There have never been so many people in one place. Like glistening beetle cars, they bottleneck around me before bursting free in a scurrying race across the road. Costumes jostle each other, boxed humans peering confusedly out of their cardboard helmets as they teeter on stilts or platform shoes. There is black body paint smeared on my elbow, residue from the dark shadow man that brushed past me; the rippling darkened muscles of his back as he walks away seem menacing, and passing children stare up at him in awe and horror.
Two hundred thousand bodies, probably more, in a throbbing heaving mass pushing towards convention doors. The building spans the length of five, six blocks, with pointed steeple roof and sheet metal windows. A single road and tram lines separate it from the outside world – and this is where I roam.
Assault courses, laser tag, Mythbusters, all dotted in hotels, parks, and on street corners. Queue queue queue for snippets of video, panels with Avengers, illegible scrawls by famous illustrators. Duck and dive and swoop in between mothers with prams, their baby Thors clutching their hammers as they grip onto their guardians’ palm. You are spun around by a Prince Charming as he slurs a drunken ballad; stumbling, you bump into the Hulk and dodge his smash.
Screech to a halt: there is no passing by here.
A hell march of zombies has consumed the streets, flesh dangling from faces, un-dead pets rotting in their arms as they lurch at cameras and terrify observers. You must wait for this reeking crowd to part before you can dart through them to the next street.
Keep stuffing leaflets into hands and chanting your familiar mantra. You are a tiny dot of promotion, the smallest speck that does not belong with this fandom – but you must learn their language. It is a fascinating one. Wait for a pixelated sword made of blue diamond and pounce on the friendly icon. Twenty minutes of excited gameplay exchanged before you move on.
One day in the manic rush you are given the golden ticket to get inside: enter the cathedral of worship and see what all the fuss is about – one hour only.
A strange buzz fills your veins when you step on the floor. You are different from everyone else: you cannot move with the lazy drag of their feet that shows this is their hundredth circuit, time is too precious.
Unbeknownst to you, there are secret loves and passions for comics and characters and films and franchises that you never knew you had. You flit from one stand to the next, stuffing money into hands and cramming goodies into bags. Endless snaps of photos are taken, and mouths open so often it’s like a fish gaping for water as one extraordinary thing after another lines up in front of you.
You emerge panting from the stands to find yourself in the artwork section. The most incredible work, you want it all but the empty purse is light in your hands and the clock is ticking.
Time is up, Cinderella.
You gather the bags like the hem of a skirt and run tripping from the room, pouting at the early exit. One last look back at your painted hero, Wolverine, before the doors swallow you whole and spit you out on to the road back home.