I took a deep breath, almost chocked on a leftover popcorn kernel, leaned over and pressed refresh on my browser. I quickly sat back and covered my eyes with my hand.
“Oh my God, I can’t watch this,” I muttered, peeking out through my fingers, as if that was going to shield me from possible embarrassment.
“That’s why we’re here honey, to watch it for you,” my mother said from down on the floor.
I peered at the screen. It was all black with creepy keyboard and guitar sounds coming faintly from the speakers. The words “Experiment in Terror” flashed across the screen.
I laughed. “Experiment in Terror? That’s an old Blake Edwards movie.”
I shook my head at the lack of originality even though it actually was quite fitting. It figured Dex would come up with a hokey name like that.
“Hope you’re not going to get sued now,” my father said.
“You can’t copyright titles dad,” I hushed him.
Beneath the title, the words “The Darkhouse” appeared.
“Darkhorse?” asked my mom, squinting.
“Darkhouse. Like the opposite of a lighthouse,” I offered, though again, this was all Dex’s doing.
The words faded from view and a wavering, hazy image of the lighthouse appeared. A growling, rough voice came through. It took me a few seconds to realize it was Dex’s voice, albeit a bit lower than usual. I had only heard his voice once in the last few weeks. It still took me by surprise that it belonged to a somewhat short, thin, scruffy man instead of a tall, hulking behemoth.
“At the turn of the century the Oregon Coast was a busy cornucopia of merchant vessels, ships and boats which plied the waters heading for lands both near and far,” Dex narrated. I cringed at the sloppy writing and wondered why I hadn’t been asked to whip something up. If I had known he was going to narrate the episode I would have insisted.
“Did you find some old sailor to do the voiceover?” my mother asked.
“No. Actually, that’s all Dex.”
My mother didn’t look too impressed. She exchanged a vague glance with my father and looked back at the screen.
Dex’s voice went on, giving a short and rather sinister history lesson before the stock footage of old ships and wild storms ceased and suddenly my big fat face filled the screen.
“Oh, Jesus.” I put my hand over my eyes again.
“Perry,” my dad warned, his religious side irked by my choice of words.
Ada reached over and pulled my hand off my face.
“Oh come on, you look great,” she said excitedly. I cautiously peered at the screen again.
I definitely did not look great. I had enough problems dealing with my body and face on a daily basis, just looking into the mirror often sent me off into a tizzy. So obviously with the camera (which, really does add ten pounds) zoomed in it wasn’t doing me any favors.
I remembered the scene like it was yesterday (or a few weeks ago). Dex and I were on the beach near the lighthouse, battling the ferocious wind and attempting to get a few good setup shots. I got nervous with the camera in my face and Dex’s rather brusque way of directing, so I suddenly started spouting off all this knowledge about the lighthouse and its morbid history. It sounds crazy, but somehow I knew everything there was to know about it. For a while there it was like I was living it, moving through and witnessing its past like a ghostly observer. And for some strange reason, Dex chose those scenes to put in the show. I watched my round, blank face stare stupidly at the ocean with my black hair flying all over the place.
“You look haunted,” Ada said quietly.
“I don’t get it,” said my mother. “Are you having a seizure?”
The camera froze on my face as Dex’s narration explained how the host, me, felt something dark and horrible about the lighthouse.
“An internal warning or a message from the grave?” Dex said dramatically.
My dad snorted in laughter. “I think she just forgot her lines.”
I glared at him and sank back into the bed. This was not starting out well at all.
Thankfully my face faded from view and the story began to move in a more linear fashion. A lot of the shots that I wouldn’t have thought were useable worked great at creating atmosphere, and the music that Dex used (or composed) added to the creepiness.
We had watched the show for about ten minutes when I realized that although the video thoroughly intrigued and scared me, it didn’t have the same effect on my parents. I had actually lived through everything – I knew the end to the story, which was more horrifying than anything captured on film. But did your average person, who didn’t know the things that I knew, get anything from it?
I looked over at my mother. She was staring at her fingernails. At least my dad watched, though I could see an impatient look in his eyes. Even during the part where Dex filmed (shakily) the hallway flooding and the fire creeping up the walls of the lighthouse, and me, their daughter, getting dragged underwater, neither of my parents seemed moved or concerned. Even when the screen went blank as Dex chucked the camera out of the window. Nothing.
Ada, on the other hand, bit her lip hard, fully engrossed. That would have been a great sign, had she not already known the real danger involved.
Needless to say, an uncomfortable silence filled my room as the show ended.
“Well, Perry,” said my dad. He got up and didn’t finish his sentence.
My mother got up too. “That was interesting. You looked good.”
Ada gave our parents an annoyed look and turned to me. “That was fantastic.”
It wasn’t fantastic. I don’t even know if it was interesting. And I definitely didn’t look good.
“So,” my dad cleared his throat. “Do you really think people are going to buy that?”
He chuckled. “Perry, you’ve based a whole show on a lie.”
“It’s not a lie,” I said incredulously.
“So you’re telling me that a ghost set the lighthouse on fire? Because the last time I checked, you, Al, and the police were blaming the explosion on faulty wiring or something of that matter.”
“The police said it must have been faulty wiring,” I told him.
“And now you’re saying it’s the ghost of the lighthouse.”
“I’m not saying that now, I’ve always said that. I just didn’t tell you guys that because you wouldn’t believe me.” I felt my cheeks flush and gave Ada a helpless look. She shrugged, not wanting to get dragged into a senseless argument with our dad.
“You’re right about that,” he sighed. “Look, pumpkin, I don’t care what you do in your spare time, so as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job. Your career.”
“But don’t get your hopes up on…this. I honestly don’t see it going anywhere. I’m not saying that to be mean sweetie. I’m just being your dad. This was…fun.”
“Uh-huh,” I mumbled and looked over at my mom who edged silently towards the door. She caught me looking at her and pasted on a sympathetic smile.
“You know your parents…we’re too old for this kind of stuff. You know ghosts and the internet and things aren’t really made for us. But your writing was good. And you looked good. And that’s what’s important.”
Of course my mother, being an ex-model from Sweden and all, would say that.
“You didn’t even read my writing!” I never saw her glance once at the blog I had written, which was posted beside the video in plain sight.
She looked embarrassed. “No, not yet but I know it would be good anyway. Stick to your writing and your job Perry and good things will happen.”
“We’re going to go watch Desperate Housewives.” My dad waved and shut the door behind them.
“Fuck,” I moaned and flopped back on the bed.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Ada chided.
My eyes flew open. “Excuse me?”
She got up and walked over to the computer.
“It wasn’t bad at all, Perry. Seriously, my friends would find this shit scary.”
“Well they would. They are your demographic, aren’t they? Little tweens and teens?”
“I was kind of hoping everyone would find it scary.”
“And I’m sure they do. But come on, it’s just a demo like you said. It’s not going to be perfect your first time out. Besides, you almost fucking died making this. That’s insane.”
She had a point but it didn’t help with what my parents said about keeping my day job.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I think it’s awesome and I’m gonna get everyone else to think it’s awesome. You’ll get a million likes on YouTube. And the next time you do this, it’ll be even better. You guys just need practice.”
“No, I need practice. Dex is fine.”
She laughed. “He at least needs to practice his narration.”
“It was a little Vincent Price, wasn’t it?” I mused.
“Who’s Vincent Price?”
Oh, for crying out loud.
“Nevermind, nevermind.” I covered my face with my hands again. I knew if I got more comfortable being on camera, and if we had a better script and an actual game plan, the next time would work a lot better. The thing that bothered me though was if there wouldn’t be a next time.
What did Dex think of it? What did his boss? I eyed my cell and contemplated calling Dex but decided I was too afraid to hear what he had to say. I couldn’t handle brutal honesty at the moment and I knew if I couldn’t make a go of this show then I didn’t have anything else left.
I moaned and rolled over.
Ada hit my leg with her hand. “Snap out of it. I don’t want to see you go into another depression.”
“I’m not depressed,” I mumbled face down into the bedding. “I’m screwed.”
“No you’re not. You hated your job anyway, right? So go get a new job. Stop being so emo.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. That said a lot coming from Queen Emo herself.
“Ada, when you’re my age you’ll understand what a big deal it is to be without a job.”
“Oh shut up. Spare me your dramatics. You’re in your early twenties and you live at home, you loser. Half of the country is out of work right now and they actually have real problems, such as mouths to feed and mortgages to pay and whatever.”
“It’s a terrifying world when you are the voice of reason,” I admitted.
“And it’s a terrifying world when you have to tell your older sister that everything will be all right. Just…promise me you won’t lock yourself in your room and mope all week. Go out and get another job. I’ll keep your secret safe from mom and dad. You’re going to have to do something between nine and five anyway and like hell I’d want you following me around at school.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
The next morning felt like I was on a super secret spy mission; I was a spy who wore a business suit and rode a motorbike.