Fear and Loathing at Comic Con 2014, Part IV: The Conclusion

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Fear and Loathing at Comic Con 2014, Part IV: The Conclusion
CHAPTER 8: LET'S BE TERRORISTS

My head is still throbbing from being drugged the previous night. 

My asshole is throbbing even more. 

I can't decide which hurts worse. 

I think it might be neither. I think it might be the news spreading all over my Facebook wall that Legendary Pictures has announced this morning its plans to develop an original super hero horror film for next summer called Dead Heroes. It's already set to be directed by McG, starring The Rock as an evil murdering superman chasing a young female hoodlum played by America's sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence.  

Eminem and Iggy Azalea have already been tapped to collaborate on an original soundtrack together. So rather than having a blistering and intense Riot Grrl score as I wrote it, the music in Dead Heroes is going to sound like a singing herpe sores on an American Apparel model's crusty, cum-coated bleached asshole. 

Numerous film sites and blogs are also accrediting a man named Jerry Goldberg as the creator and screen writer.

Nothing makes sense to me anymore and I don't know how to cope.

So I search for the only remedy I know. I find the nearest bar. 

It seems that the only bit of luck that I'm having so far today is that I've woken up at 1 p.m. and only a half hour later, I'm able to wrap my lips around a stiff drink just minutes after a short walk. 

Its 1:35 p.m. when the first shot of Jameson reminds my body that it's still battling the alien toxin in my liver. 

The bartender watches me gag like a cat trying to cough up a hairball but seems content when the heaving fit ends without any vomit coming out. 

I order another shot to chase away the nausea.  I order another to beat out the headache. It takes another two to soothe my burning ass hole. 

It's 3:30 p.m. when I find myself good and belligerent enough to quell my boiling blood. I'm almost drunk enough to find the humor in knowing that a Hollywood Reptilian alien violated me and stole my story. 

It's a pretty funny joke. Although it's not quite funny enough for me to tie my belt around my neck and hang myself just yet.

It's 4 p.m. when the bartender asks me why I'm not in costume. 

I have to ask in return, "Why would you ask that?"

And he asks in return to that, "You're here for Comic Con right?"

And I answer by asking, "How'd you know?"

And he tells me, "You look like a nerd. Or am I wrong? Don't be offended. Nerds are all right. Or am I supposed to say you look like a geek or a dork? I know you guys are picky about the difference. I've been hearing about that all fucking week long. Nerds like science, dorks like comics, right?"

It's 4 p.m. when I see the live breaking news alert flash across the large flat screen TV above the liquor shelf. 

According to the television, panicked mass hysteria has over taken downtown San Diego as a result of an abandoned jet black Ford van parked in front of the Civic Center Plaza. It was found filled to the brim with fertilizer and gasoline.

It doesn't surprise me that the van happens to be a 1993 Ford Econoline. It doesn't surprise me that it's Tom Tomahawk's van. It doesn't surprise me that it's the same van that I was riding in with a group of conspiracy theory fanatics only two nights ago. 

It seems that the entirety of San Diego's police force and its specialized bomb units have been deployed to the scene to investigate. They're still searching for a detonator and the owner of the vehicle. 

It's 4:30 p.m. when I order a final round of Jameson before hailing down a cab. I tell the driver to take me to the Civic Center Plaza. I hope to find Scott, Chimp, Fingers, and Tom wandering around the area incognito.

I don't know why I've decided to search for them. I know that I probably shouldn't, and yet, I still do it.

It's 4:45 p.m. when I reach the 900th block of Third Avenue, three blocks away from the next potential national tragedy. 

A crowd of thousands have already gathered near the van, all waiting with anticipation to see if the threat is real. Naturally, the most rational thing to do during a bomb scare is to get as close to the bomb as you can. 

I push my way through the crowd as though I were pushing my way through a sold-out concert trying to reach the stage for a better view of the band. I keep my eyes peeled for any smelly crust punks who might be protesting about the fluoride in their tap water brainwashing the populace.

It's 5:30 p.m. when a lime green Chevy Spark pulls up beside me at the corner of Broadway and Fourth avenue and I hear Scott's voice screaming for me to, "Get the fuck in!"

And like the idiot that I am, that's exactly what I do.

Scott is in the passenger seat. Tom is driving. I don't even have to ask about the other two partners. The moment my ass is resting on the back seat, he immediately exclaims, "Chimp and Fingers are already in custody. Those fucking idiots! Chimp must have smoked too many of those mercury cigarettes as a kid. That stupid fucker was on Facebook writing updates about how he was going to liberate the San Diego parking authority with two tons of explosives. They caught Fingers on a traffic light camera trying to set up a dummy charge near the van."

Scott whips his head around facing me.

"Do you still have your cell phone?"

I shrug my shoulders and answer, "Sure. Why?"

Scott orders, "Give it me."

I hesitate. My phone is now my last tie to anything tangible. It's my last connection to the real world. 

Whatever this is, it can't possibly be real. 

All of the contacts in my phone, my friends, and my family, I should call them. I should call Colin. I should call someone who knows me, who cares about me. I should get out of here right now. I should go home, back to the couch that I'm living on, back to the shitty phone sales job I've been working. I should just accept the help that I so desperately need.

Scott shoves a 9mm sub compact Beretta in my face and screams, "Give me your fucking phone!"

I can't argue with that so I obey and he immediately tosses my phone out of the passenger side window. 

He explains, "They can track us through that. They'll be coming for us soon. Chimp and
Fingers have already compromised too much of this operation. We don't have much time. You're either with us, Greg, or you're against us. Which is it?"

I hesitate again so Scott shakes the Beretta aimed at me to emphasize the pertinence of his question. 

I tell him, "I'm with you."  I also proceed to give him the Cliff's Notes' version of last night's events. I tell him about my experiences with the Sunshine Podium and about my night eating tacos and pitching film ideas to Uzi Silverstein. I tell him what happened afterward.

He finally lowers the gun from my face when he asks, "You were attacked by them? By the Reptilians?"

I nod my head. 

I hear Tom trying to form words with his tongueless mouth. I think he's trying to scold me.

So Scott does the verbal reprimanding on his behalf. 

"Didn't Tom give you the pills?"

I shrug my shoulders.

"Didn't you take the pills?!"

I shrug my shoulders again. 

"Do you still have the pills?"

I reach into my pocket and find the dime bag with the two purple pills stapled to Tom's Post-it note still there from yesterday morning. 

Again, Scott gives me another order, "Take them!"

I remain motionless and still. I'm too drunk for this shit. 

Scott raises his gun so that it's level to my line of vision again and demands, "Take the fucking pills!"

I pry the small Ziploc baggie open with my thumb and index fingers and toss the two pills down my throat and resolve myself to whatever outcome they may bring. 

Scott assures me, "You'll be able to spot them now. Trust me." 

Scott finally holsters the Beretta and lifts a duffle bag off of the floor mat in front of him and drops it on the backseat beside me. 

He stares me dead in the eyes when he says, "Are you ready to get back at them, then? Are you ready to put an end to the Reptilians?"

I swallow like a cartoon character swallows when they're nervous. My Adam's apple drops down into my clavicle, pushing through towards my chest before rising back up to the center of my neck. What a strange reflex this is. What purpose does it serve? 

I struggle to clear my throat before asking Scott, "What about the bomb? Why are you attacking San Diego's Civic Center Plaza?"

"Fertilizer and gasoline does not make a bomb alone, Greg! The van is just a diversion. While every cop in the city pisses their panties trying to figure out how to diffuse a bomb that doesn't exist, we're going to have easy pickings on half of Hollywood's Reptilian elite at Comic Con." 

"Oh..." 

Didn't I write something similar to this before? Didn't I write about a militia of disgruntled production assistants using similar diversion tactics in order to stage a theater shooting at Sundance two years ago? 

Is my life imitating my art, is my art imitating my life, or am I already running out of ideas?

Scott tosses another large paper bag over towards me. 

I look inside and find a welding mask, a shoulder rig for a 6 inch barreled handgun, two tactical leg holsters, and a VIP press badge for Comic Con.

Scott explains, "I checked out your website and read all about Dead Heroes before it was taken down by the Repitilians this morning, which was right before they went public with their press release. I know you've got a character in your book named Dave. I see that he's sort of an homage to Robert Ginty's character in The Exterminator. I fucking love that movie, dude. So there's your costume for Comic Con. In that duffle bag next to you, you're going to find two Browning .45 ACPS, a Smith and Wesson 29 .44 magnum revolver, and a Mossberg pump action shotgun. I wish I could have found you a flame thrower. "

I unzip the duffle bag and unpack all of the guns Scott mentioned that I would find inside. They're all there. 

But there is also a beat up paperback lying next to them. I pull that out as well. 

Dating with Aspergers by Jim Golding.

Of course. I should have known. None of this is actually about the Reptilians or some grand alien conspiracy against mankind. Scott has Aspergers, he has trouble relating to others, and he's not getting laid. So he's going to shoot a whole lot of people.

I'm holding up the book when I make a demand of my own. "Tell me what the fuck this is about, Scott?!"

Scott is pulling a Kevlar vest over his white T-shirt while he tells me. "They say that people who have Aspergers suffer from a disconnect with reality. That's a lie. It's all part of the Reptilian conspiracy. Anyone who is different, who can't fit in, who thinks with vision, they're labeled dangerous, as being broken. The doctors work with the Reptilians to label and tag people like you and I with social disorders and mental illnesses. They say that we need to learn and adapt to their rules of society. Why their rules? What makes their rules right? Fuck their rules, they ought to adapt to my fucking rules. I'm the one who gets it; I'm the one who sees things for what they really are. These sheep, these fucking slaves who tire away in some shitty job, married to some shitty person they fucking hate, who come home every night to watch their shitty reality shows? I'm supposed to follow their rules?! I'm supposed to be ashamed of myself?  I'm supposed to tell every woman that I meet who might want to date me that I have Aspergers, which means that I'm supposed to explain that I'm living in a world that I've created in my mind. Well, I think everyone's worlds are created in their own minds, and fuckers who write self help books, who think they have the answers to problems they don't understand, they are the fucking problem." 

Scott pulls a pink children's dinosaur mask over his face and gives me one last order. "So suit up, brother. We're gonna bring it all down."

It's 6:15 p.m. when Tom pulls the rental car over two blocks away from the convention center. He doesn't bother finding a parking space. He simply pulls it up over the sidewalk and the three of us immediately abandon it. 


CHAPTER 9: HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN AND A DEAD REPTILIAN 

It's 6:30 p.m. and the three of us have made it past the lobby into the convention center with all our weapons unchecked. 

It dawns on me that comic conventions are practically begging for what's about to happen. We are swimming downstream in a sea of costumed strangers dressed in tactical gear with all manner of realistic weapons worn prominently on display. 

There's no telling the difference from Scott's very real German military issue Heckler & Cock MP5 submachine gun and the plastic airsoft machine guns that the three Deadpools walking next to us are carrying.

As far as anyone knows, Tom's M4A1 Carbine is just a former Nerf toy that's been spray painted gunmetal grey. 

The Mossberg pump action shotgun that I'm cradling in my arms could just be a former buck hunting video game light gun modified to look more authentic. 

We are walking in a crowded public place in broad daylight, armed to the teeth with no attempt at concealing any of it, and absolutely no one is paying us any mind whatsoever. 

There's a very distinct sound to racking a pump action's slide, a sound that no replica can ever replicate

So I cock my shotgun, chambering a shell of buckshot into the pipe just out of curiosity to see if anyone notices. 

No one does. 

It's 7:30pm and we're waiting in line outside of Hall F. We're waiting in line to hear further news from the production company Uzi Silverstein works for. 

We're waiting in line to hear more about Dead Heroes

We're waiting in line to spot and identity the evil Reptilian Hollywood producer overlords. 

We're waiting in line to exterminate those Reptilians. 

We're waiting in line to initiate what some might consider a mass shooting. 

At Comic Con, you wait in line for everything, whether it's getting a celebrity's head shot autographed or a chance to assassinate the lizard alien assholes that raped you and stole your film idea. 

And while I wait for the chaos to begin, I still have doubts that any of this is even happening. 

I'm certain that I can actually feel the cool metal touch of the shotgun's barrel against my skin, and yet I'm not certain if it's actually there. 

Scott is whispering into Tom's ear, planning and scheming while I keep my face buried in Scott's self help book for dating with Aspergers. 

I've already breached the hundred page mark in only the past hour and all of the author's experiences and advice for living with Aspergers hits me in the gut like a blast of rock salt from the Mossberg that's now propped up and leaning against my left thigh. 

Jim writes about his love life. He writes about all of the countless women he's dated and scared away. He writes about his obsession with gifts. He writes about all of the long hand scribed letters proclaiming his adoration. He writes about all of the paintings, and personally designed and constructed furniture he's made and given to women he barely knew. 

This kind of stuff happens a lot in books and films. But life isn't like art. What's romantic in film and literature is creepy in reality.

In reality, most women are scared by many of the things they'd otherwise find romantic in fantasy. 

And upon reflection, I can support that sentiment. Too many times, I was on date four or five and decided to make a personalized work of art for them only to never see them again for date number six. 

I'm not a hopeless romantic, I'm a creep. I have always been a creep, and I've never been able to realize it. 

I've always thought that I've been self-aware. So many of my friends joke that I'm the biggest non-Jewish Jew they know, that my neurotic self-deprecating habits would give Woody Allen a run for his money. 

I've always over-analyzed everything around me, including myself. I deconstruct every detail until it doesn't even feel real. And yet, I've been blind to just how crazy I appear to others. And supposedly, this is something that people with Aspergers also do. 

I have to rationalize everything. I have to make a story out of it. Everything needs to have some type of structure no matter how abstract it may seem. Everything is just a puzzle in need of that final piece to complete it. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end. 

Everyone's life can be reshaped and summarized in three acts. 

I watch people. I obsess over their body language. I read and study every tick and odd gesture. I search for the motive and will find  the reasoning that can lead to an explanation and I'll create one regardless if there is one. 

I have to rationalize the irrational, and it has alienated me from those around me, except for those like Scott. We understand each other because we are not allowed to understand anyone else. Or maybe it's that we're the only ones who CAN understand everyone else.

But if I'm always filling in the gaps, if I can only relate to reality by transforming it into fantasy, then how can I know if I'm really here? How can I be certain that I'm not still in the psychiatric ward? Maybe I'm writing all of this down on my laptop from the couch in my mother's apartment.

I remember back to my high school crush. Her name was Jackie. She was an actress and a singer involved with my school's theater club. I was in stage crew and I was infatuated with her. I was obsessed with her curly, sunset-hued hair, her emerald green eyes, her freckles, and the hot-rod red lipstick she'd wear. 

When she sang, she was like a siren. There was a power to her voice. I was intimidated by her. 

I would make paintings and mix-tapes for her and leave them in her locker. I would repeatedly buy expensive tickets to expensive concerts time and time again, hoping that she would eventually say yes when I asked her out. 

I've read somewhere that the definition of insanity is repeating the same patterns to the same outcomes while always expecting different results.

Am I insane?

I named my first car after Jackie. I named my first film camera after Jackie. I named my first pro-sumer level Canon XL-1 video camera after Jackie. I named my first pipe after Jackie. 

I worked as a delivery boy for the local paper in high school. Jackie's home was on my route. I kept that shitty part-time job in addition to my other shitty but better paying part-time jobs for one reason. I kept hoping that Jackie would eventually answer the door when I was out for subscription collections. I kept hoping that somehow, I could make her see that we were perfect for each other. 

I thought I was just a hopeless romantic, an artist, and a dreamer. 

But I was a creep. 

I once flew back to Japan to win back my ex-fiancé nearly ten years after losing her. I wanted to surprise her on our anniversary by organizing a Halloween costume party. I wanted to dance with her and hold her again just like I used to hold her. She wouldn't know who I was until I removed my mask. She was going to fall in love with me again.

I wanted to make the type of magic that you'd find in some schmaltzy Hollywood romance. 

But there is no magic in the real world. 

I don't want any part of Scott's scheme anymore. I can't go through with it now. Let the Reptilians have my film, let them have my story, and my life. Let them have it all. It doesn't matter anymore. 

But then I lift my head out of the book to look around for a moment and I see the crowd of beautiful half-naked people in line ahead and behind me. I see all of these happy, smiling, supposedly well-adjusted people dressed as slave princess Leias, sexy Harley Quinns, sexy Captain Americas, sexy pysloches, and sexy whatever elses. 

I see them and I envy them. 

I want to take all of my self-loathing and shape it into something physical, something that I can share with them, something that will make them feel the way that I feel.   

I always want to be a part of something that I never can be. 

Fuck it, I want to bring it all down. 

I'm starting to agree with Scott. Why must I be the one who's disconnected, why must I learn to play by their rules?

I'm the one who's always been working at trying to understand their rules. I'm the one who's invested so much time and effort in understanding their reality. Why am I wrong? Why is my curiosity wrong? They follow fads, do what they're told, and understand nothing of passion. 

I was here first in this scene. I needed these comics, books, and movies. I needed these stories. They meant something to me; they still mean something to me. 

There is nothing more important or powerful in this world than story. Everything is shaped by story and how the story is told. 

Stories define us. They give us purpose. They're what separates us from the animals. 

All I have ever wanted to do is tell stories. 

I tried so hard to succeed as a filmmaker and resent myself and everyone else for my failure.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, one mother's home is rendered to ash and splinter while another is brought to her knees when she finds half the remains of her 5-year-old child washed up on the shoreline.

I tried to compromise. I came to believe that only a self-entitled narcissist can allow themselves to believe that their ideas matter, that they deserve to make a living as a filmmaker.So I tried to be a festival curator, someone who could at least bring story and art to their communities. And again, I failed. I continued to grow bitter and angry, I found my scapegoats to accuse and blame.

Meanwhile, in Syria, a father is forced to watch his wife and daughter gang raped and disemboweled by ISIS insurgents as a public demonstration to let him and his fellow townspeople know who is in charge now. 

I found my talent in being a critic, otherwise known as a professional asshole, and tried to capitalize on that, only to fall further into self-loathing despair, which I tempered by making a public mockery of my problems. It would be better to live as a parody of myself rather than actually be myself. 

Meanwhile, in Macenta, West Africa, a 3-year-old lies on the bloated belly of his mother's corpse, staring up at the sun and struggling with his last few gasps of air as he slowly dies of hunger and dehydration in a village that's been ravaged by the Ebola virus. 

I gave it my all to make it as a writer. As I was losing my job, my house, my girlfriend, I kept on, holding myself up late into the night, writing and painting, hoping to strike something that could lead to something else, living in a fantasy while I allowed my life to go to hell.  

Meanwhile, a teenager in America is gunned down in the middle of the street and left for dead like a piece of roadkill by a local police officer. 

It's 8 p.m. when I finally snap out of my neurotic, self effacing panic attack to find that the line has finally begun to move. We're all slowly being filed into Convention Hall F. 

Tom is practically shaking with anticipation. I see his finger twitching against the trigger of his M4A1.

It's 8:15 p.m. when we finally make our way inside. 

Every seat is already occupied, so we stand along the back wall of the huge open room.

Scott turns to me and says, "You know that Sandy Hook never happened, right? It was just a liberal conspiracy to find a way to take away our Second Amendment rights. And they still failed, didn't they? They staged all of it and got away with it. But they still failed at taking our guns away. But today, we're going to make it real. Today, we'll make them scared. We'll make them all understand."

Why must I always attract people like Scott? I'm crazy, but I can't possibly be this crazy. I can't possibly be that crazy. Even I have my limits. 

And yet, here I am. 

I go light-headed for a few moments; I'm hit with a dizzy spell that tips my balance and nearly knocks me off of my feet. I realize that the purple pill concoctions that Tom brewed in the bathtub of his Airstream trailer are finally kicking in. 

I look out ahead of me over the sea of costumed fans and groupies and I see a party of Reptilians seated on the stage at the other end on top of the stage. I spot Uzi Silverstein in his true form; waiting to sell my ideas to this crowd of sex-starved smart-phone dependent drones.

It's 8:30 p.m. when Uzi finally makes his way to the podium at the center of the stage and announces that Dead Heroes is officially going into production next month. 

He gives the crowd the same exact pitch that I had given him last night at Humberto's Taco Shack. The crowd cheers. They scream. They whistle. They Tweet. They Facebook. They applaud. 

And I feel the blood flowing within my veins begin to boil again. 

My whole life, I've been searching for validation through my work, and now Uzi has stolen that.  
I'm standing in the back with two other crazy men, all of three of us clinging to our guns. 

It's right when Uzi announces that, "Dead Heroes is going to blow every other super hero film out of the water and kick Superman vs Batman's ass in the summer of 2016" that I see all of the other Reptilians, they're all around us. 

It's right when Uzi makes this announcement that the audience goes wild.

It's right when Uzi makes this announcement that Tom's itchy trigger finger loses its patience.

It's right when Uzi raises his hands to silence the audience's applause that Tom starts firing into the crowd. 

But that comes right after Tom blows Uzi's green gecko-like head clean off from its shoulders. 

The crowd breaks into a panic. People are running and screaming and throwing themselves to the ground to dodge Tom's crossfire. 

It's not as terrifying as I would have expected. If anything, the frantic clamor and screams, it all sounds like a carnival, an amusement park. It sounds like fun. 

Before Uzi's body even hits the ground, a gaggle of costumed Reptilians have already tackled and ramsacked Tom. He's instantly pinned to the floor by a dozen or so sexually-frustrated cos-players who let out their years of pent up sexual frustration and aggression by kicking his head in. 

Tom is not getting back up. I can already see his limp body flopping form side to side with every kick that makes impact to his already caved-in skull. 

Tom is gone. Tom is dead. His face looks like dog food. 

And that's when Scott tells me, "It's Howdy Doody time, brother."

And I ask myself, "Haven't I just heard that line from another film not so long ago?"

Before I can even make the connection to what film that might have been, Scott is mowing down the huddle of Reptilians still attacking Tom's lifeless corpse with his MP5. 

It strikes me odd that all of the alien lizard people are dressed like thugs from Miami Vice

But I join the party nonetheless and unleash the fury of my Mossberg on the unsuspecting masses. 

I've become exactly what everyone has always feared I would become. 

Kill your darlings. Kill your idols. Kill your icons. Kill your heroes. Kill them all. 

I watch the shrapnel from my Mossberg cut one Reptilian in half; I watch it render another into a bloody stew of guts and grey matter. 

And I start to laugh. I laugh the same way I laugh when waking from a night terror, I laugh because I'm scared and I'm scared because I realize that none of it matters. 

And my shotgun muzzle blasts echo and imitates my laughter. 

And through the tinted glass of my welder's mask, I watch the world turn to fire; an all encompassing flame that I've taken an active part in starting. 

Scott signals me to follow him and we make our way down the convention center's labyrinth-like hallways, exterminating anyone and anything that resembles a cold blooded reptile. 

As I watch another Reptilian's innards splatter against the side of a wall, I'm suddenly smacked in the face with a sense of Deja Vu. Our actions and movements feel remarkably similar to the climatic shoot-out in Hard Boiled

Is this real? 

I don't care. 

I am the god of my own universe. I am a creator. I am a storyteller. 

And this is fiction. Everything becomes fiction the moment you write it down.

And yet, it feels so god damn good. 

It feels so cathartic. 

I am free to do whatever I want. 

I am free to kill every fucking Reptilian here, free to kill every insecurity nestling within me. I can kill it all. 

I am safe here because I am not here. 

Scott shouts, "We never landed on the moon! 9/11 was an inside job! Reality is subjective, and truth is relative!"

I roll my eyes as at his sophomoric existentialism while I rack another round into the pipe before turning yet another Reptilian into a pile of green and red sludge piled on the floor. 


Pump, Pump, Boom! 
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I can't find the piece that completes this puzzle so I might as well throw the whole damn thing out. 

Pump, Pump, Boom!

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I'm alone, I've always been alone. 

Pump, Pump, Boom!

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We all get what we deserve in the end. 

Pump, Pump, Boom!


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Another reptilian. 

Pump, Pump, Boom!

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Art shouldn't be safe. Art should be dangerous. It should be alive and unpredictable. It should have its own consequences.

Pump, pump boom!

All of our lives are defined and shaped by the almighty story.

Pump, Pump Boom!

I am changing. I'm transforming. I'm becoming.

Pump, Pump, Boom!

Look at me now!
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All of the screaming and gurgling death rattles join the chain-link blasts of machine gun fire and the room-shaking stomps of the shotgun, it all swirls together with the blaring shrieks of the fire alarm and the wails of the approaching sirens, it's all building up to a crescendo, reaching an orgasmic peak before settling down into the denouement.

I lose track of time.

Just how long has this been going on?

How many rounds have I fired off?

How many Reptilians have I killed?

It's not until I've gone through my satchel previously filled with hundreds of shotgun rounds and emptied out ten or fifteen magazines of .45 ammo that I realize that there's nothing left to shoot.

The entire Convention Hall floor is littered with bodies.

The air is rife with the stench of cordite.

Although, scratch that statement. I'm wrong. Nearly every modern novelist and screenwriter still gets that wrong, somehow. It sounds true and it sounds cool but munitions manufacturers have stopped using cordite in gun powder mixtures since the end of WW II.

Every time you've seen some generic police investigative procedural show on television and the detective talks about the smell of cordite on a suspect's clothing or hands after a shooting, that television show is embarrassingly wrong.

Almost all gun powder mixtures packed into bullets today are smokeless, and therefore, mostly odorless.

That is, unless you've been firing off thousands of rounds in a confined space.

What I smell is the acrid combination of carbon, sulfur, and numerous nitrates.

The entire hall I'm standing in smells like hellfire and the devil's feet. It also smells like the devil's toilet but that's not coming from all the piles of discharged rounds, it's coming from the morbid discharge leaking out of the dead bodies.

I look over to my right and see Scott. He's just kind of standing there with a stoic pose as if in deep contemplation. He looks like a super hero in one of those character one sheets advertising next summer's new dark and gritty comic book film.

When he finally turns to face me, I can see that he's wearing that big wide smile of his, that same stupid smile he had when I met him at the airport holding room three days ago in Philadelphia.

He drops his MP5 to the ground and upholsters a pistol from his hip. He's still smiling at me as he presses the barrel up against the side of his head. I can't help but think of the dream sequence from Takeshi Kitano's Sonatine.

With unwavering enthusiasm, Scott calls out to me, "Don't worry, Greg! Everything is going to be OK!"

And then Scott pulls the trigger and blows his own brains out. His corpse collapses to the ground with that big stupid smile still plastered to its face.

The sirens are getting closer. The end is nigh; I have nowhere to go.

My trembling hands finally give out and I lose my grip on the shotgun. It seems odd that it doesn't make a sound when it hits the floor.

I wonder if I can finally end this terrible nightmare if I follow Scott's lead. I hope to wake up warm and safe in a bed somewhere if I turn the revolver still resting in my shoulder rig on myself. And just as I get the large hand cannon out of the leather sheath, I'm taken off-guard by one last remaining reptilian.

I don't know where he could've come from and how get got so close to me without making any noise, but I've turned around to find a Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm handgun shoved against my welder's helmet.

I'm shocked at the speed of my own reflexes; it's amazing what the body is capable of doing of its own accord in the name of self-preservation and survival. Without even realizing it, I already have my own Smith and Wesson 29 44 magnum lined square with the center of the Reptilian's temple.

It's just like the big final standoff in some tacky action movie. It's just like a splash page panel in some comic book. This is every silly prepubescent male's fantasy.

I look directly into the Reptilian's eyes. I see past them. I see the future, his future, my future, our future.

There is no future.

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CHAPTER 10: GOD'S LONELY MAN


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