Jacob’s room was hot as sunlight settled the remaining hours of a late afternoon. He hunched over his computer. Over the last couple years, every few months, he had devoted a few days a week for a few hours to searching for a particular movie. He had already checked all the main movie sites, double-checked all recent releases, and rechecked searches of hidden gem lists by other users. A few movies were added to the log of films as he typed them in before continuing to scroll another dodgy website. It would have helped a great deal if he could remember the title. The room creaked as heat settled materials between walls.
Navigating back a page, Jacob checked another page. This one was a forum. It looked like a lot of the others, except it had some extra layers of security. He completed a captcha, filled in a hash of characters and clicked all the panels in an image containing frogs. There were a lot of frogs. After clicking almost as many panels, he was allowed to pass.
If they would have asked for my address, I’d already be checking the next site. Not that they seem to mind people looking. Maybe they just want the right people looking or something like that, I guess.
The cursor hovered over an “x” on the tab, highlighting the icon to close it. The page loaded a shady background with a dark blue menu. In the upper left corner, the address bar still displayed a “not secure” icon. Jacob could see some reasons for extra security. Not only were they hosting forums, but there was also a separate section for hosted movies. The users indiscriminately linked to the hard-to-find videos or seemed to have an option to host the video themselves, with several movies embedded. As familiar as any of the forums he grew up browsing before others took new security measures, he opened a few posts appearing relevant and continued to scroll through each one.
Super Crocogator Vs. Mega Alidile… no, Poulterclowngeist… no, Tarantulava… Ok, so maybe not exactly the kind of movies I was looking for. I probably would have found the movie by now if I didn’t get so distracted. But some of those sound more entertaining than others.
Jacob moved the mouse to go back and start from scratch with a new search when he noticed another section on the website: BAG – Budget Actors Guild. Despite the expected password entry section, he clicked anyway. To his surprise, there was no password, and he scrolled through more posts. Dry air coating his throat became apparent. He licked the roof of his mouth. He swallowed, ready to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water. His hand moved the mouse. He clicked one more link near the top of the page with today’s date: HORROR CASTING CALL TONIGHT!!!
Skimming the information, Jacob took out his phone and opened up the camera. He took a picture of the address, doing his best to ignore the posts about a “total party house” with a somewhat contradictory conversation involving something about being “haunted on floors A-F.” Someone else said it was on floor G, but it still seemed a little weird for floors to have letters instead of numbers.
I guess I’m still new here.
Jacob arrived at the last post, guaranteeing a “gathering of underground horror made up of half movers, half makers and all fans.” They also noted it would be necessary to send a private message for details. He created a new email account and used it for the website.
“Hey,” typed Jacob. “I’m interested in attending the casting call!” Without knowing what else to type, he clicked send.
Seconds ticked to minutes, stretching to reach another hour gone to the search resulted in finding the tab again to close it. Jacob lifted his finger over the icon as a notification displayed: “You have 1 new message.” He recognized the sender’s domain from the website of the same name, clicked it immediately and started skimming for any details he could use.
A quick search in another tab showed the address to be a few hours away from where Jacob lived. He stood up from the chair. A patch of sweat lingered between his back and his shirt. He reached for his wallet and keys before retrieving some fresh clothes, picking out something fashionable. With a quick shower, he got dressed and grabbed the items. A small glass of water was retrieved and consumed. His key turned in the lock on his way out and a few steps later he was in the car as the garage door opened, allowing him to exit as the sun balanced against the tips of mountains.
A distance down each road shimmered with waves of heat coming off of it. Honking horns blared as Jacob neared the main roads. Brakes squeaked and somewhere, a building was being constructed with loud machinery.
What if I made the movie up? I’ve been searching forever. Maybe it’s like that video game, where the mind struggles to create memories that don’t exist. What if it was made for brainwashing people? Like, they hid the movie so the people they showed it to can’t talk about it. But then it’s like those sleeper-agent political thrillers where they install people in the government, waggin’ a cat with some kind of parallel view or something like that. What am I talking about? No one would do that.
The car’s air conditioning allowed Jacob to cool off by the time he arrived at the freeway. It appeared his clothing had suffered minimal distress. He merged, noticing some sirens pass in the opposite direction. Clouds covered the last few rays of sunlight and he stopped glaring at the road. Traffic from the city thinned as he reached narrower roads leading to the mountains.
What if they’re using public movie lists to prime people for predictive programming?
It’s just the AC.
Jacob’s hand found the fan setting and turned it lower.
I have to stop looking at so many horror movie synopsis right after watching the news. I’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll even have to stop watching the news before looking through so many horror movies.
Jacob signaled to turn onto a road he almost missed. No one else was around and he made the turn with no qualms.
Of course I’ll be fine.
Driving the road, it became an imitation of the same before becoming a dirt pathway. The car chugged along, and a clearing arrived in Jacob’s field of view. A mansion with at least two floors had some stone steps to the main entrance. It was made of red bricks with grey mortar filling in the spaces between them. Several windows seemed to indicate a third floor in parts of the house. Other cars far outside of his budget sat parked in a circular driveway, wrapping around to reveal a paved pathway to a gate with an expensive-looking neighborhood on the other side.
Classic map app, taking me the way no one ever goes. This is the sort of place one has to assume cameras are in use in more places than can be seen at once. I guess it kind of even looks like the mansion in the movie.
With little looking around, Jacob parked the car in line with the rest of the cars. He double-checked the map on his phone. It confirmed he had arrived at his destination. He released his seat belt, opening the driver’s side door as if he belonged here.
The things I do to find movies, I’ll never understand. When did I become so obsessed? I’m not obsessed. It’s back to business as usual tomorrow. I’m just checking a lead. What am I, some kind of detective? I should really let this go. But I’m almost sure I can find it tonight.
Jacob walked to the entrance of the house, stopping at the door.
Do I knock? Well, they’re not expecting me to stand here. It… I probably look more suspicious.
The doorbell remained untouched by Jacob’s finger when the door opened to a lavish entryway with an unfinished concrete floor. A powerful scent of new paint promised to force an adaptation without becoming overwhelmed by fresh air.
“Do come in,” greeted a someone in a fancy suit.
“Thank you, I’m here for the casting call,” replied Jacob, wrinkling his nose.
“Isn’t everyone,” replied the person wearing the fancy suit. “Right this way.”
Jacob followed them through a series of hallways. Some doors opened to empty rooms, but each had different wallpaper with mismatched interior furnishings. It felt wrong to speak unless he was spoken to, and he bit his lip as he waited for them to say something. He fixated on an unattractive rug as they passed another room.
What do I even say? “Do you come here often?” This doesn’t even really look that much like the house in the movie. Except the layout is similar and some of the rooms look the same.
Failing to arrive at a conclusion, the pair arrived at an open doorway with soft music and gentle chatter. The room remained undecorated, save for a long table with drinks and some finger foods. There was a red carpet decorating the door and most of the walls had wood panels. One wall remained unfinished, with sheetrock peaking through a thin coat of paint. Jacob looked at his escort, giving an awkward smile while he tried to look confident weaving among the other guests on his way to the table.
“Hey,” Jacob greeted an occasional lingering stare.
“Hey,” some replied.
Others went about their business and Jacob arrived at the table. Two glass punch bowls separated a variety of cookies and brownies from some rolls and salad. He looked around, trying to read the room.
Someone appeared at his side, grabbing a cookie. “How’s it going?”
“Fine,” replied Jacob. “Yourself?”
“Well enough. First time?”
“Yeah, sorry. I don’t mean to stand out. Do you like horror movies?”
“I could tell, you look just like I did the first time I showed up to one of these.”
“Oh,” said Jacob.
“Yeah, anyway. See you around.”
But you didn’t answer my question.
Jacob grabbed a roll and navigated to a ripe patch of wall to plant himself.
I should leave. What am I saying? No one is watching me.
No one watched Jacob. He tried to observe behavior, noticing nothing in particular. His eyes fell to the ground. For the first time, he noticed the wood flooring.
If it weren’t for that unfinished wall, this place would just be a wooden box. Like a… I have to ask someone else. Do I eat the roll? Or is it poisoned? It’s fine. No one has passed out or gotten sick. That one person I talked to seems fine. Not that I’ve seen them again….
Jacob looked up at no one specific. He felt them watching him, but still saw no one looking at him. Searching the crowd of those minding their own business, he caught someone else’s glance and uprooted himself from his work of holding up the wall by approaching them.
“Hey, do you like horror movies?” asked Jacob.
“Sure, I’ve seen a bunch of them,” they replied.
“I’m trying to find one with a mansion that looks kind of like this one. I know that sounds kind of weird, but I swear I’ve seen this place in a movie before. Or, one that looks like it.”
“Oh, yeah! Hey, how’d you know about that movie? It’s pretty hard to find,” they said.
“Tell me about it! I saw it like five years ago on one of those free streaming sites, but forgot the title and have been searching for it for the last couple years. What’s it called?”
“It’s just called ‘B-Reel’.”
“That’s it! I remember now, thank you!”
“Sure, it was filmed here, too. I bet you’ll be able to find it now that you know the title!”
“Right? It almost… seems like some kind of predictive programming,” spoke Jacob before he could stop himself.
They laughed. “It’s just acting.”
“So, what brings you to the party?” asked Jacob.
“Oh, I’ve been to these castings before. You’ll see.”
“What do you mean? It seems like everyone’s been to one of these before.”
They turned away, returning their attention to a conversation with the group.
I need to leave.
Jacob turned from the group. No one else watched him or looked in his direction. It almost seemed purposeful. He smiled through the various crowds, nodding at others as they moved out of his way without otherwise acknowledging him. A distant bang sounded like someone hitting a door. Yelling followed it.
“…down, get DOWN! THIS IS THE POLICE, STAY WHERE YOU ARE!”
The thud of boots on the ground rushed toward the gathering. Jacob complied before he could see anyone, watching as a few others did the same. His grip dropped the roll on the way to the floor. Most present ran out the door. Several gunshots sounded as he closed his eyes. Everyone on the ground remained silent while more screams outside the room cut short. The soft music continued to play.
“I REPEAT! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!” a man’s voice continued shouting.
The sound of footsteps entered the room. Jacob was shaking, but tried his best to remain still.
Idon’twanttodie. Ihavetostaycalm. Whatamidoinghere? Whyisthishappening? Staycalm. Ishouldhavestayedhome. Thiscan’tbehappening. Isthiswhati’msupposedtosee? Calmdown.
“If you don’t want to end up like your friends in the hall, listen close: We will take you outside one at a time. If we find you guilty of what we are investigating, it’s a bullet in the head. If you fail to comply, it’s a bullet in the head. If you’re not involved? Well, there’s one car out there we don’t recognize. We figure it must belong to all – Jim, what’s the remaining count?”
“Sir, twenty-six, sir.”
“We figure it must belong to all twenty-six of you, so that’s going to be a problem for us, because it can really only belong to one of you. Now, what isn’t a problem for us is the fifty-round magazine we each carry! You, shaking on the floor with your eyes closed! UP, NOW!”
Idon’twanttodie. I don’t want to die.
“I don’t want to die,” spoke Jacob, opening his eyes. A team of men in more boots than he could count stood armed and armored.
“Well, that’s a bullet – wait, Jim, did I say no talking?”
“Sir, no, sir.”
“No talking! Stand up.”
“Walk out the door.”
Jacob complied, walking toward the door. Several members of the team followed him. He looked at the walls in the hallway, seeing no blood on them. He began to turn around, curious.
“DON’T TURN AROUND!”
Jacob’s line of sight snapped back to the bloodless wall. With a few more steps, there were no bodies on the ground outside of the room. He exited back toward the entryway and continued walking with heavy thuds of footsteps staying close.
“CUT! That’s a wrap, everybody. Same time next week. Hey, somebody grab the new guy for me real quick.”
They’re going to catch me.
Jacob ran. No one followed behind him and he could no longer hear the soft music playing. His escort appeared, grabbing him by the arm.
“He’s here, sir.”
The man who had been yelling orders and shooting guests earlier walked out of the room, toward them. “They say the innocent don’t run,” he spoke.
“I’m definitely innocent.”
“DID I ASK YOU? I mean, sorry, the character carries over to the director role at times. We can trust you’ll be part of our production next week, won’t you?”
Jacob looked at him. “Everyone’s still alive, aren’t they?”
The director laughed. “Sure. I’ll take that as a yes, then?”
“Of course,” replied Jacob with a convincing smile.
“We’ll be seeing you, then.”
Jacob turned to go.
“Oh, now, Jacob, one more thing. You won’t be telling anyone else about this, will you?”
Jacob looked back at the director. “Of course not.”
“Good man. Next week, then.”
Outside, the car started. Driv was a whir of stops and starts and shapes and lights. Jacob parked the car back in his garage at home, closing it behind him.
I’m home. Just go inside and go to bed. Just go to bed. I can’t sleep after that. No, I can sleep. I should sleep, at least. I’ll just have to go where they’ll never find me. They don’t know where I am. I’ll delete the account and ignore them forever. They won’t find me.
Back inside the house, Jacob turned on a light. He grabbed another glass of water and gulped it down faster than necessary.
Now go to bed. I have to go to bed. Just go to bed.
He walked to his room, looking over at the computer.
Don’t sit at the computer. Just go to bed.
There was a knock at the door.
I’m not expecting anyone.
One step at a time, Jacob walked down the hallway. He passed through the kitchen with the light still on and lacked the desire to be without it. A few more steps carried him past the door to the garage. He could see the front door from where he stood; the light from the kitchen hit a wall to make its usual shadow against the front door. His feet carried him the last few steps. The doorknob was within reach and remained untouched.
What if it’s someone I know?
Jacob reached for the doorknob and opened the front door. There was no one there. Listening, there were no sounds of anyone nearby. No cars drove near his home. A soft drone from the city remained as the city shut down to sleep deep in the night. Looking down, Jacob saw a small, thin package on his doorstep. He reached down and picked it up.
On closer examination, Jacob confirmed himself as the recipient. He recognized the return address as the same one he had visited earlier in the evening. He went back inside, closing and locking the front door behind him without taking his eyes off the package.
Jacob returned to the kitchen and glanced around, retrieving a knife. He set it on the table and tore open the package. Turning the package upside down, the contents fell near the knife.
The slip case contained a disc marked “B-Reel”. Returning to the computer with disc in hand, Jacob inserted it. The automated settings started playing the movie. It was exactly like he remembered it.Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in