It was a Mecca, a veritable promised land spoken of only in whispers and television commercials, a place where decades of culture collided for one all-hallowed weekend. A California summer sun beat overhead, threatening to assault the colorful individuals within these four immaculate walls if not for the intervention of sunscreen and air conditioning. For just a few days, these people could be amongst those of a like-mind. This was a place to make friends and forge unforgettable moments. This was San Diego Comic Con.
Donny Jimenez weaved through the dense crowds. People milled every which way, talking amongst themselves and toting along branded plastic bags full of overpriced merchandise. Many of them wore fantastical costumes, everything from a cardboard Gundam, to the Men in Black, to an orange swimsuit some random girl tried to pass off as Charmander. Regardless of quality, everyone looked amazing. They made Donny feels somewhat self-conscious about his Flash t-shirt and tan cargo shorts.
But he would not be disheartened. Every inch of this place was chock full of the next coolest thing he'd ever seen. The day was halfway done with, and Donny had already spotted hundreds of things he wanted to buy. Awesome shirts, neat little figures, expensive props he'd have to work months to afford, everything he could ever want was within his reach.
Such consumerism was what drove him in the present moment. He walked next to his friend Jacob, a man who bucked stereotypes in every respect. Tall, muscular, and handsome with a strong jaw, sandy hair, and blue eyes, he looked like the captain of the football team. No one would ever guess he played a Halfling bard. He wore a simple black t-shirt which strained against his muscles. The two of them walked with a purpose toward the back wall of the convention center.
"Isn't this place great?" Donny remarked as he slipped past someone.
"I know, right?" Agreed Jacob. "And this is just day one. Just imagine what tomorrow will be like."
"We'd know if you hadn't forgotten the schedule," ribbed Donny.
"Yeah, yeah." Jacob waved him off.
"Not sure why I have to walk all the way over here with you, though," Donny remarked.
"Hey, you could've gone to that cosplay competition with Maya."
"And watch a bunch of creepy neckbeards ogle my sister?" Donny raised an eyebrow. "No thanks."
"Well, can you blame them?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Your sister's hot, bro."
"I don't think I wanna have this conversation." Donny looked away, thankful for the color of his skin to hide the blush on his cheeks.
"Oh, come on. You know I'm just kidding." Jacob gave Donny's shoulder a little shove.
"I don't know you're kidding, and that's exactly the problem."
"I've known her as long as I've known you. It'd be like fucking my own sister," dismissed Jacob while Donny visibly shivered.
"You're looking for something from that mailman game, right?" Donny said, desperate to change the subject.
"Yeah "Going Postal 2," specified Jacob. "They have an exclusive shirt at their booth."
"And I'm guessing they couldn't afford anything close to the door?"
"Nah, they're just a little indie dev. Besides, you shouldn't be complaining. You could stand to lose a few pounds," Jacob teased. Donny had no response to that, just like with every quip about his weight. He wasn't even overly fat; he'd just never been to the gym before.
Conversation between the two dried up for a bit after that. They were close, now. Donny could've thrown something and hit the back wall, which considering his unimpressive musculature was quite the feat.
Donny occupied himself with looking around a little more. There weren't quite as many people at this end of the huge room, so he had an easier time seeing past them. So far away from the doors, the vendors here hawked a more niche collection of items when compared to the higher traffic areas. It was mostly small creators and video games he'd never heard of. He did, however spot an amazing Legend of Korra print being sold by a woman he assumed was its artist. If only he had more money.
He was still contemplating how many overtime hours he'd have to work in order to afford it when they came upon their destination. It was a booth decorated in blue and white. Two people attended to the customers gathered around. There was a short line three people abreast for the t-shirts Jacob wanted.
"Looks like we'll have to wait," Donny said.
"Yeah, but at least they have plenty," observed Jacob, getting in line. Donny was a second behind.
Well, this was already dull. Donny always heard the majority of any con was waiting in line. He'd never wanted to believe it, but from what he had witnessed already, it was true. There were many thousands of people, so a little waiting was inevitable, but he didn't have to like it. He could think of twenty different better things to do, perhaps including that cosplay competition. …On second thought, maybe not.
Donny bounced idly on the balls of his feet. He looked around for anything to distract himself with. Having moved forward in line, all he found was other people waiting. He took a quick glance at his watch. 2:14, way earlier than it felt. He still had a few hours of convention left before they kicked everyone out for the day. That made standing in line a bit more manageable. The patrons shuffled forward.
Without warning, a scream rose over the din of con chatter. Clearly female in origin, it pierced through the otherwise calm atmosphere. For a few seconds, everything was a bit quieter as people stopped talking to listen. The moment passed in an instant, however, and it was back to business as usual.
"What do you think that was all about," asked Donny.
"Some guy probably scared his girlfriend or something," Jacob guessed.
"Maybe she just realized he dragged her all the way to Comic-Con," Donny joked. They both had a good snigger at that.
Even though he told himself it was nothing, Donny couldn't help but look over his shoulder toward the source of the disturbance. It was hard to make out through the undulating throngs, but there was a crowd of people high-tailing it for the door. Someone shouted something he couldn't make out.
"There seems to be something going on," he said.
"Beats me, man," Jacob shrugged. "I'm sure it's nothing."
A trio of gunshots rang out. Donny and Jacob both whipped around to look for it as people screamed and scattered. Distantly, Donny realized that sound was one he'd heard many times before; an M6C Magnum pistol.
"Holy shit," screamed Jacob.
"What the fuck was that," demanded Donny.
"I don't know dude!"
"Should we run?"
"I don't know!"
While they were talking, chaos erupted right next to them. A man dressed up as young Obi-Wan Kenobi pushed the button on his Phantom Menace lightsaber. A brilliant shaft of bright blue, rounded at the tip, emitted from the handle. People scattered around him, but two weren't fast enough. He sliced a man from head to groin. The woman next to him shouted as his two halves toppled over, still smoldering where the weapon cut. Obi-Wan raised his hand. The woman was yanked off the ground. She hovered there for a moment, kicking and screaming to get free until the Jedi hurled her across the room. He looked Donny square in the eyes before dashing away into the crowd.
"Fuck, dude. Holy fuck," Jacob cursed repeatedly.
"He can't be dead," Donny remarked. "It's part of the con, right? He's not dead."
"He looks pretty fucking dead to me, dude," argued Jacob. Donny stared at the bifurcated man, willing him to stand up, to say it was just some stupid performance. He never did.
A man called out in agony. Donny looked to his left to see a man holding his daughter in his arms as the little girl dressed like X-23 shoved very real claws through his neck. He fell over backward and the miniature monster began stabbing frantically at his face.
More gunfire. A generic looking samurai drove his katana through a woman's middle as she screamed at him. Something exploded in the distance. Donny saw the smoke rising above the booths. Somewhere, someone revved a chainsaw.
"Come on!" Jacob shouted, grabbing his friend's wrist. "We need to get out of here, come on!"
Jacob pulled him for a few steps before Donny got his feet underneath him. Together, the sprinted toward the exit, all the way on the other side of the convention center. Donny cursed his choice both of activities and friends. Why couldn't Jacob be interested in something more popular?
Death reigned all around them. People who'd been shot, stabbed, immolated, torn apart, and every manner of horrible things littered the floor. Their numbers grew with every added second. A Nidalee stabbed her spear through a teenage boy. Torbjorn beat a man to death with his hammer. Gambit blew a hole in someone's chest with a playing card.
Jacob lead them off to the left a bit, weaving through a few booths to get a better path toward salvation. Donny tried his best to block it all out as he ran, but how could he just ignore so much senseless destruction? He looked to his right and saw something that stopped him in his tracks; an aged man, bald of head and with multiple gunshot wounds in his chest.
"Holy shit, Jake," he cried.
Jacob doubled back "What are you doing?!"
"That's fucking Patrick Stewart!"
"I know, man, I know! Just keep running."
Jacob again began to pull his friend. Donny spared one last look for the dead celebrity before pressing on. For some stupid reason, it hadn't felt real until just then. People were being murdered, an no one was safe. It was so much worse than anything he ever could've imagined.
The two friends didn't make it very far. Out from behind one of the booths appeared a scraggly looking man dressed in a dirty white t-shirt. He had a dotted line across his neck with the words "cut here" written below it. A shorter, younger, Trevor Philips. Donny and Jacob froze at the sight of him. He gave them a sinister sneer and raised a handgun to Donny.
"Wait, please," Donny begged. He held his hands out defensively before his face. The Trevor's muscles tensed in anticipation.
The shot never came. From out of nowhere, another man came crashing through and slammed into the Trevor. They both smashed into a booth. The gun clattered across the floor. The new arrival stood, while the Trevor slumped to the ground. Donny stepped back, preparing for another confrontation, until he realized this man wasn't making any threatening moves toward them. He just stood there, menacing down at his target. He carried a Boromir shield, but dressed otherwise in regular clothes: a smart white shirt and black dress pants. The man looked back at the friends before dashing off toward the exit, a glance just long enough for Donny to recognize that unmistakable mug.
"Was that…" Jacob trailed off.
"Yeah," confirmed Donny. No matter what else happened, he'd always remember this as the day Tom Hiddleston saved his life.
A weak groan snapped them both back to the moment. The Trevor stirred. He rolled over on to his front, as if about to push himself up. Jacob wasted no time. He dashed for the discarded handgun. The Trevor grabbed for it, but Jacob reached the weapon long before the cosplayer ever could. He checked the gun was cocked and pointed it at the Trevor.
The gun went off. The Trevor fell limp. Blood leaked from the gruesome hole bored all the way through his head.
"Holy shit," Donny breathed.
"He would've killed us," Jacob said. He lowered the gun in a trembling hand. "He would've killed us."
"Jake…" Donny reached out a hand, but stopped short, allowing it to hover there uselessly for a moment.
"Come on, we're halfway there." Jacob took off toward the exit without a look to see if Donny followed. He needn't worry, though. Donny wasn't about to abandon someone on his side, especially if that person had a gun.
They dove back into the chaos. Though he'd stopped, there hadn't been enough time to recover from the stress. Donny huffed and puffed. His out of shape muscles ached at the exertion. Embarrassing, since he hadn't even run that far. But he couldn't afford to stop now. He'd rather be a little sore than a lot dead.
There were still thousands in the room, but the ranks were noticeably thinning. Every dead body was another person no longer running toward the doors, and there were a lot of dead bodies. Most were attendees, though a few cosplayers joined their ranks. In this, Donny observed a pattern.
"It's just the cosplayers," he called out. "Everyone else is fine, it's just them."
"Yeah, thanks, I figured that out," Jacob shouted back at him.
Well, at least Jacob knew. That was information they could potentially use to their advantage, and they needed every tool available to them.
A woman crossed in front of them, sprinting for all her worth. Ezio Auditore pounced on her. They went to the ground and Ezio began shoving hidden blades into her flesh. She screamed in agony, blood dripping from the corners of her mouth. Donny did his best to ignore her as he passed. He looked past them to see someone in ridiculous, hot pink fantasy armor using a metal gauntlet to beat up a man's face. Every punch tore off chunks of muscle and skin. So much killing all around him, and all he could do was run away.
A sound like a miniature fighter jet came rapidly up behind them. Donny looked over his shoulder just in time to see Iron Man soar over his head, propelled by blue streaks in his palms. The flying Avenger paused just long enough to shoot a repulsor beam somewhere to the left before rocketing after it. He grabbed someone who'd been knocked into the air by his weapon and slammed them against the far wall.
"Seriously?" Implored Jacob as he ran.
Though disconcerting, the appearance of Iron Man scattered some of the crowd as they fled from him. The way to the doors parted. Some stood wide open, while others had been broken down into various states of disrepair. They were so close. Donny dug down deep and pulled out a sudden burst of energy, one he wasn't aware even existed. Together, he and Jacob burst into the lobby.
Once on the other side, they paused for a second to take in the surroundings. It was a warzone. Less populous than the convention floor, the conflict here felt more spread out. There were bodies everywhere strewn about along with debris and discarded items such as purses and, alarmingly, a bloody stroller. A section of carpet burned off to the left, but the fire didn't seem to be spreading. The stairs nearby the fire had been collapsed in the middle, and the escalator was jammed by the blood and viscera of many dead. Access to the second floor from here was only possible through the elevator, and such a small room was a death trap. No one was dumb enough to use it.
Even out here, the cosplayers ran rampant. But, they didn't have the same kind of freedom. Some people had managed to scavenge weapons and put of a fight, leading to areas of sporadic combat. A man armed with a giant sword did battle with the Grim Reaper, a literal battle with death in which both seemed evenly matched. On the right side, a different man swung an axe at a zombie. The weapon embedded in the creature's shoulder and it was not deterred. The man gave his weapon a few good tugs. At a failure to dislodge it, he turned tail and ran. He didn't make it far, however, as a 300 Spartan knocked him to the ground with his shield. Donny looked away before the inevitable spearing.
People filtered into the lobby in numbers distressingly pitiful. Some ran toward the doors, while others branched off in other directions, likely searching for a less congested way out. Donny almost through they had the right idea. Surely there had to be fewer people by other exits. He wanted to bring this idea up to his friend, but never had the change.
From the left, a viking ran up on Donny and Jacob. He bared down on them, charging full bore with his axe held high and a tremendous warcry from his throat. Jacob raised his pistol and released three quick shots. One went wide, striking what was left of the stairs, but the other two hit home. The viking stopped in his tracks. Blood leaked from a pair of holes a good distance apart in his chest. He fell to one knee, stunned and injured, but not dead.
Jacob gave Donny a smack on the bicep before taking off toward the exit leading outside.
Compared to running through the convention floor, the sprint through the lobby was laughably short. Aided by a lack of the same dense crowd, the two friends made it in record time. As they approached, Donny noticed other people trying to get out, but instead of running through the doors, they stood panicking in front of them. He thought this was weird, but pushed it to the back of his mind. In that moment, nothing mattered except escape.
Donny positioned his hands so they aligned with the push bar on the doors. His plan was to crash right on through without even stopping. A look to his left proved Jacob had the same idea. Great minds, birds of a feather.
They reached the doors. Donny chose a break in the crowd and sped forward. Instead of pushing them open, they collided with a solid surface just inches from the precipice. A splitting pain jolted through Donny's head, and his palms buzzed with the impact. He stood back, looking up in shocked confusion at the exit. Purple pulsations like ripples on still water ebbed out from where the two of them had made contact.
Slowly, Donny reached out a hesitant hand. His fingertips brushed against the barrier. Hard like stainless steel, it vibrated beneath his touch. The same purple ripples ran out from under his hand. He saw a few people trying to punch and kick their way through with similar results, but most just stood there fretting about what to do.
"There's something in the way, I can't get through," Donny blurted in one breath.
"Neither can I," said Jacob.
He pounded on the barrier repeatedly with his fist. His only success was to make more ripples, just like everyone else. Donny took a different approach. The heavier of the two friends used his weight to try and push his way through the purple. It refused to budge the slightest millimeter.
"I think it's some kind of force field," Donny said, not specifically to Jacob, but anyone willing to listen.
"Stand back," Jacob ordered.
He raised his weapon. Donny took a few steps away from the doors. He grabbed the people at his sides to pull them away as well. Jacob fired a quartet of shots at the barrier. People screamed at the gunshots, and a few fled from the doors. Each bullet splintered into metal fragments. The impacts were completely ineffectual. The barrier stood stout and strong, rippling from the shots without even a scratch.
Shrapnel from the shredded slugs sprayed in every which direction. A piece caught Donny on the left bicep. It tore through both shirt and flesh, leaving in its wake a grizzly jagged scratch. He cried out in surprised pain as his hand clutched the wound. It didn't bleed much, but hurt like hell. So much for paper cuts being the worst kind of pain.
"Oh, shit! Dude, I'm so sorry!" Jacob ran over to his friend, visually inspecting the wound as if he knew what he was doing.
As his friend attended to him, Donny stared at the force field. It shimmered slightly whenever the sun hit it in the right way, barely visible folds in its unbroken surface. It was a wall both impervious and incomprehensible. It dawned on him why no one else had escaped before his group got there. Those who already tried had been similarly repulsed. They were probably the same ones who fought for control of the lobby, caught between an immovable object and an overwhelming wave of deranged cosplayers. And now, he was amongst them.
"Jacob," he said slowly. "We're not getting out of here, are we?"
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a silly idea I had a few months ago. I don't know how long it will be, and won't make any promises about the frequency of updates, but I'm at least interested enough to see this through.
I'm also trying something new, here. The main complaint I receive about my writing is it's too slow paced, so I'm attempting to fix that with The Necrocomicon. Let me know if my efforts fail miserably.
This story is loosely based on, and inspired by, a similarly titled song by Teenage Bottlerocket.