Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Shit is seriously fucked.
It's been hours since I was shoved inside this room, and I don't know what to do. I've been staring at this phone, but my mind is blank. I can't fucking think straight, like everything I try and write looks wrong. My hands feel weird and they're shaking, so if this is a incoherent mess, I'm sorry. Maybe it's from the drugs, or that bastard is finally pushing his way inside my mind. Right now, I'm not going to think about him. I'm not going to think about my inevitable fate as a test subject for James, or my friends and castmates who have been taken and turned into empty shells for fictional characters.
No. No, I'm not going to fucking think about that.
Because if I think about this thing in my head? The razor blade in my eye? I'll start to lose it, and you guys don't need that. You want an update, and I'm going to give you one. Just bear with me because my head is fucking killing me. I've been sitting in the same position for hours, my head between my knees. I feel woozy. Like the time [REDACTED] dared me to mix vodka and tequila. But that was being drunk. Tipsy. Like I was flying. This feels like I'm fading. I keep telling myself I'm okay, that the program inside me is broken. At least that's what James said. That's why I'm here.
But I can still feel him.
Fuck, he's in my head, and I can't get him out. He's like a parasite, leeching inside my brain. Jesus, I can't think like that. I have to keep a clear head.
I have to get a hold of myself. I have to be [REDACTED].
That's right. I'm [REDACTED]. That's who I am.
My name is [REDACTED].
So, I guess I'll start from the present, and then I'll take you back to the beginning, telling you my side of what's been going on. Hopefully, this will help you get a better idea of who we are, and you can help us reach out to someone out there who can get us out of here. Because [REDACTED] doesn't have much time. None of us do.
First, it's probably obvious by now, but I'm not my castmate [REDACTED].
I found her phone in here. It was under the bed. There's a crack down the screen, so I can bet James thought he destroyed it before taking her. I can barely see what I'm typing since the screen is messed up, but I found you. Our connection to the outside, what [REDACTED] has been using to talk to you guys. You helped her when I was too doped up to even realise what was going on, and for that I'm thankful. Thank you for taking a chance on her story, and believing it so far.
All I can do is look at the posts, weekly accounts [REDACTED] has published. Though I've only been able to read small bits and pieces of what she's told you guys. The posts are blocked. I don't know if it's the WIFI network here, or the app itself, but I can't read the full parts. From what I've managed to put together, my castmate has been going by a different name, which makes sense. So I'm going to continue calling her the name you guys are familiar with. Robin Harley. As well as the cover names she came up with for us as a cast, as well as the characters we play.
Though it's not like she or I have a choice, really. Our names, as well as anything to do with the network or show are blanked out every time I try typing them, like our real identities no longer exist and some unseen force is blocking me every time I try.
It's driving me nuts.
Anyway. My name is [REDACTED]. But from Robin, you know me as Rory Gallagher. I'm twenty years old, and I play Mac Price in [REDACTED]. Also, the worst mistake I ever made. Signing up for Mac was what I thought was a dream come true. I didn't even want to be an actor. The only acting role I had before Mac was a shepherd in my year 3' Christmas play. I didn't even say anything.
My mum was the one who pushed me to audition for Mac, and I actually got it. I barely made an effort, because I wanted to go to music school. I turned up to the audition in my school uniform and my guitar. My mate Connor said not to make a good impression, so I didn't brush my hair or wear smart clothes. I flunked my lines and was intentionally nonchalant to the directors.
Though it turns out I was the "perfect" fit, because apparently British guys in their late teens with messy bedhead was TV appropriate, despite having a strong northern accent and mumbling the lines they gave me. I wasn't expecting them to give me a second glance, never mind fly me to LA to be in an actual TV show. At first, it was like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool.
I was an outcast among the other cast members. They could barely understand my accent, and I was too anxious to talk to any of them. But then Noah started hosting these Mario Kart get-together's for the main cast, and that's when I got to know them.
They didn't just become my friends, I saw them as my family. I realized that despite being a whole world away from my parents, I could make my own family in the US. And that's what I did.
Except now I know the truth behind the network and James, and their plans for us. In reality I'm not even an actor anymore. I'm a fucking test subject. A prototype James can't wait to get his claws into once more. I survived stage four. Well, my mind did. Whatever Robin did to me when I was under, it saved me. Because of her I'm myself right now. I have my own thoughts, and I'm going to use this freedom to continue our story. I won't let Robin's work die with her.
God, I don't even know if they're still alive. I don't know anything.
I don't have much time, and I'm guessing you guys already know most of what's been going on, so I'm just going to tell you what I know. I guess I'll start from the beginning.
Sorry, I think I'm repeating myself, but in all honesty I feel like I'm going crazy.
I've been locked in this room for hours. It almost reminds me of Robin's character's bedroom. We shoot a lot of scenes in there so I know it well. This room is so... purple. The bed is covered in a purple fluffy blanket, and the carpet is blended shades of the same damn colour. It's daylight outside, but I have no idea what time it is. The sky is grey, and it's been raining most of the day. I like the rain. It relaxes me. I've tried to sleep with my head in my lap, but the slightest noises wake me up. I keep thinking James, or that crackhead doctor, is going to come back and drag me downstairs.
The clock on this phone is stuck at 12:00. I don't know where I am; some kind of facility, maybe. The phone was already connected to WIFI when I found it, so it looks like Robin was able to send you an update before they took her. I wish I could read it, but the post itself is blocked. All I can see is: "I'm a cast member in your favourite TV show, and I'm becoming my character." but I can't read the whole thing, only the first few lines where she explains she can't write to you anymore.
It hurts just reading that. I can't imagine what the rest says. Sorry, I'm trying to keep a clear head. It's hard, though. Robin is better at this than me. She can weave stories out of nothing, and make anything sound interesting. I got an E in English GCSE, and I suck at writing in general.
I'm dyslexic, so I might make mistakes, or get my words mixed up. I'm used to writing song lyrics, so this can't be that hard. Hopefully I can be as coherent as Robin.
Like I said, I'm going to tell you everything I know, starting from the beginning.
The night we planned to escape, I remember standing outside with Noah sharing a cigarette. The air was bitter, and I was shivering. The temperature drops like crazy in [REDACTED] and I didn't have a coat. The two of us were leaning against the wall. Noah was quiet.
We were both nervous about the plan, and he over-thinks everything. I've known him for nearly four years, and I can just about read the expression which is his "over-thinking" face. We were quite a match, for two guys on the opposite sides of the spectrum. I loved playing music and rugby, and Noah was a photographer in his spare time. But we fit. I don't know if it was our joint sense of humour, or the chemistry our characters had being best friends. Noah was like the brother I've always wanted.
I basked in silence for a while, watching smoke mix with my breath in front of me, when words started popping out of my mouth. I was on edge. We weren't allowed to talk on set, so I was itching to talk to him about the plan. But when I glanced at him, it seemed like Noah was caught up in his thoughts. Not just about the plan. It was something else.
Something he wasn't telling me.
"Are you alright?" I shot him a smile, elbowing him. It was my way of getting his attention, and usually he'd grin back, nodding. But that time he didn't move, didn't even blink.
"Sure." Noah finally responded through a scoff, puffing out swirling smoke. He gave me the side-eye, one brow raised. "As okay as I'll ever be, a prisoner of my job."
His words sent shivers down my spine, but I laughed it off.
I didn't want to admit it, even if he was right.
After a moment, Noah finally turned to me. He took a drag of the cig, and the end lit up in the dark. I was staring at burning orange embers, transfixed by the light, when he fixed me with a look.
"Rory." his tone was suddenly serious, and I snapped out of it.
He passed me the crumbling end of the cigarette.
"Do you remember Avery?"
The name didn't ring a bell, and when I frowned, Noah shook his head with a short laugh, but I could tell my reaction had hit him hard, enough to drag the air from his lungs. But Noah was one to hide his emotions, burying them deep in the back of his mind. "Never mind." He shrugged, before backing away, shooting me a two-fingered salute. "I should get back to set before they send out a search party." his lips quirked into a smile, and the sickly feeling in my gut dispersed. If Noah was smiling and confident, then so was I. "Tonight, yeah?" were his parting words. "Still know the plan?"
I snorted. "Course I do! I have the damn thing memorised!"
A few hours later, we were done shooting for the night. Robin was doing some reshoots with the crew, and Lana and Izzie were being interviewed by Variety. I was heading to craft services to grab a bite. I was starving and had barely eaten anything all day. The crew were strict about what we ate. I had shirtless scenes contracted, so I had to keep up a good figure. Which meant I was barely allowed breakfast, and had to go on what's called a "dehydration diet" to make sure my body was sculpted to perfection.
That night, I was practically drunk on the idea of getting out of there. I grabbed a plate of treats and ate as much as possible before James noticed. He was already being a dick to Izzie about her weight, and I was so close to hitting the bastard. My castmate had been in tears most of the week, because they were forcing her to wear a tiny skirt. Noah and Robin were the only ones stopping me from popping James' nose. Mentally and physically exhausted from the shoot, I was relieved to be done.
I just wanted to get to Robin's parents as soon as possible. There, we would be free from the cruelty of the network, and thanks to Noah, we could expose the show through his mysterious friend. I knew as soon as I got hold of a phone, I'd be ringing mum and dad, and telling them everything. It's been so long since I've heard their voices, and back then I actually thought I was going to talk to them. I was homesick. Even when I had my American friends, I still missed my hometown. Sheffield.
The city in Northern England I'd grown up in.
It's where my name stays alive in my families memories, even if it's been cruelly snatched away here. It sounds crazy, but my real name almost feels foreign to me now.
Even my accent, my mother tongue, the broad Yorkshire drawl I didn't think I'd ever lose, feels wrong. I know it shouldn't, but Mac's American twang feels natural now.
When I was heading to my trailer to grab my bag and jacket, Noah bumped into me. At first I thought he was joking around, but in the dim light of the floodlights illuminating the outdoor set in sicky white light, I glimpsed his wide green eyes and twisted lips. He reached out and grabbed my arm.
I stumbled over, but he held my weight, pulling me away from set.
"Keep walking." He hissed out. "Keep walking, and don't say a word."
"What?!" I choked out. Noah was freaking me out, and I was too tired to argue with him. The crew mostly ignored us, but Noah was acting like a sniper was following us.
He didn't stop until we were inside the studio. We passed the sets for Katie and Will's bedrooms and the school gymnasium, and finally Noah was turning to me. His face was pale.
He was shaking. That's when I knew something was wrong. Because Noah wasn't one to break down. He was the one with a plan, the one who always knew what to do. The rest of us saw him as a sort of leader, especially when we became prisoners of our own jobs. Looking at him then, I realized how helpless he was. His eyes were wide, parted lips trembling.
Seeing Noah like that terrified me.
Before I could question him, he was grabbing my shoulders. His grip was harsh, fingernails digging through my shirt. "Where are the others?"
"Huh?" Swallowing bile crawling up the back of my throat, I shook my head, pulling away from him.
"On set, I think? Lana and Izzie are doing that interview with Variety, and Robin is doing Katie reshoots." Looking at Noah, a million emotions seemed to pass in front of his eyes. He was breathing heavily, his grip unrelenting. "Why?"
Noah didn't reply, and I forced myself to stay calm. "What is it? What's going on?"
I was too afraid to ask if somehow our plan had been compromised.
"Did they find out?" Breathless, I was struggling to speak, and Noah's expression wasn't helping. He almost looked catatonic. "Do they know about our plan to leg it?"
"No," Shaking his head, Noah was trembling. "No, I saw something."
Staring back at him, I frowned. "Saw something?"
My castmate seemed to catch a hold of himself. He exhaled sharply.
"Look, Derek wanted to meet me to talk, and his office was locked. So I broke in-"
Derek and Noah had arranged to talk?
What did Derek's brother, and the co-writer of the show want to talk to my castmate about?
That was the question on my lips, but all I could choke out was, "You broke into a writers office?!"
He rolled his eyes, seemingly coming back to life.
"Yes, shut up. Anyway, his office was trashed. And I mean trashed. His desk was upturned, every shelf ransacked," Noah paused, and he grabbed for my arm again. "I...I saw something I shouldn't have."
Holding his gaze, I struggled to read his expression. "Saw something? What did you see?"
Finally, he let go of me. "I don't... I don't know! We need to get out of here. Like right now, okay?"
Twisting away from me, Noah cursed under his breath, running his hands through his hair.
"Is Robin still on set? How long will the Variety interview take?"
I followed his frenzied pace. "Are you going to tell me what you saw?"
Noah opened his mouth to reply, when a familiar voice sliced through the silence between us.
"Hey boys, where's the fire?"
James was standing behind us, two guards by his side. Our producer was smiling, but there was a gleam in his eyes I didn't like. "You two don't look so good."
Noah was stiff next to me. I expected him to start yelling, but he looked startlingly calm.
"We're going to head home." He said, though I could sense a tremor in my castmate's tone.
"We're all done for today, James."
The man shook his head. "No, I'm afraid we've made alternative arrangements for you five tonight." His lips quirked into a smile. "That won't be a problem, right boys?"
"I said," Noah's tone was splintering ice. His gaze was hard, unwavering on James. But I could tell he was scared. "We're pretty beat, so we're going to head home."
Cocking his head, the writer shot me a smirk. Chills slithered down my spine. "I'm sorry, is Rory unable to speak for himself?" His voice was teasing, and I realised he was playing with us. James had been a dick since taking away our phones, but this was different. This time he looked at me like I was an object, a slab of meat. "Of course he's the youngest, but I'm sure he can open his own mouth."
Noah didn't back down. He took a slow step towards the writer.
"Listen asshole, we're done, okay? We're done playing mind games. We quit. So let us walk out of those doors with Robin, Lana and Izzie, or I'll start talking real loud about Avery and Daffodil."
Noah's words confused me.
Avery. I recognised the name, but it was vague, a barely reachable memory.
James' gaze flicked to Noah, his lips pursing. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"You heard me." Noah gritted out. "Or do you want me to say it louder?"
Something seemed to shift in the writer's expression. His eyes darkened.
"Change of plan." he spoke calmly. "I think I need to talk to Noah in private." James gestured to me, and I was hit with a sudden wave of fight or flight. But I couldn't move.
"Please escort Mr Gallagher outside. There's a car waiting. Then take the girls. I'll handle Miss Harley after I've dealt with my favourite star."
Before I could try and protest, one of the men lunged forwards and grabbed me, pulling me into his arms, his beefy embrace holding me hostage. The other guard seized Noah, forcing his arms behind his back. But my castmate didn't struggle. He was frozen. His eyes were wide, unseeing. When I tried to throw myself from my guard's grip, he tightened his embrace. The writer's smile didn't waver. He looked my castmate up and down, his greedy eyes taking all of Noah in. "Mr Keaton, I think it's time to talk about your attitude and behaviour on set. After all, you must set an example for your cast mates."
"You're sick." Noah's voice was barely a breath. "I saw what you did."
My heart was hammering, questions buzzing around my brain.
What did Noah see? What the hell was Daffodil, and who was Avery?
"Wonderful." James nodded, a sly smile curving on his lips. He didn't seem fazed by my castmate's accusations. "Then you can tell me all about it in my office."
"No." Noah seemed to come to life, his eyes filling with tears. He struggled violently in the guards arms. "No, no, no, you can't do this! I won't let you do this!"
My castmate was hysterical. "Rory!" He was dragged, kicking and yelling, dragging his feet. I was paralysed. I'd never seen Noah like that. He had always been so calm and collected, barely showing his emotions. But right then, he reminded me of a child. The fear was palpable in his eyes, tears streaming down his face. His gaze met mine, and my stomach catapulted.
"Rory, you need to get help! Do you hear me? You need to find-"
His cry was cut off when the guard slapped a hand over his mouth, muffling the rest of his words so they were an incomprehensible muffled cry trapped behind the guards sweaty palm.
I know that my castmate's name was in my throat, but I couldn't say it. I couldn't scream. All I could do was watch Noah get dragged away. When I tried to lunge out of my guards grip, he bellowed out a laugh, wrapping his arms tighter around me.
It was suffocating.
"Ohhh no you don't!" He chortled.
I was hauled off of set, and not one person seemed to care. The crew barely threw me a glance, and secondary cast members turned a blind eye. I spotted Robin's familiar ponytail in the distance, but when I twisted around to shout, the guard's meaty hand slammed over my mouth, cutting off my cry.
Before I knew what was happening, I was being shoved into the back of a fancy car with tinted black windows. The seats were rich leather. But I wasn't planning on staying in there.
As soon as I was dumped in the back seat, I threw myself at the door, tackling the handle. But it was locked. Of course the door was fucking locked.
"Nice try, kid." The guard had plopped himself in the front seat. He threw something at me, and when I caught it, I realized it was a can of Sprite.
"Drink it." He said. "You're looking peaky, Gallagher."
When I shook my head, the guard twisted to face me. "Orders are to force it down your throat if you don't do it yourself." he quirked a brow. "You're a big boy, I'm sure you don't need my help."
The last thing I wanted was to be force-fed Sprite. I cracked open the can quickly, taking a gulp. It was lukewarm and twisted my gut. The guard made an appreciative noise and started the car.
I shouldn't have drank the Sprite. Of course they drugged me.
The journey was foggy. No, everything was foggy. I remember falling in and out of feverish sleep, pressed against the window. My eyes were heavy and my lips felt weird and bloated. I watched headlights flash by in jarring movements when I was startled to almost awareness, but fell back under.
I remember the car door opening, and the cool air grazing my flushed cheeks. The half empty can of Sprite slipped off my lap, but I was floating. No... someone was carrying me. Gravel crunched under my guards feet, and all I could do was watch it turn into sickly yellow carpet. There were voices that sounded like they were underwater. Then... stairs. I was swinging back and forth on the guards back, before a door was opening and I was being dropped onto something soft. Something cool.
The door slammed shut, and I was left to stare at the ceiling, while the world spun around me. My lips were numb. Noah. All I could think about was Noah.
He told me to find someone. Who did he tell me to find?
I don't know how long I lay there, waiting for my head to stop spinning. When the door finally flew open, my mind was blank. I sat up, ready to make a run for it. But then a blur of blonde was stumbling into the room, and I had to choke back a sob. Robin. Her expression was twisted with fright, blue eyes frantically scanning the room. By then, I had forgotten about Noah's words. I'd forgotten about Noah all together. When she asked where the others were, I shook my head, spluttering that I had no idea.
After that night, everything just goes... blurry.
I don't know what the fuck happened to me. Though there are flashes. I know I was taking some kind of pill. There were splinters of awareness when I managed to recapture my mind and thoughts, but it was short-lived. Because I always fell back. Every day felt like I was drowning. Like I couldn't breathe.
It's funny. It almost felt like I was living one of those old fashioned VCR'S.
Days passed. I don't know how many. I lived vicariously through flashes. Mainly of Robin. Her eyes were pained, haunted. She was shaking me, but I couldn't respond.
I couldn't move.
Then... awareness. Everything came flooding back when something hard hit the back of my head. It was like sucking in oxygen. Something had become undone. Whatever had been done to me began to unravel, and I was able to stay myself. I was able to keep behind the façade, crushing the pill beneath my foot. Mac was still there, the program they had put inside me was still skating the back of my mind, but I was the one in control.
I'm sure Robin already told you in her posts, but I lost it on set.
I couldn't deal with hiding away anymore. Noah was just standing there, his eyes blank. Lana and Izzie looked right through me. Robin. Part of me knew she was awake, but she still stared at me like I was a stranger. Vacant. There was nothing there. My friends were puppets on strings for James to play with. I tried to attack James, but before I could get near him, an icy point was slicing into my neck.
Everything went dark and I found myself drifting.
There were voices bleeding through the dark. I heard them.
Though I quickly started to realize my body...it was shaking. Convulsing.
I could taste rusty change at the back of my throat. Like the time I'd swallowed a penny when I was a kid.
More voices, while my body seemed to react to them, shaking more violently.
Something was spilling from my mouth, and I was choking on it.
Blood. It hit me that I was choking on blood. There was an accute pain at the back of my head, the type of pain that would normally make me scream. But I couldn't scream. I couldn't cry out for the others. My mouth was full of blood, and I was choking.
There was a piercing beeping noise screeching in my ears, and it wouldn't shut up.
"We're losing him!" someone shrieked. I could feel multiple hands on my chest, pressing down. I was struggling to breathe. Something was pressed against my mouth and nose. Something plastic. I wanted to rip it away, but my wrists were pinned down.
"No, he's going to be fine." James's voice brought me back to half awareness, and I gagged on the blood filling my mouth. My body jolted, but I could feel his hand on my clammy head, his fingers carding through my hair. The writer was speaking to someone. He sounded panicked.
"If we lose Mac Price's body, I'll make sure your family get the same fucking treatment."
His voice was trembling. He tightened his grip on my hair, ragging my head like a doll. "Do you hear me?" James spat. "Clean him up and repeat stage four!"
"We can't." Another voice squeaked. A male nurse.
"Why not?" James demanded. "It worked with the other three!"
"Mr Marley, please understand Rory has haemorrhaged twice due to a brain bleed. We do not need any more strain on his brain right now. If we go through with stage four, I am telling you he will not survive the procedure, and you will lose him."
"His mind?" James said, after a moment. "I told you I don't care about the boy's consciousness. After the extraction it will be dumped with the others."
His words hurt, but I couldn't speak. I could barely breathe.
"No." The nurse spoke sternly. "I'm talking about his body. It will die, Marley. If we proceed with this procedure, Mr Gallagher's body will shut down and no longer be of use to you. Unless you plan on inserting the program into a corpse?"
There was a short pause before, "Fine." James let out a sharp hiss. "Get him out of my sight."
I remember being asleep for the longest time. It was peaceful. Hell, I thought I was dead. Because the voices stopped. I could no longer feel my body, and the pain in the back of my head was gone. It was bliss, after what I went through. I wanted to stay in the dark. I didn't care about waking up, because part of me already knew my fate. I just wanted to go home. I wanted my mum and dad.
I wanted Noah to tell me shit was going to be okay, and Robin to tease me for being dramatic. I wanted Izzie to wrap me in a hug, and Lana to start cracking crude jokes.
I wanted them.
Sorry, this isn't much of an account, since I was out of it for most of the time.
But I'm trying to give you guys everything.
Anyway, there was a point when I finally woke up. But it was weird. It was like my brain was awake, but my body was still under James's control, like I was trapped behind a glass wall. I could look through, but I couldn't move. Life came back to me in the form of applause. It hurt my head.
That's the first thought that hit me. The applause was so loud, slamming into my ears. Opening my eyes, I was greeted to a large room which looked like a lecture hall. There were shadowed faces in the audience, shapes bleeding into my vision. People. It took me a disorienting moment to realise that the room was full of people. I panicked. Automatically, I tried to move, tried to cry out, but my mouth felt like it was full of cotton wool. After a moment, a bright spotlight seemed to dance across my peripheral, and it illuminated my surroundings enough so I could see.
I was standing on a stage. When I looked down, I found myself wearing a crisp white shirt, expensive material glued to my skin. Black pants and leather shoes. I must have been wearing over a thousand dollars. I don't know if it was the fact that I couldn't speak or move, but I began to hyperventilate.
There were people in front of me. Dozens of people. Looking to my left, I glimpsed another figure. Izzie. She was wearing a black strapless dress. Her hair was curled to perfection, chestnut skin glistening under the spotlight. To my right was Lana. Red dress. Strawberry blonde curls cascaded down her back. Both of them were staring forwards, their eyes empty, wide smiles stretched across their lips. It hit me like a wave of ice water. The three of us were being showcased.
We were on display, for everyone to see.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, my first three prototypes for Project Daffodil. The future of television!"
Noah's words seemed to ignite inside my mind.
Daffodil, I thought. Noah knew about it. Thinking back to his hysterical expression before he was taken away, everything made a sick kind of sense.
He tried to warn me. Tried to get us out of there. All of us.
James Marley's voice was thunderous. Through a microphone, it bounced around the room, echoing in the back of my head. The man appeared in front of me, dancing across the stage, a cheshire cat grin on his face. "Become in control of what is yours!"
More applause, before a voice from the audience.
I squinted, but I couldn't make out who it was. "Mr Marley, I believe you assured us five prototypes would be ready for today's presentation."
He was quick to reply. "Yes, I apologize for that. Katie and Will are still being worked on. Though I can guarantee they will be ready by the end of this week."
My legs felt like they were going to give-way.
Robin and Noah.
"I see. Please, continue."
No. I fought to scream, to do something. My body was working on its own accord. James' words sent shivers rattling down my spine.
Prototypes, was what he'd called us.
That's what we were?
"As I was saying before, by using our actors as accessible hosts, Project Daffodil has allowed us to use brand new technology granting us the ability to download each character's program directly into the host's brain."
"And the actors?" A woman spoke up. "What about them?"
Help. The word was on my lips, but I couldn't say it.
"Mam, I came to the realisation that to make this project work, I would have to make sacrifices. Please be assured however, that our main cast volunteered for the project, and gave their consent. "
The audience murmured, satisfied.
James nodded along, smiling. "As for Miss Faraday, Miss Bright and Mr Gallagher, their consciousness has been removed entirely, leaving only the program. However, rest assured their consciousness is in safe keeping, having been downloaded to our system. When we are done with shooting, we can very easily give them their minds back, and of course they can go on with their lives as normal."
Liar. Anger bubbled up inside of me. I was paralysed. It seemed so easy to open my mouth and yell that James was a liar, that everything he'd done was against our will.
Except I couldn't.
The woman's voice perked up. "So, you're saying, that standing in front of us are the characters?"
"Indeed." James said. "Standing in front of you are indeed our [REDACTED] characters. Folks, I give you Mac Price, Stella Hart, and Jules Lily!"
Gasps rang out, followed by more applause. I couldn't stand it. Part of me wanted to go back to sleep. It hurt even more seeing my body being paraded around like a puppet.
A figure stood. "I'm impressed Marley. If you can get the two other prototypes, I'll consider investing in your little project. If you say it's the future of television, then let's see."
James was practically jumping up and down.
He was a fucking lunatic.
"Thank you very much, Mr Dalton. They will be ready this Friday. And rest assured, these prototypes are patented to me, and any evidence of infringement will result in a serious lawsuit."
Laughter. Everyone was laughing, while my friends stood like soldiers awaiting orders.
Was that supposed to be funny?
After the presentation, I was let go again. It seemed like whatever was in my mind was letting me slip in and out of awareness, allowing me to see snippets of reality.
Though those snippets turned into flashes. Then actual instances when I was wide awake. I remember waking up, blood covering my pillow. I remember trying to wash it off, panicking, my own crimson hands trembling under the stream of hot water.
Life fully came back into focus when James slapped me across the face.
I was in his office. No idea how I got there. My mind was blurry, and something warm was dripping down my chin. Blood. But I knew it wasn't because of the slap. Something was wrong with me.
His voice was scathing.
I didn't move, but from the look on his face, he was already onto me.
"I said... wake up!"
I jumped, automatically revealing myself.
The writer chuckled. "You're a lot of things, Mr Gallagher, but a good actor is not one of them. Your pretty face is what makes you Mac Price. Do you want to know why we picked you to be Mac?"
I glared back.
"This." he caressed my face, gripping my chin with the points of his nails, "is the only reason you made it. Don't think for one second that you're actually talented! Noah and Isabelle went to drama school, if I'm not mistaken. Lana has already been cast in several movies, as has Robin. You, however, only just got out of high school when we cast you. You're nothing but a kid with an attractive face."
“Go and fuck yourself.” I spat. It felt good to talk back to him. To use my mouth.
He rolled his eyes. "Such filthy language. Now look at me."
I was forced to do as I was told. I don't know if it was the pill, or the program, but my body and mind was compliant. "Stand still." James shone a light in my eye, and I couldn't help wincing.
"Oh." Marley hummed. "You're bleeding."
He tutted. "Rory, my dear boy, it seems like Mac is broken." he tipped his head to the side, in an almost sympathetic manner. "Whatever your castmate did to you may have saved your mind."
Cupping my cheeks, the writer's touch was almost fatherly. I pulled away with a snarl, and he chuckled, swiping a finger under my nose. It came back red, and I had to swallow a cry.
"And..." he hummed, pulling out a tissue and dabbing at my nose. "it appears the Mac program is causing you to haemorrhage at an alarming rate. But I'm sure we can fix you."
James turned to a guard. "Restrain him, we're going on a field trip."
The guard shook his head. "Sir, there are fans outside."
"Huh." Marley shrugged. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a face mask before slipping it over my mouth and nose. His fingers trailed over my ears when he fixed the straps. "Try anything, Rory, and I'll be paying your parents a visit." he quirked a brow. "And surely you don't want that."
I stayed quiet.
James dragged me outside, and there was a crowd of fans yelling my name. I put my head down quickly, letting the guards pull me towards an awaiting car. James cut a path through the fans.
A girl's voice startled me. I was about to get in the car, and at the corner of my eye, James and the guards were chastising fans.
I turned to see a teenage girl, around sixteen or seventeen. Her blonde hair was in pigtails, red ribbons flitting in the breeze. She was cosplaying as one of the show's characters. Lana's character.
I waved weakly at her, but before I could force myself forwards, she was standing directly in front of me. At first I thought she was smiling, but then she pulled back her face mask. Her lips were parted in what looked like a cry. Her eyes were wide. It took me a moment to realize she looked terrified.
"Are you okay?" she hissed. "Do you need help?"
I didn't know what to say, so I choked out, "Glad you're enjoying the show!"
The girl didn't move. She leaned in close, her breath grazing my ear. "I saw Robin's posts," she hissed. "It's all true, isn't it? The fandom think it's a troll, but I know you're in trouble."
Posts, I thought dizzily.
Before I could answer, the girl seemed to perk up, before sliding her mask back into place.
"High five!" she yelled, and something urged me to slap my hand against hers.
Something hit my hand. Paper.
I hid the note quickly, stuffing it in my jeans, and dived into the back of the car. The journey was long. We passed through the [REDACTED] border, though I'm not sure where I am. I know I'm in some kind of facility, but I was blindfolded on the way inside. All I remember are long white hallways. I was strapped down onto what looked like a dentist chair, and prodded and poked with needles.
"Well?" James was impatient.
“It seems the program is broken.” The doctor - an old-ish looking man, sighed.
“Marley, Mr Gallagher’s brain has had too much trauma. He's in pretty bad shape. So, I'll have to do a reinsertion. Though by miracle, the Mac program could come back to life itself."
I flinched when the old man dabbed my bloody nose. He was grinning, a whole mouth full of yellow teeth. "Oh, young man, what has Mr Marley done to you?"
It took every ounce of willpower I had not to spit in the asshole's face.
James was tight lipped. “Right. I’ll talk to the network. The initial presentation went fine, but for the second, I want an empty shell with the program installed."
An empty shell.
That's all they saw me as.
An empty fucking shell.
"Of course." The man grinned widely at me. "I'll have him sorted in no time."
The writer nodded. "Good. I need them for the final presentation. If all goes well, we could have a good chance of getting Netflix and Amazon on board."
I didn't argue when I was violently dragged upstairs and locked inside what looked like the set for Katie's bedroom. The daffodil on the window-sill looked fresh. There was soil covering the carpet. When I lay on the floor, staring at the ceiling, I saw something at the corner of my eye.
Poking from under the bed was a phone.
It had been stood on. The screen was cracked. But it was usable.
When I powered it on, the only app was Reddit. The username was like a kick in the gut. RobinAnonymous
That's what the girl was talking about.
Unravelling the note the fan gave me, it was a printed out screen-shot of Robin's reddit page. Which I quickly found on the phone. Someone had circled the latest post with black marker pen: "POSTED LAST WEEK, AND DELETED STRAIGHT AWAY (OCTOBER 28TH)
The post itself simply said, "I BURIED HIM."
Robin's latest post must have been deleted by James, and then he disposed of the phone.
But what did her post mean?
What did Robin bury?
My head is fucking killing me, and I keep having nosebleeds. I'm sorry if this was rushed or made no sense; my eyes are fogging up and I'm tired. But I want to continue what Robin started, and get us all the hell out of here.
I don't know how much time I have, so please help me. Mac is broken, I think. But I don't know when those assholes are going to come and drag me downstairs.
If you're the fan reading this, you know who we are. You know the show.
Who is Avery, and why was Noah so insistent on me knowing him?
I'll try and post as soon as I can, but you guys have to tell me what's going on. What exactly did Robin say in her last post? Did she mention Noah?