The Day of Re-CON-ing (Get it?)
I wait until dawn breaks before finally slinking out of bed. I hop in the shower and sit there, letting the water run over me from up above. A decent amount of time passes, and I hear commotion come from outside the bathroom door and know my friends are all up and about and getting ready. I close my eyes and focus on trying to calm down, not worry them, and replace the storm in my belly with excitement. Today is the day I’ve been anxiously perfecting and preparing for, I can’t assume the worst today, I really can’t. And I can’t cry about this, either.
I can’t think about it I can’t think about it I can’t find it in me to not think about it.
I sit there for a bit longer and then finish. I get out and wrap a towel around me, and poke my head out the door. I’m met with Wren right there. I immediately shut the door and get changed into my TRIGGER tank top Mayday designed, shorts again, and my black zip up. I make sure I look like I’m not a vampire, or at least not entirely, and take a deep breath and step out. Wren is on his phone and quiet.
“Hey,” I croak, realizing that I’m hoarse from exhaustion and silent cries. I cough and take a water bottle off of the dresser that the TV is resting on. I mindlessly watch the animated show in silence with Wren for a moment, and then he lowers the volume.
“Why did you wake up at like 4? You woke me up. I thought there was a bear.”
“Was it a bear? Like, a ghost bear?”
I stay silent for a moment, looking down at the water bottle. He isn’t that far off from what actually happened. From what I willed to not kill us all.
I take another drink of it and then look up at Wren. He’s starting right at me, twisting his cap around so the visor is facing the back again.
“Is it your nerves about the panel?” He prods. “You’ve got stage fright?”
“No, Wren.” I sigh, then shrug. “Well, not really. Where did Mayday and Doc go?”
“They went to get some breakfast.” He doesn’t miss a beat. “Then what is it?”
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”
“Yeah, well, I mean, we don’t want you keeling over before or even at the panel, and you’ve been acting like you have fire ants in your shorts.”
“That’s probably the nicest thing you’ve said to me in a while.” I muse after a beat. I take another drink and then sit down on my bed. My hands start to shake as I close the water bottle. “I had...a nightmare, TRIGGER was in it.”
Wren shrugs one shoulder at me. “Everyone apparently gets nightmares about it. I mean, you of all people should know, right?”
Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I nod.
“So, what about that nightmare got to you, Dru?”
“No, it didn’t, no. No.”
“Then it was sleeping in a new place?”
“No, not that, no.”
“Then was it because of that weird girl? Are you not trying to enjoy yourself?”
“NO, Wren, NO.” I shout, then stare at his deadpan face. “Oh, jeez. Wren…I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” Wren shrugs, and looks at the remote and then at me. “Then what is going on that disrupted my beauty sleep?”
“I…” I let it out with a breath and my hands are clammy as I say it. “It wasn’t just a dream.”
“It was he-”
At that moment, the door flings open and Doc and Mayday enter quickly with a plastic bag, a tray of an array of coffee drinks, and a brown paper bag. Mayday tosses the bags near me on the bed, and immediately sits and starts pulling various breakfast type foods out. Bagels, muffins, and some fruit. I quickly grab a banana and tear the slightly spotted yellow flesh, thankful for the distraction for the moment. Wren grabs a large hot coffee from his brother, and then reaches over, and takes a muffin from Mayday.
“Finally out of the shower?” Mayday didn’t even change out of her pajamas. She’s in flannel pants and a baggy sweatshirt, her hair braided. She sips her coffee and then tears into a bagel as I take a bite of my banana. She holds her coffee up to me. “Cheers.”
Doc hands me an iced black coffee and hits the cup against Maydays. I take a deep, burning gulp and then take another bite of banana. I chew slowly, much slower than what’s needed, avoiding any free mouth for another conversation to occur.
“So,” Wren starts, and he looks at me and I look at him.
Bitch don’t do it, don’t.
“Dru had some sort of nightmare last night.”
Both Doc and Mayday look at me and I shrink under their stairs and immediately don’t want my banana anymore. I put it’s half-eaten remains down, where it looks like a murder scene sprawled out, peel and all, on the comforter. I cover it with a napkin. Instead of staring at them, I stare down at my knees.
“You had a nightmare?”
I don’t say anything, I still feel their eyes on me, persistent. I hunch over and nod a bit, unable to speak again. My ears grow hot.
“That’s about as far as I got before you two so rudely interrupted.” Wren takes another gulp of his coffee, dunking the whole top of his muffin into it before biting into the pastry. Even as he makes this mess, his eyes don’t leave my face.
“You know,” Doc elbows his brother and then turns to me, I look at my hands. “Dru, we want you to be comfortable.”
“Do you not want to do the con anymore?” Mayday takes my hand and looks at me concerned. “Cause if you don’t, you don’t have to do the panel.”
“Wren, shut the fuck up.” Mayday cuts him off. She squeezes my hand, tilting her head to catch my gaze. Her eyes are full of concern and I feel a twinge of guilt for being this big of a problem. “If you have any problems, you know you can tell me, we can sort it out.”
“No, no, I,” I stammer. “I want to do the con! I really do.”
“Then, why are you bugging out?”
“I’m not bugging I-I…” I rake my hands through my hair, taking in a deep breath, my heart starting to race again. Talking about it brings about anxiety almost more so than the previous. Everything feels like a chore. “I don’t really know, it’s just like the pressure is in my chest and the fans and the girl and the poster board and the fact that this movie is happening and, I don’t know, something feels off.”
I’m afraid to say anymore about it, because it makes it even more real. I could almost say that it was a vivid dream because of our late pizza dinner. That moment last night, I knew it was real and actually haunting me again, but with more substance than ever before. I think that I’m afraid of going back to the place where I was when I made TRIGGER, that it’ll consume me again. And I had a nightmare about the monster.”
“Isn’t this how this all started though?” Wren asks. “Nightmares?”
“Yes, but that wasn’t so easy, either.” Mayday says and looks at me. “What happened in the nightmare?”
“It was all white except for this shadow looming over me…it was TRIGGER, and it bit my face off.”
“What? What else am I supposed to say to that?”
The boys bicker and Mayday rolls her eyes. She throws a bagel at them, hitting Wren in the face. Doc smacks him again on the back for good measure. They glare at one another but go silent.
“Now, Dru,” Mayday takes a contemplative sip of coffee. “It seems to me like you’re worried about something going wrong. Very wrong. Like, monster - ripping - your - face - off wrong.”
After a long beat, I finally sigh and nod.
“It’s all been good things so far, right?” Wren asks. “Aren’t you just assuming the worst at this point?”
“What is the absolute worst that could happen anyway?” Doc shrugs one shoulder at me. “Maybe some of the fans don’t like the trailer? Maybe Wren accidentally curses in front of children?”
“Maybe the ceiling caves in on us?” Wren asks and gets another smack. “OW! I was being serious!”
“Maybe that weird girl is gonna ax-murder me?”
Mayday smacks the back of my head, now. “No. Bad. We wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you, ok? I promise.”
“…Ok.” I can’t help but smile at Mayday’s determined face. “Okay, I’ll try to think more positive and just ignore the rest. It can’t be helped, anyway. Why waste the energy?”
I don’t know how to tell them that I’m almost 100% certain that TRIGGER is real and is going to literally rip my soul from my ribcage, and that I need to finish what I’ve started. I literally don’t think I could even vomit those words if I wanted to.
“So, this has been a very touching moment and all, but can we set aside all of this and go and be nerds? We’re at HELIXcon for Christ’s sake let’s go and enjoy it while we can!”
Before he even waits for our answer, Wren is in the bathroom and singing out loud some anime theme song that he is obviously butchering. Doc, Mayday, and I all look at each other with a knowing glance. Doc goes to pick out his clothes for the day. I go to stand up and Mayday grabs my arm to stop me. I turn and look into her intense, dark eyes.
“Dru,” Mayday states. “Did anything else happen in the dream?”
I stare at her, my heart starting to race again. Can she feel my pulse in my wrist? Can she read my thoughts? I mean, sometimes I feel like she can definitely read my mind and other times I think it’s just a fluke. Mayday is just everything she could possibly be and she is the best friend I could ever possibly ask for, and I don’t want to drive her away by making a problem bigger than it is, so I have to lie to her.
“No, Mayday. That was it. It ate my face.”
I don’t add the voice. I don’t want to describe how blindingly white everything was, like a hospital room. I don’t want to say how it manifested in our room while she slept through it all. I don’t want to tell her that because it’s TRIGGER, I’m really afraid something is going to happen at the panel. The worst is I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s going to be bad. That that psycho chick has something to do with it. That all these thoughts are racing in my head and I can’t stop it until either I explode or something happens, something else bad happens. I force a smile and make an excuse out of grabbing my coffee off of the nightstand and step back from her.
“Yes, Mabel. I swear, I am rattled, but that’s it. I’d rather just focus on having fun, ok?”
Mayday really looks into what I think is possibly my soul. I hold my breath until she goes back down to her bagel, taking a bite. “Then, please eat more than half of a banana for me, ok?”
We’re standing off stage in a large conference room on the floor, the usual thick ornate carpeting springing under my moving feet. I can’t keep still. There is a knot in my knot in my stomach and a fire in my chest and my throat is on fire. We’re all at different levels, but I’m pretty sure mine is the one leaning most to the side of panic. On top of bouncing on the balls of my feet, left to right to left to right, but I’m shaking and I can’t get warm.
“This is it.” Doc announces.
“Really?!” Wren chastises his brother. “I had absolutely NO IDEA.”
“Charming, that sarcasm right there, very charming.”
“Did you know more of your inner asshole really shows when you’re nervous?”
I barely comprehend their conversation, my eyes are trained ahead. My skin is jittering and my heart is about to burst. This is it, this is it, this is it. They have us just off the stage behind this faux hallway made up of black curtains along PVC pipe skeletons. In front of us I can see the stairs that go up the stage, and the chairs and part of the table. Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. It’s the night. The start. The beginning. This is it, and I’m here, and this is happening. This is happening. I am here, and I need to get over all else and just focus on this. This is why we’re here. This is the most important thing right now. I can hear them, the fans murmuring excitedly just beyond the curtain. I continue to bounce as I peak and see cameras and phones directed at the curtains and step back before they notice.
“Are we boxing? Wren steps in front of me and puts his guards up, bouncing on his own feet. He shadow boxes right in front of me and then I punch him in the stomach. He doubles over. “Ow, what the fuck-“
“Nerves, sorry.” I grin innocently up at Wren, and Mayday laughs and high fives me.
The MC runs up on stage. “Alrighty, look at all of you sitting here in this one room! Are you all waiting for something?”
“Oh, no, we have a cheesy MC.” But, still, Mabel grins. I try to grin but it comes out as a grimace, and she notices. “It’s going to be ok, Dru. We got this.”
“We got this.” I repeat, then shake my head. “I definitely don’t got this.”
“Yes, you do-WHOA!” She grabs me by the shoulders as I almost fall forward from bouncing so much. “Easy, easy! Yes, we do, we do got this.”
The MC’s voice goes over the sound system, echoing all around us. “These guys are fairly new to the con scene, but as you know, they’re gotten pretty far and wide across the globe with their little project.” The crowd jeers, impatient, wanting. Wanting us. Wanting our story. Wanting us.
I ring my hands together, my fingers popping and cracking as I do so. I set my jaw. This is happening. A cold settles into my bones, and I can’t shake it. I stuff my hands into the pockets, and then I feel it, something is off. I look at the curtain, and it rustles and the knot in my stomach pulls tighter. I press my tongue to the roof of my mouth and lean over and peak out again. As I look, I’m met with a pair of eyes staring back at me. Familiar, but still strange and foreign.
“What was that, Dru?” Doc asks as I back up into him. He steadies me. He looks concerned and I’m about to speak when the MC cuts me off again.
“ALRIGHTY! Here is the team behind the origins of TRIGGER, and the team helping out production of a new Neflix original film based on their creation, we have Wren, Trevor, Mabel, and Andrea!”
“That’s our cue!”
My heels dig into the carpet as Wren grabs my wrist, but I just slide in my flip flops and Doc braces me from behind. I mutter a thanks and trudge onward, my shoulders just under my ears, my heart threatening to jump out of my chest. No. No no no no no. I can’t be right. She’s not here. I’m seeing things. She’s not going to ax-murder us. Please, I need to stop. Please stop.
We walk up the stairs in single file in the way we were announced on the speaker, and my god, the crowd goes wild. I’m caught up in the fervor for a moment, and then realize that I’ve stopped in the middle of walking and hurry to meet up with my friends at the table set up with microphones and little water bottles for each of us. Behind the table and our seats is a giant projector screen, and then the banner of the teaser poster for the Netflix film, which we have a marketing campaign scheduled for. This is all the information we are allowed to give.
Mayday designed the poster, which is the design on our shirts, and on the shirts on the other table behind our table to give away to the panel. It’s TRIGGER’s many red eyes in all shapes and forms staring directly ahead with red letters in a creepy font she’s designed: ‘somebody’s watching you,’ and ‘get ready to lose control.’ On the backs are the name of the movie TRIGGER and our names. We still haven’t come up with a team name, so it’s just our names in curling font, intertwined.
I look up at that in awe as I sit down between Doc and Mayday, where they left me the seat. I try to remember what I was practicing in my head for this moment. For what I was going to say, but I have nothing, because I’m now staring out past the spotlights into the crowd that I could see before. I’m looking for those eyes. They are there, I saw them. I felt them here, with me, with her staring at me. Most likely going to ax murder me on this stage, on this stage in front of my friends and everyone else. For what reason? I don’t know, not the faintest idea whatsoever. All I know is it’s no Bueno. No good. Zip of this is, zero, zelch.
“Hiya! I guess we should introduce ourselves?” Wren looks over at the rest of us, and we look at him because he’s never needed permission to do anything to gas himself up before. “Well, I’m Wren. I do coding and design for the game UNLEASH TRIGGER with my devilishly handsome brother on the end over there.”
“Yeah, hi, I’m Trevor, but most people call me Doc.” He tries talking loudly over the cheering fans. They lower a bit and he continues to speak. “And I do work on the coding and game design and the music behind TRIGGER.”
“I’m Mabel, but go by Mayday to most.” Mabel introduces herself. My friends are all so cool and smooth and calm and collected. Did they all rehearse this? Did I miss the memo? My brain is swimming and I feel like I need a shower from the amount of sweating I’m already doing. “I design the merch, the overall art and storyboarding, but I’m mostly collaborating with our final partner….”
There is a pause, and the crowd goes silent and it takes me a moment and I blink, startled. “Oh, oh that’s me?”
The crowd and my friends laugh and I laugh nervously and painfully, ducking my head down as I take the bottle of water and drink from it.
“Sorry, sorry, uhm, I’m Andrea-Dru.” I gulp and take a breath. “And I, I wrote the lore and, and had the original idea behind TRIGGER.”
The crowd cheers at that, and I relax a little bit. Mayday pats my back and I look up at the shadowed audience, scanning silhouettes for the one that I saw through the curtain. I’m looking, but at the same time I’m telling myself not to. Everything is going fine, but at the same time, I’m telling myself I imagined the whole thing. I’m telling myself that this is not the time or the place and that I shouldn’t do this. I clench my hands to keep them from shaking. I look down at my lap. My leg is bouncing, you can hear it over the mic as the MC speaks.
“Now, can you guys…” The MC pauses, and I try to hold my leg down.
Another wave of laughter. I’d like to sink into the floor right about now. This isn’t going as planned, I knew in the back of my head that this was a bad idea, that I couldn’t do this. That I can’t do this. No no no no.
“That’s alright, nerves are good here, especially in a horror panel.” The MC smiles, and I don’t know if it’s fake or not, but it’s so big that it looks like it hurts. I avert my eyes back into the spotlight and squint. I can’t see anyone’s shoes to examine. No Marvel socks to consider.
“Now, why don’t you guys get started with your little go, and then we have a little surprise for the audience!”
The audience cheers as the MC sits down at the end of the table and Wren leans into the mic.
“Well, to start it off, it was a group effort from the beginning.”
“Yeah,” Mayday nods at the MC. “Dru came to me with this monster and I drew it. Then, we took it to the twins and they brought it to virtual reality. And from there it sort of just, took off.”
“‘Took off’ is a bit of an understatement, don’t you think?” The MC gets another loud cheer for us out of the audience, the audience I can’t really see, the audience that seems to really like what we’ve done and enjoy that we exist and brought something that they love into existence.
“I mean,” Wren interjects. “I know that I didn’t expect all of the fan fiction that came out of this, did you, guys?”
Raucous laughter fills the space as Doc leans over the table and looks squarely at his brother. “You mean that you’ve read the fanfiction?”
“I got curious and Google is a terrible weapon of mass destruction.” He looks out into the audience. “And man, you guys are descriptive in those things. TRIGGER x reader ones really-“
“Okaaay, Wren, stop. Just stop.” Mayday orders him as he grins cheekily at her. There was this issue we had with some fan factions coming out about our monster, not so much copyright as they were pretty damn disturbing. But, still, I’ve eased up, I’m starting to laugh along with the audience. They aren’t here to judge us, they’re united under this thing we created. They want to celebrate it, and I still can’t decide if that’s cool or that says something about how we all relate to dangerous forms of mental damage in society. She holds up her hands and leans into the mic and looks around at all of us. “Before he delves down that rabbit hole, we should show the trailer, right?”
The audience goes wild at that, and I turn to Doc and see him smile. He worked with the marketing and design teams on the project to make this short promo. He hasn’t even showed us yet, and I smile at him. He motions to the tech team in front of the projector with laptops and the like, and they get to work turning on the projector. The lights dim and I blink against the change. Someone’s eyes flash red in the closer rows, and I do a double take and squint. But, nothing. I shake my head and then turn my face up to the screen.
There projects a dimly lit room, a line of dominoes, on a dark oak table in a dark room. Hands are setting them up in a line, one after the other after the other. A low hum of long notes shaking on violins starts quivering.
We watch as a few of these black dominoes were set up, a shot of them down the line. On the dominoes, instead of dots, are red engraved illustrations of eyes as a replacement. My stomach does a little flip at that detail coming to life from the pitches for the movie, because dominoes were an inside joke from the beginning about the character. The audience picks up on it, too, excited murmuring and cheers happen. I can’t help but smile and lean in my seat to get closer. Suddenly, the scene is accompanied by a slam of something heavy against something metal.
I yelp along with the audience as the next domino comes down, I think I hear Wren shout out some form of profanity. The ominous effect of a slam against something metal continues on a rhythm as the screen cuts to black. There is a collective startled flinch all around us, including myself, with each rattling sound. White font in a small scrawl pops up, a simple statement: all it takes is one little thing. Another black screen with a slam against metal. Then there is a scene change, the slam rhythmically timing it.
Some scenes flash of strewn books open and flung everywhere off of a fallen bookshelf, the books open to monstrous drawings. Another scene with another slam, and its a bunch of papers with scribbles strewn down a set of stairs.
“One after the other.” A voice says over the music. “After the other, after the other, after the other.”
With each repeated sentence by the narrator, the scene changes to a different misstep that could happen in a day, only they gradually get worse and worse. From the papers down the stairs, you have a broken mirror with a bloody footprint. Then you have a ripped open teddy bear. Then I watch as the screen changes to walking down a dark hallway, shadows writhing all around. Then there comes a broken cassette tape on the ground. The images continue along those lines, faster and faster and faster still, the slamming getting harder and harder. Now it’s someone slamming their hand along the hallway, focused on half of their body, their arm. Half of their face under a hood. There is grime on their face, their eyes are bloodshot. Cut to a shot of them from behind, their other hand in focus. There is a pair of scissors in their hand.
The speakers are causing a thrum through me as I continue to watch the screen. The slamming gets louder, and louder and louder. Their eyes are back in frame and glow bright red as they push open a door. The screen goes to black.
“All it takes is one thing to set it off.”
Back to the dominoes, and they’re set up in a line, hyper focus on the closest one in finite detail. Blurred in the back is someone hunched over on the ground, there is sobbing over the building tension of the violin.
“Liam, what did you do?”
The domino closest to the screen’s eyes turn and face us in the audience, and then the screen cuts to black as the audience all screams in practical unison. I jump in my chair and Doc’s arm reaches out to steady me. Still, I can see him beaming in the dim light of the room. I can’t help but smile with him, that was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
The audience is cheering, going rabid, basically. People are up out of their seats applauding. There are screams and cheers and someone throws what appears to be a cosplay wig up in the air. The MC holds up his cards, he’s smiling too as the lights go back on. I blink hard against it, and in the audience, there is a stoic face staring back at me. What? Did he not like that trailer? How could he not? Why is he glaring into my soul? No, don’t acknowledge.
My smile immediately vanishes as this young man sits down slower than the rest, his eyes not leaving me. I turn my attention to my water bottle, not wanting to lose the feeling. I take another drink and turn to the MC.
“Well, well, well!” The MC starts. “I mean, wow. And this is the first time ever you’ve shown this trailer?”
Doc is the one to answer. “Yes, sir.”
“He didn’t even let me see it, and we shared the womb!” Wren whines. He leans over the table to look at his brother, giving him a thumbs up. “But, bravo, man. I’m proud to share 98% of my DNA with you.”
“Thanks?” Doc blinks and there is a laugh through the audience.
“I think at this point, I have to ask, as the rest of the audience might want to,” The MC fans his arm out to the audience I’m refusing to look out into. I don’t want to see frowns, or emotionless sociopath stares. Nope. No thanks. “Is how this really came to be. Where did this idea come from? How did you get here?”