Sunday, January 24, 2016

On the convention floor

The current 2000AD forum short story competition is Tales from the Convention. Here's mine:

image by the fiendishly talented Dave Kendall
Face Lift


The lift doors opened and two Harley Quinns and a female Captain America spilled out giggling while the Judge Fear cosplayer slumped against the back wall.

I pressed the button for the mezzanine where I was meeting Ben for lunch after his photo shoot, and then turned to admire the impressive costume behind me. His cloak was tattered and cobwebbed, the mantrap shoulder pads looked like real metal with blood and gore on the rusted teeth, and a dull red light pulsed behind the eyes of the helmet.

"Blimey, mate, you've put in a lot of work. Might be a bit much though, you're going to give kids nightmares."

He didn't answer but pushed off the wall and stepped towards me. There was a strange jerkiness to his movements and I wondered if he might be disabled in some way.

"Whoh, save the act for the convention. Are you going to say the line?"

He came closer and stretched a gaunt hand towards me. That wasn't a rubber glove, maybe a clever paint job? A damp smell like wet leaves filled my nostrils as the lights started to flicker. He towered over me like a giant insect, a twitching monster from a silent horror film.

"Errr, excuse ..."

The words stuck in my throat as the hand touched my chest and everything went quiet, dead quiet. No machinery noises, no alarms, nothing but the sound of my heartbeat in my ears. I was suddenly cold as all heat left the world. All the noise, all the warmth, and all the hope were gone. I thought of Ben and I was afraid.

"P-p-please" a whisper died on my lips as his other hand jerked towards the visor and ...


The doors opened and noise, heat and life flooded in around me. I jostled my way out through a crowd of laughing cosplayers and looked back into the lift but Fear wasn't there.

I staggered towards the balcony to lean on the railing. Sweat dripped from me as I looked down to the convention floor and saw Ben walking towards the stairs. He raised an arm to wave and then turned as he noticed the tall, cloaked figure behind him.

I tried to call out but my throat was still frozen. Fear bent over him as the crowds swarmed between us and when my view cleared they had disappeared.

The police searched but Ben was gone. The cosplay societies didn't know anyone with a Judge Fear suit, and he didn't appear in any of the convention videos or photos.

It's been three months now and nothing. I haven't seen the face of fear but it has seen me. I take anxiety medication but it doesn't work, my counsellor listens but doesn't believe, and I wake most nights sweating and afraid. The police are ready to declare Ben dead and the terrible truth is I hope they are right because the alternative just fills me with dread.

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