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House of Actors

a novel by
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Stephen Mallory has nowhere to go. After the death of a loved one and a series of unfortunate events, he has taken up residence in a drug dealer's trap house, unable to leave for reasons both internal and external. However, when the diary of a suicidal method actor is found hidden inside the house, it becomes clear that the house on Sickle Street, while a house, is far from a home.

As details continue to unravel from the diary – labeled only with the name "Skinmiser" – reality is no longer the unifying construct that it once was. Stephen's housemates begin to act in incomprehensible and violent ways, horrors come creeping at his door come nightfall, and things occur that simply cannot be – and yet are. Something is living inside Stephen's house, and it knows him very well – better than he knows himself.

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Reading Sample

The media had their fill of Myles Dorrance by the mid-nineties, and there were few online sources to find details about him. His page on IMDb was composed of a one-sentence biography and no pictures whatsoever, and no Wikipedia page had been made despite his apparent glory in Amethyst’s eyes. What little could be found on Google consisted of headshot images and unrelated comments from non-professionals.

 

Stephen pulled up a headshot, a close-up of the head and shoulders against an out-of-focus background. The already collected facts and factors came together like easy puzzle pieces around the face onscreen; his black, middle-parted hair was scraggly and wild in such a way that could only be a precise artistic choice, and in his dark eyes was a glint of something like intent, an exigent purpose behind the stare he was making into the camera, supported by the solemn horizontal line of his unsmiling mouth. Exploring the dark pools, Stephen searched the depths for what might have been an inkling, a stem of the idea that inevitably brought him to Stephen’s house, and, even harder to see, anything of what he hoped to gain by doing so.

Comments, brought up by mentions of ‘Myles’ and ‘Dorrance’ on the same page, were even less helpful, mostly out-of-context mentions by drama teachers and actors. But a common theme lay between, a collective anathema.

 

“no wonder parents are afraid to let their children go to Hollywood. even myles dorrance’s parents are still scared shitless to even mention what he did”

 

“When the words ‘method acting’ and ‘Myles Dorrance’ are mentioned inside of the same sentence, the proper approach is to grab an actor by the collar and thwack them on the head with a script, yelling, ‘THIS IS ALL YOU NEED!’”

 

“Stanislavski may have paved a path for intellectuals in the world of Theatre, but by no means should anyone go to the lengths that Myles Dorrance went to just so he could feel smart about himself. Let alone in seattle; the suicide capital of the world doesn’t need another name added to the body count”

 

“i just wish someone could have spoken to him, that he would have spoken to someone, anyone outside of that house. listen to your own voice for that long and youre bound to hear some other ones too.”

 

Marcus had long since gone home for the night, Wylie and Geoffrey with him, when Stephen turned on his laptop around ten-thirty. The original article Geoffrey found was lost in a league of links as well, but after a number of failed searches, the same description was found on a long-abandoned, well-fed theatre encyclopedia site:

 

...was a self-imposed exile in 1986 to an isolated house in Seattle, Washington (he never revealed to the press his exact location) for an attempt to craft his own original character from scratch, without the guidance of a script or pre-existent concept. A small number of directors and artists consider this to be Dorrance’s most zealous endeavor due to the fact that it was the closest Dorrance ever came to original and wholly self-made artistic achievement. Despite this, it is widely (and almost unanimously) considered among most professionals in the acting industry to...[read more]

 

Stephen clicked on the link to extend the text.

 

...to be one of one of the most disastrous and disturbing incidences of method acting gone wrong.

 

A contraction of the brow. The words seemed to exceed the publicity. The balance between an unknown occurrence and a louder silence cut a slit in reality, bringing Stephen into the urban legend, more true than what was seen on the news, yet incompatible with anything he knew.

 

Since many of the details were requested to be kept secret by the Dorrance family, little is known for certain about the consequence of Myles’s experiment. Though the exact location was never revealed to the public, it is known that Dorrance voluntarily withdrew to a house somewhere in Seattle, Washington on February 28, 1986, telling only immediate family members of his intent to do so and his location. Once a week, his brother Samuel called Myles on the phone to ensure that nothing bad had happened during his brother’s exile, and, when Myles didn’t pick up the phone after three spaced-out calls on April 2, Samuel immediately called the Seattle police to investigate. When they arrived at approx. 12:32 p.m. PST, Myles was found dead, the cause of death being, according to the final autopsy report, “skinned while still alive.” Due to the fact that there was no sign of breaking and entering or any leads on the actions of an outside source, it quickly became an urban legend, widely believed by actors and directors (especially those who had worked with Dorrance in the past) that he had executed the murder himself. However, many doctors and biologists oppose this conclusion based on the improbability of the human body’s being able to withstand pain long enough to fully remove its own skin, and the disagreement has spawned a small number of medical investigations as to the possibility of such a phenomenon.

Dorrance’s disembodied skin was never found by police investigators

 

A soft knocking, distant, a story below, interrupted Stephen’s eyes by seizure of his ears. He turned from his desk towards his open door. It was undeniably from the first floor of the house, and Wylie undeniably had keys to the front door. Stephen waited for it to subside. As though in response to his hesitation, the knocks seemed to become more powerful. Another contraction of his brow, and he rose, drawing slowly forth into the darkness of the staircase.

The footfall of each step down, gradually hastening, seemed to stagger with the knocks, which were spaced out long, yawning seconds apart, giving borrowed time. Stephen reached the bottom, stumbling a bit from a tremor in his legs, and looked rightward toward the windowed backdoor, finding nothing but blackness, then leftward toward the front door. The door itself remained inanimate. Through the drawn curtains of the living room window, a humanoid silhouette, animate and intent, repeatedly collided its head with the glass.