Luckily, whether people accepted the truth or not, Experiment in Terror got its proper (i.e. not a demo) debut on the Shownet website that following Sunday.
It was…amazing. OK, I know what you’re thinking; of course, it was amazing because I was in it. No, not at all. In fact, I was barely in it (which I kind of liked – still not used to this whole “on camera” thing yet). But there was no denying that the show actually looked great. In combination with my blog and with the score Dex somehow whipped up in a week, “Red Fox” actually worked.
We had a show. Even my parents looked a tad more impressed about it (and they are the show’s toughest critics). Dex would send me text messages throughout the week keeping me informed on hits to the website and if people were linking to it. That one episode was becoming a bit of a phenomenon, just as my original footage of my adventures in my uncle’s lighthouse had been. Well, a small phenomenon, but that still surpassed any of the doubts I had earlier about the future of the show and my involvement in it.
The next step to ensure our success continued was for me to make Twitter and Facebook accounts for the show and manage them. I knew enough from my marketing programs at the university that we had to promote as much as possible. And since Dex was busy being a composer, a filmmaker, editor, and trying to arrange future filming opportunities, that all fell into my hands.
It had been a lot of fun, actually, even though all the “tweeting” became a bit of a crutch when I should have been applying for jobs. Then came Dex’s brilliant idea to open the blog to comments. By the way, I say brilliant in the most sarcastic way. Opening the blog comments did increase a sort of communal feel on Shownet, and maybe attracted more attention overall, but unfortunately a lot of the comments were rather negative.
At first it was just people like ALEX64 saying things like, “This show is crap, what bullshit” and that sort of stuff, which is to be expected. I couldn’t say I wouldn’t want to say the same thing. Without a ghost (or whatever) coming up to you and slapping you in your own face, it was a hard thing to fathom and even now I had a hard time coming to terms with what happened. Honestly, it was easier to just pretend it was all a figment of your imagination than to accept that the world, as most people know it, is just an illusion, and predatory, evil, things really do lurk in the shadows. Lately, though, the comments were getting a bit personal.
Two weeks ago, Dex had come to Portland so we could do some filming. We ended up actually filming two different places that weekend – Portland has no shortage of haunted tales. The first place we hit up was The Benson Hotel, which always had a scary reputation. It’s actually a really nice hotel with a spiffy doorman outside and everything, and most people have a very pleasant and lovely stay. Still, there was always someone, at least once a week, complaining to management about seeing a strange lady roaming the hallways and the grand staircase, or weird sounds and noises, or random stuff going missing. A lot of staff workers acknowledged that weird things did happen, but no one seemed very bothered by it, evidenced by a local “Ghost Walk” tour that poked around every weekend.
So when we showed up at the hotel, they didn’t bat an eye. They said that we could roam freely in the hotel and poke around (without poking around in people’s hotel rooms, of course).
We didn’t really see anything too out of the ordinary. I was still scared out of my wits, as usual. It didn’t seem to matter if I was getting attacked by animals in the fathomless New Mexico desert or if I’d seen a ghostly apparition in the elevator of a crowded hotel; I still got scared. But there was nothing wanting to kill us (a nice change) or anything really sending our minds packing. Just a load of things that “could be,” which always becomes “is” in my own overworked mind. And thanks to Dex’s clever work and bit of luck, we were able to convey the same thing on film. We caught a lot of weird floating orbs of light, and picked up weird heat shapes on the infrared camera.
Same thing happened the next day when we spent the entire night at a haunted pizza joint that used to house a brothel. Apparently the madam had been found at the bottom of the old elevator shaft with her neck broken; the verdict was murder. We often heard people walking around in the upper dining area (when we knew no one was up there) and we managed to get that on film. And the basement, the basement was something else. Hot and cold spots everywhere, more weird orbs and an incredibly creepy feeling at every turn. Even Dex, who is normally quite composed when he’s filming, said he was happy to get out of there.
We had aimed to film something every weekend but as our series was just getting off the ground, and I had to keep up the illusion that I was still working for most of the week, that wasn’t feasible. Luckily, filming both the hotel and the pizza parlor on one weekend allowed us to get two episodes out of it.
I’m getting a bit off track. Anyway, the hotel episode “The Benson” just aired and to as much applause as the “Red Fox” episode did. Unfortunately, that also meant the comments were coming in as well, and this time they were meaner. More personal, as I said. Someone “Anonymous” (aren’t they always?) had started attacking me and the way I looked. Saying I was too fat to be on camera, that I was ugly, that I looked stupid and sounded stupid. You get the idea.
The worst part of it all was that I believed it. This anonymous coward was just reinstating everything I felt about myself already. I had always felt like I was too heavy to be on camera. I always felt ugly and I knew for sure I sounded stupid.
I know I should just shrug it all off. I know that the internet is a terrible place that attracts terrible people who wouldn’t have the balls to say anything if they had to put a face to their name. But it was getting harder each day. Yes, some people said some nice things in defense of me (I wasn’t fat, I had a pretty face, I sounded knowledgeable) but it was only the negative things I believed.
I wanted to tell Dex that perhaps we should switch off the comment section, or run it with a moderator, but I couldn’t figure out how to bring it up without sounding totally insecure. Although I had been in daily texting contact with Dex, and sometimes it wasn’t even work–related, I wasn’t in that place where I could just tell him how I felt.
Back in New Mexico, after spending almost every waking (and sleeping…but just sleeping) moment with him, I had felt so connected to him. I know it makes me sound like some blathering girl, but I honestly felt like he and I were on the same page. We were finally communicating.
But since we got back, I only saw him for that weekend in Portland. Because it was my hometown, I just stayed at home and he got a cheap motel by the airport. I saw him when we did our filmmaking, and there were a few times I thought maybe something was going to happen (what, I don’t know) but then he would go back to his motel and I would go back to my parents’ house. All the intimacy I had felt in Red Fox was gone.
And the contact we had now was just in text messages and emails. I can’t lie and pretend that I didn’t get kind of giddy and stupidly smiley every time a message from him came in, even if it said something as simple as “liked what you wrote” or “I hate the new Muse album.” But that was the extent of our “relationship” at the moment. It was like the kiss never happened.
Yeah. The kiss. It weighed on my mind. It’s what my thoughts turned to whenever they drifted away for a few seconds. It’s the feelings that were stirred up when the wind on the street caught my face just right, or when a certain song came on shuffle. Dex had kissed me, as we were perched up in a swaying pine tree, as we were certain we would meet our deaths below.
It seemed appropriate at the time. I thought I was going to die and I know he did too. But it couldn’t have been just that, could it? Couldn’t it have meant more, couldn’t it have been something he had always wanted to do? I know it was something more to me. I’d been wanting to lay my lips on him ever since we first met.
There was Jennifer though, Dex’s mega–babe girlfriend. The tiny, pathetic voice in my head, the one that so hopelessly wished that maybe they’d be through after our trip, was stifled. They hadn’t broken up. The kiss meant nothing in the end. Dex was back with Jenn and back to his zany self.
Well, sorta. He had been off his medication in New Mexico (accidently) and though he had a few rough patches he was sort of normal, for lack of a better word, by the time we parted ways. Yet when I saw him again he seemed off. Bored, in a way. The playful banter we had shared was subdued and the bright, zealous light that sparked from his eyes had dimmed. He was obviously back on his medication again, or perhaps some new one, but whatever “illness” it was keeping at bay was also keeping the real Dex at bay as well. I didn’t think it was a fair tradeoff. Yes, Dex was manic and often behaved like a wind–up toy but that was who he was. The last night in Red Fox I had told him I hoped he would always feel alive. I think my words fell on deaf ears.
But I was probably overthinking and overanalyzing everything as I always did. I wouldn’t be surprised if I thought he’d changed just because of the circumstances. I mean, they had changed. I think I just had to accept that our relationship was going to change each time we were together. We were partners, we kept in touch and when we were together, we were at the mercy of something else. When we weren’t, he went back to Jennifer and I went back to awaiting his texts like a naïve schoolgirl.
That dilemma aside, which was really just a need to keep my wandering feelings in check, everything really had fallen in place. Though last week’s trip was canceled due to bad weather, we were supposed to embark on a trip to a haunted old leper colony in British Columbia, Canada, on the weekend. Our next episode, the pizza parlor one, would air when we were gone. And my 23rd birthday was the next week.
Everything had fallen into place, except the whole job thing. I was still looking, every day, for someplace to hire me, still lying daily to my parents about having a career. In fact, my 4 p.m. coffee ritual in the lobby of Portland’s Ace Hotel signaled the end of my job search day. Another empty day of holing up in various internet cafes, writing worthless cover letters that would never be read and applying for jobs that companies wouldn’t give more than a glance to.
I sighed and poured a packet of sugar–free sweetener in my coffee, watching the chemicals dissolve in the hot frothy liquid. It was frustrating, to say the least, having to spend so much effort in trying to get a job. It was almost like a job itself, but of course it didn’t pay.
But as long as my parents didn’t find out about it, I was going to be OK. Although, it was annoying and extremely stressful to keep on lying to them. So much so that I barely had an appetite (actually that boded quite well in one way; I’d lost a few pounds – take that, Anonymous!) and the guilt I had was tearing me up inside at night, clouding my dreams and filling me with shame when I was the most vulnerable. I had no choice but to deal with it though, and keep filling out stupid applications and whore my resume around town.
At least that guy had recognized me and looked pleased with himself for doing so. He was a fan of the show. That little encounter, as panicky as it made me feel, did a lot to raise my spirits.