Saturdays were always full days for all of them but Dolly was pretty certain that they wouldn’t have it any other way. It was often the only day that they got to spend together and that alone was usually a relief. It was the only place that she could think of where all of them just seemed to relax and be who they were without worrying. Stuart didn’t stutter most of the time. Lydia wore her cat ears with one of her tails and was her bouncy self no matter what was happening. Will would go off on wild tangents about some movie he’d seen ten years ago and why it was brilliant even though it was made on a tiny budget that wouldn’t have covered the cost of her groceries. And Dolly was just herself here. No one made a big deal about her glass eye or her legs or even when they could see scars if she was in the right light. She didn’t even properly know how they had managed to pull this off for nearly four years but almost every Saturday, she felt like there was no other option for how she would want to spend it. There was something comforting about getting to work on the show even though, regardless of how well they planned everything, it was also too busy and everything was constantly requiring upkeep and sometimes emergency fixes.
Today was proving to be exactly the same as they got to the storage locker and discovered that there was a lot of webbing on a lot of the props, even though most of it was stored away. It could have been the fake stuff that she had kicking around but both Dolly and Stuart used that only very sparingly to make sure that it wasn’t coating everything. For one, it looked terrible in their lighting. For a more pressing reason, it was a little more dangerous to be using it around the space heater and though any uses of it were far away from where the heater was, none of them were wanting to tempt fate. Because of this, they knew that there was no way that this had been either of them and neither Lydia nor Will would have put up cobwebs without telling them or asking to decorate the set beforehand. That meant that these were very likely real webs and that immediately made Stuart cringe and try desperately not to go into panic mode. Will managed to prevent a major issue for their friend by insisting that it was best if he and Lydia tackle the webbing issues so that they could maintain the fabric and Stuart could just help Dolly get ready and assemble any props they were going to be using outside.
That turned out to be more true than they anticipated because while Dolly didn’t really need much help with getting prepared, she did usually get a lot of the props ready on her own. There was usually a few minor touch ups or things that they would add before they put them in the set so that it would be relevant to the shoot they were doing. Today it was the same but while Will and Lydia were getting rid of the cobwebs, she and Stuart were barely started setting up props when the clouds began to roll in. Dolly frowned when she saw the fluffy white wisps that she’d watched drift by this morning becoming thicker with a very distinctive grey tint to them. They were the heavy, pregnant kind of storm clouds that were sure to be holding a downpour in them. The wind began to pick up and they were soon racing against the weather, watching those clouds get darker as they crowded out the blue sky. Before long, Lydia bounded out to join them, quickly adding any details that they needed to finish and quickly got things set up while Stuart added minor moss touch ups to some grave stones and Dolly added some touch up paint to some of the skulls that were being used this time around. They managed to pull it together and got Dolly wheeled in just in time for the first drops to start. Within a few minutes, the promised downpour had started in earnest.
The smell of wet concrete quickly filled the air and made the chill within the storage locker that much worse. Will turned on the space heater but it was small and it would be a while before the heat began to make any difference. It was also not exactly safe to have the door closed with the heater on so there was nothing to stop the wind from making the tiny storage facility cold and damp.
“Will we be able to film like this, you think?” Dolly grimaced. “The noise on the roof is probably going to drown out anything we say.”
“It probably won’t last long,” Lydia replied. “I can see about getting some extra fabric to tack up to the ceiling to dampen the noise. I think I have some fleece at home and that’s pretty thick. Do you think that would help?”
“Probably not,” Will frowned. “Besides, with getting it up there to stay, it would take a decent amount of time and it would likely just waste your fabric. You’re right anyway, it’s not going to rain that heavily for too long. If we give it some time, the storm will pass and we can get started.”
“W-what do we do in the meantime?” Stuart frowned.
“Wait for the heater to warm up and hunker down, I guess,” Dolly said, wheeling over to the fainting couch. She pulled herself onto the purple velour cover and sighed. “I suppose this would be a good time to go over anything in the script if there’s anything anyone wanted to change or add.”
“A-are the we-webs all gone?”
“It’s okay, Stuart,” Lydia chimed in, cheerfully. “I had some extra fleece bits from we used in that shoot with the weird haunted sock puppet movie, so we used those to clean everything up. I went over the heater twice so it’s in the clear and I think Will got the higher areas so we’ll be okay.”
“Looks good. I would have guessed it would have taken you longer from what you guys had to clean,” Dolly nodded, rubbing her temples. “Thanks, by the way. You both did a great job getting it done so quick.”
“Are you okay, Dolly?” Lydia asked, coming to sit next to her. “You look tired.”
“I’ve been having trouble sleeping this week,” she shrugged. “Just some small bouts of insomnia. I’m sure it’ll pass.”
“A-are you stressed out about an-anything?” Stuart asked, pulling up a lawn chair that he used between takes. He was rubbing his hands together against the chill as Will pulled the heater closer to them all and sat in his regular spot.
“Nothing that pressing,” she shrugged. “I’ve been trying to think of what to do for our anniversary shows coming up but that’s about it. I wasn’t going to bring it up because I haven’t had time to plan much of anything but I suppose that might be rattling around at the back of my mind. I didn’t think it was enough to cause that kind of stress, though. Who knows?”
“What about Trioxin?” Will asked, his voice low. “Has he been okay?”
“Oxy’s been okay,” she replied. “Acting up at night still and being very cuddly when I am home but nothing that I can think of that spells anything wrong or anything like that. There were a couple of days that he wouldn’t eat unless I was sitting with him but he still ate all his food. He’s had some weird separation anxiety but otherwise, he’s been fine.”
“Maybe he’s just cranky because you’ve been busy lately,” Lydia offered. “Maybe some new toys will cheer him up. I have some leftover scraps from a fur tail commission I just did. Did you want me to make some toys for him? If he likes catnip I can stuff them too!”
“That would be very nice, Lydia,” Dolly replied. “I’m sure it couldn’t hurt him to have something extra to occupy his time at night.”
“H-how’s y-you your s-spider, Will?” Stuart asked quietly. He was shivering worse now as he tried to warm up his hands. Will got up and put the heater closer to where Lydia and Stuart had settled before sitting back down.
“He’s doing much better,” he said, casually. “But in the interest of not making you uncomfortable, why don’t we change the subject to take our minds off the cold. I’m interesting in chatting about that anniversary stuff that Dolly mentioned. It’s coming up pretty soon, isn’t it?”
“In October,” Dolly said, rubbing her shoulders. “It’s not that soon but you guys already know how these things go. If we don’t prepare soon, we’ll be stuck scrambling. A few months can go fast. I’ve been brainstorming but being so tired, I haven’t had much inspiration. Anyone have any ideas kicking around, while we’re sitting here?”
“A theme is usually a good way to get organized,” Lydia suggested. “Maybe something iconic around a classic monster?”
“That’s a really good suggestion,” Dolly nodded. “The only thing is usually getting the movies in line.”
“A-aren’t th-the-there pub-public do-main ones?” Stuart said, cringing.
“There are but even those get flagged a lot of the time,” Dolly sighed.
“Studios buy them and put them on compilation discs,” Will chimed in. “Makes it so that even if they aren’t under copyright, they can still open the case against people for using them. That said, there’s other ways around these things and it’s a great excuse to dig deeper into the vault.”
“You really think that people are going to want to watch a bunch of movie they’ve never heard of, though?” Dolly replied, unconvinced. “I get where you’re coming from, Will, but this is the high tide time for people to go out and there’s always stuff on things like Netflix and on cable. I know we’ve got some core viewers out there but even they aren’t necessarily going to be swayed to watch bargain bin finds when they can have the big names in horror available in other places.”
“That’s not why they watch the show, though, Dolly,” Lydia objected. She frowned. “The movies help but it’s mostly all about you guys and how you present the movie.”
“She’s got a point, Dolly,” Will agreed. “No one ever watched Mystery Science Theatre to watch Manos the Hands of Fate or whatever they dug out of the trash heap.”
“A-and would-wouldn’t most ho-horror fans h-have see-seen the cla-assics al-r-ready?” Stuart added, clearing his throat.
“That’s also something I didn’t consider,” Dolly nodded. “Okay so you guys are right. There’s options out there but we still need to figure out what we want to do. I like the classic monster idea. Do we just want to focus on one or maybe try to tackle them all?”
“I-f we do th-them all, I ca-an build more props,” Stuart said, brightening.
“We could do extra props even if we focus on one, though,” Lydia said. “I mean, there’s a lot to say about even one of the creature features, isn’t there? And I would love to tackle the werewolf myths more than once, if I’m being honest.”
“Regardless of what we do, can we please just all agree to avoid the Creature from the Black Lagoon?” Will said, shuddering.
“Well, let me think on it,” Dolly said. “Ultimately, I do have the write the scripts and I do agree that there’s a lot to be said on one monster, I’m not sure how I’ll feel pounding out a months’ worth of werewolf puns.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Lydia frowned.
“Well, hey, what if we did a double feature on the werewolf to replace the sea creature?” Dolly suggested. “There’s no reason that we can’t focus in on a few of these monsters without having to worry about the whole cabal of them. Maybe that would be the best of both worlds?”
“I-I li-ke the i-id-dea,” Stuart sighed.
“Is the heater still bothering you, Stu?” Lydia frowned.
“It-it’s n-not e-ev-even ho-hot,” Stuart sighed.
“Getting that chilled probably isn’t making it easier on you,” Will replied. “Did you want to try warming up in your car for a bit just to cut the cold?”
“C-car do-does-doesn’t ha-ve a he-heater,” Stuart replied, warming his hands.
“I have some blankets at home,” Lydia said, perking up. “Actually, I have some great faux fur ones too. We could go grab them while we wait for the rain to settle. I don’t live that far away so it shouldn’t take that long. That way we could warm up even between takes when it does stop.”
“Wha-at a-about th-the he-ater?”
“Why don’t you two get the blankets? Will and I can stay behind and see about the script and even get some practice in while we wait,” Dolly said, covering her mouth as she yawned.
“You sure you’re okay, Dolly?” Lydia frowned.
“The cold air is making me a bit sleepy but that’s okay,” she shrugged. “You guys won’t be long anyway so it should be okay.”
“Alright,” she said. She patted Stuart on the back and nodded to follow her but stopped and sighed, looking down. Slowly, she removed her cat ears and placed them on the table in front of Dolly. Lydia looked away. “I shouldn’t wear them in the rain.”
“I’ll look after them,” Dolly nodded.
The two were not even at the car yet before Dolly felt her eyes getting heavy. She groaned at herself, wishing that she could just get a full night’s sleep and get this over with. Being this tired made her feel useless and uninspired. She only hoped that wouldn’t show on camera.
“Maybe you should have gone with them,” Will said, making her perk up. “You look like you’re about to pass out.”
“Like I said, I’m sure it’s just stress.”
“I don’t know,” Dolly admitted with a sigh. “I want to say yes but I just can’t seem to get a full night’s sleep even though I’m passing out early. Maybe I’m just coming down with something and I want to deny it. I don’t feel sick, though, so I don’t know.”
“Well let’s see if we can get your mind working so that you can wake up a bit,” Will replied. “I have a print off of the script in my back at the back of the locker. Try to prop yourself up a bit and I’ll be right back.”
Dolly tried to follow his instructions but the minute she was left alone in the locker, she felt the cold air swirling around her. The heater didn’t even sound like it was on and she would believe that it wasn’t given how little good it was doing. She would have complained but she couldn’t find the energy. Even sitting up, she felt like her body was just too heavy to keep from slumping down. Her eyes rolled back and she quickly fell asleep. The door slowly began to close itself and the heater turned off. Sleeping, Dolly didn’t notice at all as the shadows engulfed her as she began to dream.