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It was rare that anyone would contact Ledbetter College to produce a video. For starters, Ledbetter didn’t actually have a film or television degree program. And even their theater was a stage at one end of the gym where the Ledbetter Lions played their home basketball games.

Most people either being tech savvy or having products that made them seem knowledgeable, would shoot something on their own with a phone or a digital camera. But the guy who contacted the school had a special request. He wanted some continual publicity at low cost so if he threw the school a bit of cash, they would make this video, use it as a promotion for the school itself and then he would be seen as a part of it, any time the school ran a promo. Getting more eyeballs on the project was key. There was also a suggestion that he could possibly get some funding for his work through the school, another reason to do some campus outreach.

Hal and Ray, each responsible Seniors, and each about to graduate with degrees in English Lit, were both fairly well versed in the methods of shooting a vid. Hal also had a way with words, so he could write up a script on the fly. Ray was expert at knowing what to show, so he’d be the cinematographer. They were permitted to use this shoot as a kind of internship, with the money they received going to help establish a Photo Department for the school. The bonus was they’d get to keep a portion of the payment and it would lead to an expansion for the campus and a possible opportunity for both Hal and Ray to establish themselves as instructors, if there was enough interest from incoming and undergrad students.

Arriving at their destination, Ray took a shot of the surrounding neighborhood, a rundown former church and its adjoining cemetery, a field with weeds as far as the eye could see, the cliff with the small wire fence as its only safeguard and the destination, the doctor’s home, a dark red bricked edifice with a deep sloping roof.

Before the lads could knock, the door was open and there was a tall and wide… person. Hal and Ray glanced at each other almost as if to say, how does this person come and go from this house?

“Are you Doctor Fremd?” Hal asked.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh…”

Suddenly Hal and Ray were also involuntarily screaming.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

“Noooooooooooooo.” Said the door holder.

“Rogi, no! Rogi, go!” came a voice from behind the door. The door holder gingerly turned around and marched towards the back of the house as a man in a white lab coat and a three-piece dark grey suit without the jacket took its place.

“Hello. You must be the young men from the College,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake both of theirs.

“Are you Doctor Fremd,” asked Hal.

“Actually, it’s Doctor Friend,” Doctor Fremd said. “It’s an honest mistake. Won’t you come in?

Ray entered, filming the whole while, getting the high-ceilinged roof and the wider than you would expect staircase down to the basement.

“Come this way!” The doctor beckoned, and they entered his office.

“May I offer you some coffee or tea, or something a little harder? I know you college kids enjoy beer.”

Ray chimed in, “I was a little curious about who answered the door when we arrived.”

“Oh, that’s Rogi,” the Doctor said. “He’s an assistant.”

“More like Yogi because he’s the size of a bear,” Ray responded. “How does he fit through the front door?”

“I’m on a really tight schedule and I was told you were well prepared for this meeting. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

“Yes, sir.” Hal reached into his back pack and pulled out a notebook. “I worked up a short script based on the information we received about your project. I tied it back to Ledbetter because of the cross promotion.”

The doctor briefly read through the text. “This should suffice.”

“And we can shoot your comments right here in your office,” Ray said.

Moments later, after Ray set up a tripod in front of the doctor’s desk and cued him to begin.

“I appreciate the efforts made by Ledbetter College to help my progress and to aid my project. With the one-hundred thousand dollars they provided…”

“Cut.” Hal called.

“What happened?” asked the doctor.

“I didn’t write any amount or suggest you say an amount for this.”

“Are you actually getting a hundred thousand dollars from Ledbetter?” Ray asked. “We need to ask for more money for this gig!”

“This is a promotion for your school, am I correct in thinking this?” the doctor asked.

“Which is why you should not be saying any dollar figures as part of our video,” Hal retorted. “You might give prospective students the wrong idea.”

“You’re talking about students coming to the school,” said the doctor. “I’m referring to funding for research, crucial work that will change the course of humanity!”

“Maybe we should move on to what you are working on?” Ray suggested.

“We didn’t talk about that,” said the doctor. “I’m not completely prepared to show my lab.”

Ray quickly undocked the camera from the tripod and was ready to move, while Hal grabbed his back pack and they exited the office and headed for the staircase.

“The lab is downstairs, right?” Ray asked.

“Yes, but,”

“That’s fine,” Ray said. “I’ll just shoot around anything that doesn’t look savory. We’re not trying to make you look bad.”

“Who in the administration did you speak to about your research grant?” Hal asked as they descended the staircase.

“Actually, no one, yet.”

Hal laughed. “No one? That can’t be. You just said you got a hundred…”

At the foot of the stairs, the doctor shouldered the two students into an enclosed room and slammed the door shut and locked it. A small slit where light from the outer hall could be seen was just as quickly sealed. They were in total darkness.

“What the hell happened?” Ray asked.

“Nothing good, that’s for sure.” Hal responded. “Are you okay.”

“Yeah.” Ray flipped on one of the camera's lights to see and noticed a bunch of odd beetles crawling by his shoe and starting to march up his leg.

“Aaaaahhh!” he yelled, shaking his leg and swatting at the insects to get off his pants.”

“What’s going on?” Hal asked, pounding on the solid door. “Doctor Friend!” he called, “We need to talk to you.”

“And now I have no signal.” Ray lamented.

“So, we can’t call anyone to get us out of here?” Hal asked.

“I was livecasting the entire thing,” said Ray.

“You mean the whole thing, that big yogi thing at the door, the doctor and getting tossed into this cell is on your video channel?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure when I lost the signal. If it happened before we got thrown in here, I don’t know what it’ll look like. It might look like we just stopped the cast.”

“Do you know if anyone was watching?”

“I don’t,” Ray responded. “And I normally don’t cast at this time of day, so my usual audience isn’t around.”

“But someone will see it,” Hal said hopefully.

“If they look at the channel archives,” said Ray. “But not everyone does that right away. And I think I titled it ‘School Project’ so that probably isn’t going to help boost the interest.”

“So now what?”

“Maybe it’s time for a new plan,” came the voice from the darkness. Both Hal and Ray jumped so high, they would have set new track and field state records. Ray spun the light toward the sound and there was Rogi seated on the floor on a pile of straw that doubled as his bed.

“When I overheard that you were coming here, it gave a lot of us hope.” Rogi cried.

“Are you recording this,” Hal whispered. Ray nodded back.

“Who are you,” Ray called to him.

“I am more than the sum of my parts. But my parts are not all me.”

Both Hal and Ray stood in stunned silence.

“I am a creation, a being made by Doctor Fromd.”

“That’s Doctor Friend,” Ray corrected him.

“He is no ‘Friend.’” Rogi corrected him.

“Point taken,” said Hal. “Are you his research project?”

“One. He has ten that I know of and at least twice that many that have already failed.”

“And what is he attempting to accomplish,” Ray asked. “Is he trying to create new creatures, extend the life expectancy of humans?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think he knows. But he is just trying things and seeing what works, and if anything does, he keeps it.”

“You just said that when you heard we were coming it gave you a lot of hope,” Hal said. “Who are you talking about?”

“All of us, his experiments.” Rogi cried. “we are all in great pain.”

“Physical pain?”

“Physical pain, emotional pain.”

“How can we help you, now?” Hal asked. “We’re trapped in here.”

“I have a way of getting out.” Rogi said. “But you have to promise to do one thing for us.

“Of course,” Ray said. “What is it?”

“Please. Please. Kill us.”

//

This story was written for LJ Idol and was based on The Future Shall Rise, a story by halfshellvenus, written during Week 15 of this season’s competition.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
halfshellvenus
Aug. 29th, 2017 06:39 am (UTC)
Oh, I was hoping someone would use one of my entries for this challenge! I thought about which ones might lend themselves to that, and this was the first one that came to mind-- it had some open-ended opportunity, rather than being a sort of 'closed loop.'

“I am more than the sum of my parts. But my parts are not all me.”
Nice!

I found myself wondering if Dr. Fremd was planning to use those students to make more creations, which would have been a gruesome end.

Poor monsters! I think they deserved better than Fremd gave them, and I'd hoped they would defeat him. I wonder if Rogi doesn't have something else in mind, at least to start with.

Thanks for choosing this story as a springboard!
penpusher
Aug. 29th, 2017 07:15 am (UTC)
This was the most challenging of the challenges for me, if, for no other reason, we didn't actually have the full complement of pieces to select from - some writers deleted their journals or locked them so that those entries were no longer available to see. I'm not saying I wouldn't have selected this story after all, as I considered some of the ways it might progress after I read it in week 15.

Really, the story could/should continue, I certainly have some thoughts about what might occur next.

One other note: the names of the students, Ray and Hal, were drawn from the first three letters of your husband's and your usernames, in case you didn't catch that!
halfshellvenus
Aug. 29th, 2017 05:35 pm (UTC)
Hah-- I hadn't noticed that! Nice touch. :)

But wait... why wasn't the monster they found Gary? :O
penpusher
Aug. 29th, 2017 06:41 pm (UTC)
Zingo!

I trashed Gary pretty badly the week of his dental issues, so I couldn't go there again... at least not so soon!
bleodswean
Aug. 29th, 2017 05:51 pm (UTC)
*claps* This is a fantastically inspired piece from a wild and fun original piece! Nice work! LOVED the names!
penpusher
Aug. 29th, 2017 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much! The source material definitely made this an easy job!
marlawentmad
Aug. 31st, 2017 02:11 am (UTC)

I adored this piece and am glad to see it continued. I wonder where else this story can lead us...

penpusher
Aug. 31st, 2017 05:31 am (UTC)
The metaphors that halfshellvenus implanted here were too good not to use. There is a lot of fodder here, with the Doctor's manipulations, the money aspect to help he research and the elements that he refuses to deal with as a result of doing whatever he wants... the political undertones are here as well. Thanks for reading and for your comment!
i_17bingo
Sep. 1st, 2017 02:56 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed the cluelessness of Ray and Hal as they entered this situation, not noticing all of the warning signs in the good doctor's behavior.
penpusher
Sep. 1st, 2017 10:39 pm (UTC)
The youthful exuberance of being able to do a job you want to do definitely has an impact. Really, isn't that how all those scammers on places like writing dot com get writers to do pieces for well below market prices? It's all about not knowing what you deserve that allows such undercutting.

Thanks very much for reading!
messygorgeous
Sep. 4th, 2017 09:16 pm (UTC)
Delightfully creepy! A great way to pay tribute to A Future Shall Rise. I loved the conversation about how this was livecast but no one was probably watching!
penpusher
Sep. 4th, 2017 10:25 pm (UTC)
This was the most fun I had writing this week, and certainly halfshellvenus put a lot of material right within reach. There certainly are a lot of elements going on here, and this could expand even further! Thanks for reading!!
murielle
Sep. 4th, 2017 09:45 pm (UTC)
Did not expect the doctor to turn out the way he did. Did not expect the ending. A good creepy story. You know I love creepy. :-)
penpusher
Sep. 4th, 2017 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much. The creepy was certainly baked into the original piece by halfshellvenus so it was very easy to follow her lead! Thanks very much for a great compliment!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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