend beyond two weeks, their existing funds would be depleted, forcing them to pause production and seek additional investment. If things didn’t go smoothly, the project might remain shelved, gathering dust forever. However, now that the production can be completed within ten days, that leaves even more room for post-production and promotion, undoubtedly a great relief.

The filming proceeded smoothly, with the entire crew being in high gear. Even the hired mercenaries were cheerful because, for them, smooth shooting meant getting paid and moving on. Undoubtedly, this was the most enjoyable collaborative experience for them. No extra work was needed, no complex personnel issues to handle. All they had to do was complete their job and watch the filming from the sidelines. Such an easy gig was rare amidst the global economic crisis.

However, Renly’s personal state was deteriorating.

The boundary between reality and illusion in his mind was becoming increasingly blurred. His sleep quality plummeted, and ever since the claustrophobic experience, he was awakened by nightmares every night.

In his dreams, he found himself buried under the desert, desperately using his phone to seek help through various channels, but no one paid any attention to him. All faces were indifferent, devoid of features, expressions, or emotions, coldly replying, “Sorry, we’re powerless too.” He was left abandoned in the desert to silently await his death.

Or he dreamt of being tied up and thrown into a deep pit, terrorists standing at the edge, grinning wickedly, shouting in Persian, which he didn’t understand. Then they picked up shovels to dispose of him, and the soil fell like torrential rain. He widened his eyes, almost bursting, but he couldn’t muster any strength, only able to watch himself being buried alive, despair making his blood cold and stiff.

After the filming started, these occurrences became more frequent. He could be awakened two or three times a night, and both the duration and quality of his sleep were declining sharply, his dark circles getting heavier, blood vessels appearing in his eyes, with even his footsteps becoming increasingly light.

What’s even worse is that one time, after waking up from a nightmare, he was confused, unable to distinguish whether he was Renly or Paul, strongly suspecting to be Paul—except that time, he was rescued smoothly. But even after being saved, the memory of being buried alive in the desert still tightly entangled him.

Although such a situation only occurred once, it left Renly feeling somewhat mentally disoriented. During lunch today, he fell asleep sitting up, then woke up suddenly without any warning, drenched in cold sweat.

After finishing a day of shooting, Renly returned to the hotel early in an attempt to rest. However, despite his eyelids feeling heavy, he couldn’t fall asleep. His muscles were sore, and he felt exhausted, yet his mind was incredibly alert. In resignation, Renly took out the script and began reading the scenes for tomorrow’s shoot. Although the script for “Buried” was not complicated, having only a few lines, the real space for an actor’s performance lay hidden behind the words, in the unseen content.

Flipping over and over, unconsciously he fell asleep. Amid a drowsy slumber, he felt something disturbing him. He annoyed, waved his hand to shoo it away, only to find it impossible to get rid of, like an irritating fly buzzing around his ears. Closing his eyes, he instinctively reached out and felt a handful of gravel. The rough and uneven texture felt so real that it startled him, causing him to abruptly open his eyes. Sitting up suddenly, his head hit the wooden board above him, sharp pain made him grimace, but there was no time to dwell on it. Panic swept through him as his gaze scanned around, and his breath caught in his chest.

He was in a coffin and sand was continuously trickling down. This wasn’t a hotel room; this was where he had been buried alive.

A dream, it is just a dream. He is Renly Hall, lying in a hotel bed, and this is just a nightmare. He swallowed hard, trying to reassure himself, but everything felt so real—the incessant sound of falling sand, the increasing weight of gravel on his chest, the suffocating heat almost boiling the air, the flickering flashlight, and the thunderous vibration of a phone beside his ear…

Everything felt too real, especially the pain coming from his head and arms, which was becoming increasingly evident. He raised his hand and saw it covered in blood. His phone was vibrating incessantly in his hand, memories flooding back in an instant.

Just now, a bomb had been dropped, shattering the lid of the coffin, and sand poured down like torrential rain. His phone lost signal, and his call was forcibly interrupted. In this desperate situation, his survival instinct erupted with unbelievable strength. He tried to plug the crack with his shirt to stop the sand from pouring in further, but the wood eventually broke. The sand continued to trickle down, leaving him with less and less time. If he doesn’t get out soon, he won’t have another chance.

Yes, he didn’t have much time left.

Seeing the vibrating phone in his hand, a ray of hope suddenly ignited. The phone that had just lost signal finally rang again. He had to let the outside world know that something unexpected had happened to him, and the rescue speed needed to be accelerated. This was his only hope.

He immediately pressed the answer button without any hesitation. “Hello? Who’s there?” Raising the flashlight, the pale yellow light revealed the fine sand falling steadily, giving a sense of desolate grandeur. But he had no mood to appreciate it at the moment. His voice sounded urgent, as if grasping at the last straw of survival.

“Is this Paul Conroy?” The voice on the other end of the phone was calm and slow, each word enunciated deliberately so clearly it was almost unbearable. He had to interrupt the voice directly, “Yes, yes, I’m Paul. Who are you?” He had to adjust his shirt more tightly because the sand kept falling, and the situation seemed to be getting worse.

“Paul, this is Alan Davenport.” The voice on the other end of the phone still pronounced each word clearly, making people impatient. “I’m the HR manager at CRT Company.”

“Yes, yes, I left you a message.” He just hoped the process would be faster, a lot faster. The sand was still falling, the phone was running out of battery, and not to mention the intermittent signal.

“Yes, I heard that from Rebecca Browning at the State Council. Can you tell me about your current situation?”

The leisurely voice on the phone was truly irritating, but he didn’t have time to be angry now. With the sand falling at an unstoppable speed before his eyes, and with the imminent threat to his life, he didn’t have time to pay attention to the other person. He just said impatiently, “It’s getting worse. There might have been an explosion, and now the sand has been leaking down continuously. It will probably fill up in about half an hour.” His words were extremely panicked, he couldn’t even organize his thoughts.

“Okay, okay, slow down, try to calm down as much as possible.” He rolled his eyes, as he was about to die, and the other person was asking him to stay calm. But in that moment of anger, he gritted his teeth forcefully, channelling all his rage into his hands. Astonishingly, his shirt started to wedge into the cracks bit by bit, giving him a glimmer of hope. He focused all his attention on his left hand’s work, without any time to pay attention to the other person. “Let me ask you, who have you been talking to?”

Finally, the cracks were sealed, and the sand stopped falling.

“Damn! Does that f*cking matter?” Irritation surged up, and he couldn’t hold back, so he cursed. But after all the struggles, he also knew that anger wouldn’t help him at this moment. So he took a deep breath, and forced himself to calm down, trying to get his brain working again. “Dan Brenner from the hostage takers, the Hostage Working Group…”

“Okay, Paul, I got it. What about the media? I know your kidnapping video leaked, but have you directly mentioned this to anyone?” The other party interrupted his words, asking directly. His brow furrowed involuntarily — why did the other party want to know this? But his words still answered, “No.”

“Okay.” The other party seemed very satisfied with this answer, which made his brow furrow again. His peripheral vision kept getting distracted by the cracked opening where his shirt was tucked in, but he couldn’t focus on it. He sensed something was wrong, but he was currently in the midst of a life-and-death situation. He couldn’t afford to worry about those trivial details anymore. “Continue to keep it that way, we need to keep the impact to a minimum.”

In a moment of anger breaking through the shackles of panic, he fiercely struck the fragile lid above his head with his left elbow and roared angrily, “The current situation is that I think I’m in a damn coffin!” Sand began to fall again due to the intense shaking. “Because it seems the space is small enough!” He exerted the last bit of strength in his body, with the fear of death, the suffocation of being buried alive, and the desire to survive, it all came bursting out at this moment. “Save me! Save me!” His pupils completely dilated, while he was screaming irrationally, “What the hell are you doing right now? How are you helping me? Huh? Huh?”

Like a drowning man, he struggled regardless, but all his strength melted beneath the calm surface of the water. His body began to sink slowly, and no amount of struggling would help.

How he wished this was just a nightmare.

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