Denver Comic Con should have been a slice of fandom heaven in the center of Colorado. Only in their second year, they’ve already amassed a strong array of star power and quality panels. With their lack of experience, one might wonder how they were able to pull it off. Well, this past weekend, I found the answer. In order to arrange this con, the organizers have turned to the darkness, dealing in powers beyond their control. It involves contracts. But not the kind of contracts we mortals are experienced in, no. These contracts are of the sort entered into with outerworldly demons and signed in blood. These contracts are of the sort that can only be paid with human lives. These contracts are of the sort that unleash true horrors upon this world.
In order to hold this convention, the Denver Comic Con organizers summoned from the depths the Great Beast known only as The Line. And The Line hungers.
I have stared down the gullet of this beast. And I have emerged unbroken, but not entirely unscathed. Others were not so lucky. The Line feasts not on mortal flesh but on one’s very soul. I watched as grown men were reduced to quivering messes. I watched as strong human beings fell beneath the weight of The Line. I survived, but it was only through luck and the gains of those fallen long before me. I can take no pride in it, for I was able to do nothing to stop The Line from devouring others’ souls as it attempted to mine.
The Line is a stealthy demon. When I first encountered it, I did not even realize it was there. I, along with my traveling companions Scott and Dan from Foes of Reality arrived at one of the Denver Convention Center’s main entrances over an hour before the con started. The was no line at that entrance yet, and we attempted to gain entry, only to be stopped by what I recognize now as one of the line’s thralls in the guise of a security guard. The thrall pointed us around the corner, where he said the line was starting. We, suspecting nothing, followed his directions. After all, it was only to be expected that there be a bit of a line for this convention. There usually were. We did not suspect the evil we had stumbled into at that point. The Line lay waiting, disguised as an ordinary queue, for we could only see a block or so of it before it turned another corner. Assuming the end of the queue was near, we followed it around that corner, only to again be confronted with the same sight: The Line continued along the convention center’s long edge, another three to four blocks, before again rounding the corner and disappearing from view. For fifteen minutes we followed The Line as it wrapped around the building, no end in sight. Finally, we reached our entry point, almost all the way around the building from The Line’s beginning and nearly at the point where we had started our journey. If the thrall had pointed us in the other direction, we would have reached the end of the ‘queue’ much sooner and would have had avoided walking along The Line’s entire length. As The Line only grew behind us, and we remained stationary, we realized the true horror of our situation. We were trapped, in the belly of the beast. The thrall had directed us the long way around the line to instill us with fear about what we faced, for The Line preferred its souls well seasoned. More thralls patrolled The Line regularly, preventing any escapes. The Denver Convention Center has six entrances, but only one was in use. The Line had no desire to quicken our escape, it wanted us to linger, to digest us slowly.
I know not how long it was before we first moved. The Line exists in a pocket dimension where time has no meaning. It may have been hours. It may have been years. I have no way of knowing. Even now, I carry those scars from my experience with me. I have been told it has only been a day since I left Comic Con, but truly, I can no longer tell. In any case, we eventually moved, long after the doors were initially opened. We did not move far, throughout our duration within The Line, we traveled ploddingly slow, only a few steps at a time, and then only when one of the older victims escaped or fell to The Line. I have no idea what percentage of victims escaped against how many succumbed. I would rather not think about it; I am already sure the figure is depressing. To our shame, the Foes and I tacitly developed a policy that we would leave the fallen where they lay rather than seeking help. It is possibly because of that that I survive to tell this tale today, but I wonder at how many more could have survived had I been more helpful.
I mentioned that time did not exist within The Line; space was much softer in that pocket dimension as well. The Line looped and connected with itself several times over, while still marching onwards towards its eventual end. At some points, The Line seemed to be cut off, leaving an opening, only to continue on again several meters away. I’m not sure, but it seemed like at some points our group even passed itself, although we never made eye contact.
Throughout it all, The Line was situated next to the convention center’s windows, meaning we could always see inside. Now you might think that The Line would show us scenes of Comic Con through those windows, to further break us by contrasting our suffering with how much joy others were having. No. The Line had something much more sinister in mind. Instead of seeing the mirth, the costumes, the good times, instead the line showed us absolutely nothing. On the other side of that glass, those sections of the center were completely empty. And that was so much worse. We could not see anyone who survived The Line, for all we knew, our only option was the void, for that is all we saw.
At some point, I received a vision. I was at a funeral. An empty coffin being lowered into a grave with my name on the headstone. Surrounded by most of the nation’s population of beautiful women as they wept hysterically at what they thought they lost. I had been in The Line so long the world thought I was dead. I waited until everyone had left, then placed a rose on my own grave. Bidding my old life farewell, I reinvented myself into the Conman, a superhero fighting against the evils of mismanaged conventions! I would travel to all the world’s anime and comic conventions, and spread passes amongst the populace, thus freeing them from the tyranny of lines! It was glorious! And unfortunately, it was not real. The Foes of Reality had broken from our “leave’em where they drop” policy and carried me along as I was hallucinating. As I woke, I was able to take to my feet again, and once more trudged through the gullet of The Line.
As I reached what I thought was the end of The Line, I was battered, but finally beginning to pick myself up, when I finally caught a glimpse of hope. The entrance! The doors were in sight, and they were open! Finally, my heart could soar! Then I glanced into the window, finally seeing the inside of the convention. Were it not for the Foes, I would have broken right then and there, for The Line continued inside, this time coiled around itself by means of crowd control ropes. As it was, I could feel my sanity slipping me, and it only got worse as I ventured inside. The thralls were all over the grounds there, directing us victims this way and that. They were breaking us up into several smaller lines. This whole time, we had been waiting in lines so we could wait in other lines! I told you space was softened within The Line, and at no point was it any worse than it was here.
I escaped from The Line, yes. I wish that part of the story was as interesting as the rest. It was merely a matter of endurance. With the help of the Foes, I merely survived long enough that The Line decided we could not be digested and spat us out. Reaching the end of The Line, I collected my convention badge and made my way within. With The Line holding back most of the other 50,000 guests the convention eventually saw, the first day of the Denver Comic Con was truly a joy. Panels were easy to enter, the floor was easy to maneuver, people were friendly and able to bond over their experiences surviving The Line. I was scarred, but I was already beginning to recover, and there were points in the remainder of the day where I did truly enjoy myself.
So it was that I was still in a relatively good mood when I reached the Denver Convention Center the next morning. I already had my pass, the entrance was right there, there was nothing keeping me from just going in and enjoying the con. Yet once again, the thrall stopped me. Once again, I was pointed around the corner. Once again, there was a queue stretching on for blocks, this time broken up into two halves: one for those with passes, one for those without. The Line had returned.