In case you missed it, you can read Act I, Scene 1 here.
(Lights up on the same basement set, a few days later. Nothing has changed, except for a pillow and mussed blankets on the couch, suggesting GREG has slept there. He sits at his desk scrolling around on the Internet while ALICE folds clothes and adds them to a basket near the dryer. Through the basement window, we can see it’s raining. Thunder and rain sound effects throughout this scene.)
ALICE: It’s really coming down out there.
GREG: Yeah, I guess it is. That must be why the wi-fi’s shitty.
ALICE: And why Rocco isn’t down here with us right now.
GREG: Hopefully he’s hiding and not shitting somewhere.
ALICE: Like you’d clean it up. (Beat.) I was thinking we could go to the movies this week. There’s that new James Wan film, the one with the haunted carnival. It’s getting good reviews.
GREG: Since when do you check reviews?
ALICE: You always ask about reviews before we see a movie. I thought I’d be proactive.
GREG: Yeah, maybe we could see that. (He scrolls around and clicks on a few things before landing on another paranormal vlogger, perhaps one he knows or competes with. Muffled audio of the video plays through the computer speakers. GREG leans back from the screen.) Hey… can I ask you something?
GREG: Do you watch any videos? Besides mine, I mean.
ALICE: Like… other vloggers?
GREG: Paranormal ones, specifically. (He gestures toward the video.) Take this one, for example. Terrified in Tokyo. This American dude who just moved to Japan started filming the weird shit that happened in his house, caught some of the most convincing footage in the community, and hit more than one million subs in less than a year. Know what his secret was?
GREG: This is the one that put him over the edge. It’s a dark web mystery box unboxing.
ALICE: (Pause.) I understood none of those words.
GREG: You might if you still helped me with the channel. (Repeating slowly.) Dark web mystery box unboxing. It’s… okay, give me a second. (He pauses the video.) The dark web is the seedy underbelly of the Internet. It’s where all the fucked-up shit lives–drugs, sex trafficking, weapons… you name it, you got it. And everything is anonymous.
ALICE: How does that work, though?
GREG: You use this open-source browser, Tor, to access everything. It’s almost impossible to track someone through it. I mean, you’d have to be highly skilled to pull it off. Anyway, the way these videos work is that the person who owns the channel purchases a mystery box from a seller on the dark web, pays for it in Bitcoin–
GREG: You know, like… cryptocurrency. Virtual money?
ALICE: Sure, Bitcoin.
GREG: After the box arrives, the person sets up their video camera and films the unboxing. Usually there’s a bunch of fucked-up stuff inside, like baby teeth and bloody towels and human feces.
GREG: But between you and me, most of it’s fake. A lot of these channels–and this came directly from Leonardo Da Kitschy. When we did that collaboration, he said his publicist urged him to do one of the videos, offered to buy a bunch of thrift store shit and “make it look legit as possible.” Leo turned him down, because he doesn’t do anything paranormal-adjacent.
GREG: I’m not saying that’s what Terrified in Tokyo did, but I guess I’m not saying he didn’t do that either. I mean, there’s no way of knowing for sure.
ALICE: (She stops folding for a moment.) You want to film one.
GREG: I didn’t say that.
ALICE: You didn’t not say it.
GREG: It could be the thing that puts me over the top. I could be Terrified in Tokyo.
ALICE: Except you want to do it legitimately, I’m guessing.
GREG: Well, yeah, of course. Otherwise, what’s the point?
ALICE: It’s dangerous, Greg. You said so yourself. Why can’t you just fake one like everybody else? Hell, I could help you. I could run to the craft store, try my new paints–
GREG: I’m Zipper Paranormal. I don’t fake anything.
ALICE: Just because you never have doesn’t mean you couldn’t.
GREG: Alice, when we started this channel, I said I wanted to only showcase genuine paranormal activity. “No cheesy pretend shit,” remember?
ALICE: You also said you wouldn’t do shit just because everyone else was doing it.
GREG: That was a long time ago, before I knew anything about trends and analytics. I’ve done some research, and I think my best shot at cracking one million subscribers is to go viral. Like, big-time, trending-page viral. And the best way I can think of to do that while still sticking with my niche is to do one of these dark web unboxing videos.
ALICE: But why do you have to buy a real box? There are so many unknowns with those.
GREG: Alice, my whole channel is built on unknowns.
ALICE: You said the dark web was dangerous. What if someone sends you a bomb or some shit? Something you can’t walk away from.
GREG: I have to do something big to reach one million, Alice, otherwise I’ll never make it.
ALICE: What are you talking about? You’ll get there, babe. One million is only like, another 300K away. That’s less than half of what you have now. Just keep chugging along and you’ll hit it in no time.
GREG: I know I’ll get there eventually, but… God, Terrified only had to wait a year to hit one mil. I’ve been trying for three years, and I don’t want to wait three more. Hell, for all I know, the platform could go under. Paranormal videos might burn out, fade away. I could get demonetized. (Beat.) We could lose the car, the house. I mean, I have one strike now, and that scares the shit out of me. Two more and I’m out.
ALICE: Wait, since when did you get a strike? I thought you were fine.
GREG: I swear I told you about it.
ALICE: No way, I would’ve remembered something like that. I mean, I know you got a warning from that cemetery thing, when you were taking shots with those dudebros.
GREG: Leo and the twins are not dudebros… okay, maybe they are, but they’re solid guys. Anyway, that wasn’t a warning. That was my first strike. (Pause.) Apparently, more than a few people thought that we were being disrespectful.
ALICE: I told you not to do it.
GREG: It’s not like we were the only ones to ever film a drinking game in a cemetery. How was I supposed to know?
ALICE: Wait, is that a thing? Other people have done that?
GREG: Yeah, where did you think I got the idea?
GREG: Anyway, that was a strike. Two more and I’m out. I either get demonetized or banned, both of which spell disaster for the channel, and for my livelihood. So I guess what I’m saying is… the sooner I can hit one million, the better. It would more or less secure my spot, and it’s harder for the platform to justify doing anything to me if I’m bringing that much engagement to them.
ALICE: That’s assuming you don’t film a dead body in a suicide forest or something.
GREG: Low blow, Alice. He apologized.
ALICE: Still was a shitty thing to do, if you ask me. Anyway, doesn’t look like that’s hurt him too badly. He’s still pulling in ad revenue and shit, isn’t he?
GREG: As far as I know. I think he still makes money from his channel. The thing is, if you get demonetized, you can’t apply to get remonetized. Once you’re out, you’re out, and there’s no coming back from it.
ALICE: It won’t happen to you, Greg. You’re careful.
GREG: Not careful enough. I just think I need to hit one million subscribers sooner rather than later.
ALICE: And you will, Greg. That’s what I keep telling you. There’s no need to film one of those unboxing videos—not for real, anyway. Please, for my sake, consider faking it? I’m more than willing to help. It could be good for us to work on this.
GREG: I can’t fake it. I’ve built up trust with my fanbase. I can’t give them any reason to doubt me.
ALICE: But this is the easiest way. Also, no one ever has to know you did this. I’m the only other person who knows, and I won’t tell. What’s there to worry about?
GREG: I’m not faking it, Alice. I don’t care what happens. I can’t do that to my fans. They trust me.
ALICE: Just because you fake one unboxing video doesn’t mean you have to keep faking your content. You can stay genuine with the paranormal stuff. You just need a little boost to get you over the hump, right? So fake it. (Pause.) For my sake.
GREG: I don’t know, Alice. I don’t think it’s the right move.
ALICE: Like I said, I can help you. I’ll run out to the thrift store and grab a few things that would tell a strange story together. Mirrors and kids’ backpacks. Miscellaneous shit. We’ll figure it all out when I get back.
GREG: (Hesitantly.) What about Rocco? Does he need to go out?
ALICE: You can try to get him to go out in this weather, but I doubt he’ll take the bait. Just set up for this video. (She moves all the clothes to the hamper and heads up the stairs without another word. We hear her murmuring something, presumably to Rocco. Then, jingling keys, a door closing, a car starting and pulling away. Greg groans and goes back to working on the computer. He checks his camera set up, turns on the lighting, and starts filming himself. His tone changes drastically, as he is now using his “vlogger” voice.)
GREG: What’s up, all my ghosts and ghouls? Greg Zipper here with Zipper Paranormal. Today I have a special treat for you all. With the help of my lovely lady Alice Thorne, I’ve purchased a mystery box from the dark web, and I’m opening it live, just for all of you. Before I dive in, you might be wondering, what is a dark web mystery box? Basically, the dark web is a place where you can find the darkest shit, from drugs and hitmen to sex trafficking, and everything in between. The dark web– (A violent flash of lighting and deafening thunder. Blackout. Rocco barks. Greg curses. End of scene.)