Filming during the week was always a crap shoot. Most of their filming got done on weekends whenever everyone was available, but that wasn’t always possible. It also didn’t allow for that much time considering all the factors that had to line up properly. Dolly and her crew had found out very quickly, and the hard way, that doing one take almost never works the way anyone wants it and that got even more complicated with more than two people involved at any given time. It had been an uncomfortable adjustment but the group had found a way to make it work most of the time. The bulk of their episodes were confined to filming on Saturdays when everyone could get the time off (and the occasional Sunday when they really got lucky) and any retakes or extras were patched together on week nights whenever there was more than one of them available at any given time. Tonight was almost looking optimistic. Lydia had to work until nine so she couldn’t make it but Dolly, Stuart and Will were all actually available at the same time. It felt like a miracle. Even better, they weren’t rushing to play catch up on the video for Killer Dreams, even. The Kruger knockoff was almost finished and with a little more editing should be ready to go for its deadline in two weeks.
Tonight it was looking to be an easy time getting set up. They were starting up some minor bits for their next movie that was coming up in about three weeks and this would only help getting things done faster. As Dolly wheeled away from the bus stop towards their storage locker, she was happy to see that Stuart was there already with his father’s vehicle. Stuart wasn’t always that comfortable filming with them on week nights and prone to getting a bad bout of stuttering if he had to stay after dark. Thankfully with the long days, this wasn’t so much an issue tonight and knowing that he could drive himself home at the end of the night always made things a bit easier on him. Dolly knew better than to get too excited too quickly but things looked promising. The next film they were doing was ripping off Invasion of the Body Snatchers so really, they just needed clips of them acting not like themselves. Dolly was wearing a white dress instead of her usual black doll dress and she’d left Will to come up with his own interpretation on what he thought “different” should look like. They were going to act a little exaggerated enough get a few clips of them being weird and finally when someone suggested that it was time to clean up the dishes after the movie, she would revert back to her lazy aristocrat self and they would have something to splice in before the end credits. The footage wasn’t that difficult to create and they hadn’t needed Lydia to do much of anything for set decor so it was just a matter of getting it set up, getting some useable shots and getting a few extras just to be safe. If they could wrap it in an hour or two, this would be perfect.
Dolly should have known that this wouldn’t be the case when Will was late. It wasn’t by much but it was something of note because Will was never late. When he arrived, he was clearly flustered and that didn’t make anything easier. Given that her friend was odd at the best of times, it was difficult to figure out if he was still trying to convince himself he was a method actor or if he was genuinely acting funny. It didn’t help that Will had seemingly interpreted “different” as something akin to zombified. Her spidery cohort was still painted with his strange metallic body paint and still dressed in his usual clothes but he was covered in webs, most of which looked thick, like he’d been crawling along an attic crawlspace covered in moss. It worked for his usually dapper character but it was a weird choice, even for Will.
Initially, both Dolly and Stuart wondered if he had actually looked up what method acting was as he blustered into the room, seemingly unaware of why he was there. It worked for the first part of the review shots where he was supposed to be awkward but it was soon getting to the point where both of his friends were getting concerned. He was distracted and constantly missing cues. While it did make it easier to get takes of him acting opposite of his normally collected, slightly detached self, Dolly and Stuart were both more than just a little alarmed and after the first hour mark, she knew that they couldn’t just push on. Stuart gave her a look after they were done the most recent take and she sighed. Will was oblivious and Dolly signalled that Stuart should take a break. He frowned but nodded as he wandered off.
“Was it hard for you to get the time to do this?” Dolly asked after a brief lull. She watched Will sitting in his corner of the set.
He didn’t answer and instead looked around at the set decor as if he were trying to remember something. The way the lights glinted off his eyes, Dolly had to ask herself where he managed to get his contacts. Some of them looked real enough that they could have been painted, much like her own prosthetic eye. They way they moved, it actually looked like it could have been his natural eye color. She sighed and hauled herself a little closer to him on the fainting couch.
“Will, you still awake in there?”
“Sorry,” he shook his head. “Did I ruin a take? Where’s Stu?”
“He’s taking a short break,” Dolly replied. “Are you okay? You’ve been distracted all night.”
“Fine,” he said, dismissively. “Just a little tired. I’ll concentrate more this time.”
“Will, for real, what’s going on with you?” Dolly pressed. His eyes, today gold with a slight hint of grey around the edges, flickered in her direction and he looked down. “Come on, Will, spill it. Don’t say it’s nothing, either, because we can see something’s up. Are you okay?”
“Just some personal thing,” he shrugged. Dolly frowned and he sighed. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping. It’s just been within the last week or so.”
“Do you normally have insomnia?”
“No,” he sighed, clearly still not wanting to talk about it. “I’m sorry that I’m ruining the takes. It should be fine by Saturday.”
“No, Will, you haven’t ruined anything,” Dolly insisted. “You’re making me nervous and Stuart is getting upset too. Something is clearly bothering you and if you’re not sleeping, I want to know why. Are you worried about something or did something happen?”
“It sounds stupid saying it out loud,” Will objected, trying to look away. He glanced back at Dolly and looked down again. “Everything will be fine. It’s just that my- well my pet has been acting weird the last couple of days and it got me worried. He seems fine otherwise and things have checked out. I think I just got worried for nothing.”
“That’s an entirely normal thing to get upset about, Will,” Dolly replied, gently. “You know that I would be a wreck if anything happened to Trioxin. And hey, maybe it’s just the weather? Oxy has been really wired at night lately for no reason. I think there might be a storm coming or something.”
“Wait, when is the July new moon, do you know?”
“I can look it up on my phone,” Dolly shrugged. “Why? If you’re worried about the full moon, that’s not for weeks yet, I don’t think.”
“Not until the middle of the month,” Will nodded, looking at his own phone. He frowned and his brow darkened. “The new moon, on the other hand is coming up in like a week and a half.”
“And this is a big deal because?”
“It’s the Buck Moon,” he sighed. “I guess they also call it the Thunder Moon.”
“You’ve gone off into some confusing territory there, Will. Unless you’re harboring a deer that’s quickly approaching manhood, I don’t think the antler growing season should concern you too much. Does any of this have to do with your pet? Like, you really don’t own a buck, right?”
“You mentioned the weather,” he shrugged. “If the thunderstorms are coming, maybe that’s why he’s acting funny. What’s Trioxin doing? You said he was acting weird too.”
“Oxy’s been pacing and making chirping noises at night,” she replied, dismissively. “He does that sometimes. He yowls sometimes and I think he just gets annoyed at his toys but nothing that bad. And what’s this about you having a pet? I’ve never heard you talk about it before.”
“He’s a different kind of pet,” Will said. “Not a lot of people want to hear about a spider.”
“I guess,” Dolly admitted. “You know that I’m not freaked out about that kind of stuff, though. Did you need to take him to the vet or something?”
“He’s just been acting out of the ordinary. It’s just something to keep an eye on but like I said, everything has been checking out.”
Will looked like he was about to say something but stopped short. Before Dolly could call him on it, they heard Stuart come back in. She frowned, knowing that any conversation about this was done for now. She could see that Will was still mulling something over but she already knew better than to bring any of this up in front of Stuart. He was a terribly arachnophobic and would probably be reduced to having to sit for the rest of the evening in his car if he knew that Will owned a spider.
The rest of the shoot took a while longer than expected and by the time that Stuart looked like he was getting too nervous, Dolly decided to cut her losses and call it a day. She had enough to keep editing for a while and hopefully it would be enough that they would be able to stretch it out and make it so they didn’t have to re-shoot anything. She would know better once she got a chance to see what they filmed but she didn’t necessarily feel that confident that this wasn’t going to be one of those reviews that took a million years to make it into something worth watching. She didn’t want to get too excited about that just yet and decided that it was best to let the footage speak for itself. She still had time to be surprised and that would have to be good enough for now. Once they wrapped for the night, Will took the initiative to start putting things away and was fairly quick on his feet. Stuart and Dolly made quick work of putting away the camera equipment and everything but they both noticed that Will was a bit obsessive this time around. He made a point to tack up things that looked fine. He was meticulous about it in a way that neither of them had seen and Dolly got the sneaking suspicion that he was hiding something still but knew already that he wouldn’t say anything about it. Will sighed as they locked up the storage locker and looked at it with a bit of a frown before turning to the other two. His contacts shone brightly in the setting sun. He only seemed to act like himself again when Dolly began to struggle to hold herself up while Stuart fiddled with the wheelchair, trying to get it to fold. He took over while Stuart helped Dolly get into the passenger seat. Together they secured the chair in the back seat and the three of them remained silent in the small, empty industrial yard. Will looked off in the distance and looked up to the sky as if he were searching for something still.
“I don’t- I don’t think we forgot anything,” Stuart said, trying to follow his gaze. He cleared his throat as he tried to speak slowly. Dolly could tell that Stuart was getting more nervous. “W-Will, there’s room in the back seat. Did you want me to drop you off at your place?”
Stuart looked aside and winced. He hated stuttering when they were in the group.
“I could use the fresh air,” he said, dismissively. He patted Stuart’s shoulder and signalled that he should get in the car. “Don’t worry about me and don’t get upset, Stu. It’ll help me relax. Besides, I have a lot on my mind tonight.”
“You’re painted metallic blue and dressed in a suit. Don’t you think you’re going to stick out just a bit?” Dolly objected. He shrugged. “Seriously, Will? You’re going to end up sweating to death in that outfit. And all that stuff stuck to you probably isn’t comfortable either.”
“It’s not that long of a walk,” he shook his head. He picked at the webbing stuck to him and sighed with a slight disgust. “I really need to think some things out. I promise, I’ll be back to normal by Saturday.”
Before either of them could make another argument, Will said good night to them and began to make his way between the buildings. Soon he was gone and Dolly could just watch and frown as the dust kicked up from his shoes slowly settled. She knew that Will was a bigger guy but he didn’t come off as a fighter of any kind. In fact, if she was being honest, he wasn’t really big so much as he was a bit taller and lanky. He was also a giant horror movie nerd who tended to start weird conversations out of the blue like the people he was around were already involved in them. It worked well with their group but not so much around strangers. She wondered if his size ever got him extra attention and she knew for certain that if he was walking in the paint, that would guarantee to get people to notice him. It seemed odd to her that he didn’t bother to try to take it off, even if it was just his face. She hoped that looking like that wasn’t going to get him in trouble. Given his already awkward demeanor, she could only assume that he knew how to avoid assholes who wanted to beat up someone different but still, she didn’t like that he was so oblivious. It didn’t help that he was so out of it today.
“He always walks- w- walks home like that,” Stuart said, sharply looking away before starting the car. He tried to talk again but when his lips refused to make the words properly he gave up. Dolly patted his arm as he began to drive.
“He does,” she sighed. “I’ll text him when I get in and make sure that he got in okay. It’s not getting too late for you, is it? Do you need to drop me off at the bus stop?”
“No,” Stuart said, his voice small.
“Only if you’re sure,” Dolly replied, reassuringly. Stuart began to relax.
“I- I d-don’t wa-ant t-to worry mo-more,” he sighed.
“Don’t sweat it, Stuart,” Dolly said. “I know you hate doing that but no one in this group is going to make a big deal of it. And you were talking to someone dressed as a giant spider person in a suit covered in cobwebs. If anyone were watching, I think you stuttering would have been the last thing they would notice.”
He nodded but said nothing. She knew that he was thinking it over but he seemed to brighten up a bit.
Stuart dropped Dolly off just as dusk was beginning to get on the shadowy side. To his credit, he had managed to calm down quite a bit on the drive and by the time they arrived at her door, he wasn’t that anxious as he helped her out of the car and back into her chair. She could tell that he was still thinking a lot, as Stuart had a tendency to do, but he was at least able to keep from stuttering too much. They set up a time to meet on Saturday to start the bigger part of the film review for the next movie and he even managed to get through a little bit of his anxiety to tell her about some of the props he was building.
It was nice to end on that note for him because Stuart always got a little more animated about what he was building. She knew for a fact that he didn’t get to share much of it with other people and at home, he didn’t talk about it at all. Stuart was pretty quiet about his home life in general but it always made Dolly wonder about what he did talk about or if he talked about anything when he was at home. Whether or not anyone there knew he was so good with things he could build. She watched him drive away and wondered if she shouldn’t be checking up on Stuart more too. Then again, she didn’t exactly have the greatest time getting him to open up and she had even less success getting Will to talk to her about himself. She thought this over as she made her way into her building and wheeled her way back to her apartment.
When Dolly got home, she felt a weird chill come over her. A small shiver running through her back made her hesitate to go forward but she shoved the feeling aside as worry about Will. She reassured herself that she would just text him in a minute. The chill didn’t go away but rather the feeling it left lingered as she opened the door and rolled inside to find that Trioxin wasn’t there to greet her. The interior of her apartment felt awkwardly colder than it should be. She rubbed her shoulders and turned on a couple of lights as she looked for her cat.
“Oxy? Trioxin?” she called cautiously. She felt the pit of her stomach getting tighter as she waited for him to come or meow at her but there was nothing but silence.
As she rolled into the apartment and closed the door behind her, she wondered if this was what it felt like for Will. She rolled down the hall and immediately felt better when she saw the tiny cat sitting in front of her desk. Her relief was tainted when even as she approached, he didn’t move. He stayed staring at the dark screen with his back to her.
“Oxy?” she called softly.
Finally the cat moved as he crouched, hissing and making feral noises at the computer as he backed away. Trioxin let out another hiss before he dashed back towards Dolly and leapt into her lap. She looked at the cat confused as he settled on her legs and seemed to calm down. Carefully, she rolled forward towards her computer and though his tail was thrashing back and forth, he just sighed. She looked at the monitor and saw that it wasn’t on.