From time to time I will throw some fictional creations from some part of my cranium up here. Partially to get them out of my head and partially to try and force completion. This is the start of one. Names will come at some point in the future. Maybe.
Sitting across from the camera to record the daily vlog always made Mark nervous. He tried to focus on the contrasting gray plastic components that made up the front portion of the camera’s body or the sharp white glint created by the reflection of the three studio lights perched just behind his shoulders in the camera’s lens but couldn’t quite bring it all together. After seven years spent in front of a camera his fans might expect him to have a better grasp on how to act when facing it, but YouTube was an entirely different animal than the current situation.
“Hello everyone out there in House name of house and/or tv show name Universe. It’s your favorite housemate and Youtuber extrodinare- Mark!” He paused slightly to fawn applause and bolsterously wave for the camera. “Well, another day spent hanging out with the housemates. [L], [A] and I started the morning with our usual sunrise Yoga session, but we didn’t see [P] until about noon. I’m not sure if that’s because he was running a marathon on his bedroom gym-sim or sleeping, but as some of you might remember earlier in the season the rest of us found out that he was secretly leading the Chicago Athletic Club’s NEW NAME MAYBE? Athlete of the House award by an almost insurmountable amount of points while simultaneously logging the most slept hours via his Oura Sleep Tracking Ring. I’ve been told by Sarah that no housemate has ever lead those categories silmultaneously so all you [P] fans nickname for fans? out there can bask in that glory while the rest of us look on in distrubed awe”. Laughing slightly Mark shifted in his seat to allow a small bead of sweat to carve a path down the back of his neck.
“Once [P] had roused to join the rest of us in the Dining Room for the Daily House Update from our friend Sarah back in the Production booth.” Mark paused, winked into the camera, and then continued. “Unfortunately the news was not all great, as the weather on the island today continued to cause issues for the interior cleaning crews to gain access, we got the wonderful task of mopping, sweeping and spraying down all the surfaces within the house. For those playing along at home this is the fourth straight day, and second string of cleaning days this month for us. [A] has become a real expert at the finer points of deep, baseboard cleaning, [L] has found that her previous experience as a line cook is paying dividends in the kitchen during meals and I believe I’ve found my true calling mopping up showers. There really is nothing as exhilirating as cleaning something that just gets wet again.”
Pausing for a moment to jokingly shake his head Mark turned to grab the glass of water off the dark brown table beside him. The beverage left a perfectly circlular ring of condensation atop the table and as the glass touched his lips three drops that refused to remain with their brethern fell to the stiff, cream colored carpet floor below. As he followed their descent his eyes absently bounced from vertical to horizontal surfaces taking in the room for the hundredth time.
Being a fan of the SHOW NAME House prior to being a contestant Mark was aware of most of the details around it’s construction. He knew it was built on a small island just south of Georgia within the Atlantic ocean, and that it’s construction took seven years but did not know until arriving that the cause of that duration was the island’s unique construction. He was astounded to learn that a full third of the island was an artifical, man made structure bolted to the sea floor akin to an oil rig and was one of the first ventures in the world to achieve it. With all of that time and effort he was also flabbergasted at how little space there truly was within the house. His current position, the VLOG rooms, stretched only 7 feet in width, length and height and included a no frills gray paint that hid all of the blemishes and shadows in just the right ways. The room provided a perfect mixture of comfort and claustrophobia. Ideal for reality television.
With his gaze back to the camera Mark took a final sip of water and allowed his hands to guide the glass back to the table without turning. “Once we finished all of our chores the day was spent relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. The recent bad weather has also knocked out our Satellite TV so the house’s stash of boardgames have proven invalauble, but I think after dinner Sarah is planning another ‘House Quiz’. I have proven to be the weakest link in these, but they’re still fun. Although I should apologize to Mrs.Stents for missing the North Carolina state bird question.” A quick, fleshy pop echoed in the room following the faux forehead smack Mark applied to himself with his palm. “For a guy with red hair to miss the Cardinal is almost inexcusable. Hopefully I can make up for it tonight. Mark- signing off.”
At the sound of his final words the cameras were signaled to shut down and lights within the room returned to a normal level. From somewhere within the house the familiar distant tin ring of Sarah’s voice called to him.
“Fantastic Mark. Thank you so much for your cooperation with daily completion of your vlog. We’ve been tracking you here in the booth and you are the only housemate to have a perfect 300 out of 300 days recorded. This is truly what the people at home are paying to see. You’re becoming a house hold name for families all across the United States. Feel like a star yet?”
Truthfully he didn’t. Thinking back three years when the show’s producers approached him it was almost impossible to fathom how he got here. Growing up the literal red-headed step child to a family too poor to afford heat in a single wide trailer his saving grace all those years ago had been a municipally provided Internet connection, a 480p Logitech webcam and a knack for solving puzzles. Videos showcasing his abilities with Rubik’s Cubes or similarly intricate contrivances garnered thousands of views and millions of subscribers. It’s not so much he didn’t feel like a star yet- he already was one.
“Thanks, Sarah. Even though I can’t see your face I’m sure you’re smiling ear to ear because you know I’m always bursting with recordable quips, but it’s a little shocking [A] hasn’t passed me. She seems to be fighting daily for time in the room. At one point I thought she was going to pitch a blanket, couch cushions and pillows at the door to ensure she was on video first. Although,” his arms stretched out to touch the walls before he briefly brought them back criss-crossed upon his chest in a mock, dead man’s pose. “I can’t imagine anyone sleeping in this coffin of a room.”
He could hear the small pause in Sarah’s voice before she responded, but wasn’t sure if it was his comment hitting a nerve or something from one of her colleagues coming through her headset. Sometimes it was easy to forget the show was a production that required hundreds of people. “Well, if you remember she had the wire tripping incident on September 19th at 2:20pm which caused her to miss the recording, and was sick on June 21st and 22nd though everyone else was -“ As if summoned a brief tap on the door caused Sarah to pause again. “You had better get that. I will handle your upload. Oh, and before you go there is new fan mail.”
A sound played over the speakers and Mark knew the thousands of fan letters, well email, had been deposited into his inbox. He fake smilled and mouthed thanks before standing to reach for the handle of the door. His fingers had just about grasped the thin, rectangluar handle as it turned and opened upon him. Looking out into the hallway his eyes caught [A] and he was immedately drawn to deep neck cut oversized gray sweat shirt she wore. ‘Hungover’ was stamped across the front in an ironic, cursive font. “Clever shirt.” Mark quipped as they both slipped into the small amount of open space between the cameras, lights, chair and door. With almost a year of practice one could expect all housemates were quiet proficient at the VLOG Room Limbo, but for some reason Mark and [A] had a hard time of doing it without hitting something. On multiple prior ocassions the room was one light darker for the duration of their recording due to a mistimed zig or out of sync zag. This round, however, they both managed a clean traversal of all objects, animate and inanimate, to shift positions in the room. Finally turning they both left the room and Mark felt a small breeze ruffle his shirt and pants as the door closed. The escpaing air pushed past him and floated into the broad hallway that stretched three times the distance of the room to the north and south. On each end it bent at ninty degrees and from there lead into the general living quarters for each of the housemates. Past the four bedrooms the halls reconvened within the shared dining and rec spaces of the house. On previous seasons housemates had grown to call it ‘the Square’, but to Mark it seemed more ‘D’ shaped.
Following the delta’s curve Mark walked towards the dining hall. Ahead sitting at a deeply contrasting white chair against the kitchen’s gray marble island was the only other male in the house, [P]. Much taller than Mark [P] was a former first-round Dominican baseball prospect that through an unfortunate series of knee injuries lost his career far too early. Fortunately he was likeable, spoke fluent english and had the perfect sun kissed bronze skin mixed with emerald eyes and charcoal hair. The list of former players turned TV pundit seemed poised to grow by one and soon after a brief stint honing a brash Mid-Atlantic at the Romo School of Broadcasting in Dallas [P] had landed color commentary spots on MLB Network and Fox MLB. Well, spots was generous. For the first time in his life [P] was unobjectively on the junior varsity squad calling the Thursday, late night Pacific games or the second half of a midweek, Central double header. He seemed to take it all in stride, but Mark found it hard to believe that someone destined for Major League greatness could visit a city like Milwaukee, home of the current Series winning Brewers, and enjoy broadcast booth style accomodations. Though [P’s] demeanor seemed to say otherwise Mark assumed the offseason trip to the house was an attempt to grow a brand outside the booth. Mark often laughed to himself on how everyone within the house didn’t just have personality, they were personalities.
As Mark approached [P] turned with a quizzical look on his face and a single finger across both of his lips. He pushed the chair beside him out with his foot, and montioned for Mark to join him. “Sit down, but keep quiet and don’t speak too loud.” As Mark settled [P] reached across the island and set his phone down. The screen was on and within a few seconds soft music began to seep from the speakers. Mark looked up from the phone to catch [P] starting to speak “Have you noticed that Sarah is acting a little funny? In between takes?”
He paused as if Mark should have immediately known what he was talking about. With a brief hand waving motion he beckoned for more details and [P] continued with a brief exasperated sigh. “Ok, like two days ago after my morning VLog she start talking about the time a few weeks ago when [A] accidentally flushed her tooth brush and tried to fish it out. High ratings, ha-ha, laughs all around.”
“And?” Mark interrupted. “That was a stellar day for us! Ratings were great, for the first time in almost a month. I mean come on we hit-“
“Eighty-two percent of households over 30. Yes, I remember the stat and that is exactly my point. How many times before then did Sarah ever mention a specific rating or give us any information about the outside world? And what about her more recent updates around the amount of money it costs to purchase our weekly allotment of food or the exact time it takes for the courier to deliver fan mail? Mark, she told me I had eaten exactly three thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine peanuts since arriving in the house yesterday. Something is wrong. No person knows that. No person wants to know that. I think,” he paused before continuing allowing his eyes to shift from side to side, surveiling the room in it’s entirety. “Mark, I think,” he paused again trying to find the words but nothing came. Mark reached over to cut the phone off then turned back to speak.
“[P] I think that you’re bored and looking for something that isn’t there. Sarah has always seemed a little, I don’t know, specific? She lets me know things about when people have been sick or what day I last answered a piece of mail. I’ve just always brushed it off. She’s, unique?”
“No, it’s more than that.” [P] reached out to grab his phone and slowly stood up. He slid out of his chair and pushed it in, shifting his focus away from it and back to Mark as he did so. “It’s too specific. It’s things that no one should, or could, ever care to know. Fan mail and keeping track of habitual hangover days are one thing, but she has been increasingly specfic and giving us information that we don’t need. There is something going on, and I plan to prove it.”
[P] had already started to walk away and the last portion of the conversation trailed behind him as he turned heading in the direction Mark had just come from. As he watched the hulking shape sink around the curved angle out of eyesight he cupped his hands around his mouth and threw his voice down toward his receeding housemate. “Prove what?”, he asked.