Thursday, August 20, 2009

Otakon 2009

Welcome back Sporefans. As you may recollect last year we went to Baltimore to check out Otakon 2008. Well this year we went back for Otakon 2009, and I tried to write you a review of the events that transpired, but... my memory seems to be a bit hazy. We've had to reconstruct some of the events of that weekend using a device called a "Facsimile Intention Corporeality Invention Origination Node", or F.I.C.T.I.O.N. for short. This isn't to be confused with "fiction", which is stuff I just make up. The key difference here is... we have a device.

So sit back and enjoy the weekend that I lost in Baltimore. I'm sure that this machine will pump out something close to the truth. I think.

-Spored



The sun crept through the heavy curtains of the hotel room, trying in vain to remind the sleeping guests that a bright Summer afternoon was waiting for them just a short elevator ride away. Dr. McMonkey sipped thoughtfully on a juice packet, contemplating the number of scantily clad girls he would see at this year's Otakon. He crept up to the bed of one of his sleeping friends and began to shake the mattress.

"Hey. Hey! It's time to get up," Dr. McMonkey whispered, "We have to go to the convention! Its almost one in the afternoon!"

"Ngghhh," Blackcloud moaned from under the covers, "Its too early. Wake up Spored first." She rolled over and her tail pulled the blanket around her head, covering her eyes and furry cat ears.

"Hey Spored, wake up."

Spored was splayed across a makeshift mattress on the floor. Dr. McMonkey shook him in an effort to rouse him.


















"Come on Spored, time to get up," he said cheerfully, "The convention's starting! There are girls in costume all over the place! Plus there's the Kanon concert we have to go see. And I mean, HAVE to! Come on, get up!"

Spored remained motionless on the floor. Dr. McMonkey shook Spored again, "Come on Spored, you have to get up so you can write your review! Plus, you wanted to go to the dealer's room and check out the games, right?" He shook Spored once again, but he remained motionless.

"Hey... Spored?"

As Dr. McMonkey looked down at his friend he felt something awful forming in the pit of his stomach.

"Somethings wrong," he said, shaking the bed again, "Blackcloud, get up. Somethings wrong with Spored!"

"What do you mean somethings wrong? He's just drunk," she sat up in bed, her tail twitching in agitation. "Spored, get up. You said you'd take a shower first."

Spored did not move.

"Spored, get up now," Blackcloud said again, getting out of bed, "You drank too much again. You always drink too much," She walked over to the makeshift mattress and kicked Spored in the leg. A cloud of spores shook off of his body and drifted silently for a moment before getting caught in the draft of the air conditioner. She tried tickling his nose with her tail. There was no reaction, so she kicked him again.

"Spored get up."

Dr. McMonkey watched Spored remain motionless, the sick feeling in his stomach growing stronger. "What if there's something wrong?" he said, trying to be helpful, "I brought my medical bag. I could go get it."

"Don't be ridiculous, he's drunk. Spored get up! Now!" She kicked him again, this time squarely in the stomach. Her ears twisted backwards as she grew angry. Spored flopped over onto his back but there was no response.

"Spored, come on!" she kicked him in the ribs. Another cloud of spores fumed from his body, but there was no other reaction.

"I've got my bag. Let me go get my bag," said Dr. McMonkey as he hurried into the small adjacent room.

"Spored! Spored... this isn't funny anymore. Get up. Say something! Come on, get up," she cried. She knelt down next to Spored and held her hand to his face. Her ears perked forward, listening for a response. He didn't appear to be breathing. "Spored, you're scaring me, get up. Please get up!"

"Back away," said Dr. McMonkey, "I'll handle this!" He probed through his Sailor Moon emergency medical kit until he located his stethoscope. He put the pink plastic ear plugs into his ears and grabbed Spored's leg. With one hand Dr.McMonkey deftly removed Spored's sock and stuck the freezing metal disk against the bottom of Spored's foot.

He waited.

"There's no pulse," he said gravely, "I think... no... he's dead! I'm sure of it."

"That's ridiculous," Blackcloud hissed, "He can't be dead. He just... can't!"

"He has no pulse. He can't be alive without a pulse, can he?"

"But..." she swallowed fighting back tears, "He was sitting here drinking last night. I just saw him."

"Dead. I'm sure of it."

They stared at each other, each waiting for the other one to say something. Blackcloud looked down at Spored's body, waiting for him to pop up, groggy and pissed off at being kicked in the stomach. The only sound was the hum of the air conditioner pumping cool air into the room. A few stray spores danced in its artificial breeze.

"What do we do? Do we call the police? I mean..." Dr. McMonkey scratched his head, "I've never dealt with a dead body before. What should I do?"

"How did he die? There aren't any marks on his body," she knelt over Spored examining him, "There are no ligature marks on his neck."

"What's a ligature mark?"

"It's like on CSI, when someone is strangled they have marks on their neck," She grabbed one of Spored's eyelids and opened it, "And their eyes get all red like they've been smoking weed too, but his eyes are normal looking... He hasn't been shot or stabbed either," she paused thoughtfully, "Could he have been poisoned?"

"Ummm.... shouldn't we call the police? Like the real police?" Dr. McMonkey wrung his hands together, "I mean, he's dead. We can't do anything for him, right?"

"No! No, its up to us! We've got to find out who killed Spored_to_Death!" Blackcloud said, standing up to meet Dr. McMonkey's gaze. "We have to, as a matter of pride! He was our friend and we let him get murdered right under our noses. We have to find his murderer and make them pay! And besides..."

"Yes?"

"The room's in his name. If they find out he's dead we won't be able to stay for the convention!"

"Urk!" cried Dr. McMonkey falling face first into the floor in shock.

"Look, I want to go to the convention too, but this seems wrong," Dr. McMonkey said while righting himself. He braced himself on the bed and pulled his face off the floor, "I mean, he's dead. Really dead! We can't just go and leave him here! Room service will find him and then call the police, and then we'll look like the prime suspects!"

"Relax," Blackcloud giggled as her ears perked forward, "I have a plan."

"Oh god."

"Did you ever see the movie Weekend at Bernie's?" she asked.

"Um. You mean the one where they bring the dead guy around for a weekend and pretend he's alive?" The doctor scratched his beard in thought, "That'll never work. That was just a movie, and not a very good one either."

"Do you have any better plans?" Blackcloud asked, twitching her tail rapidly to show her annoyance, "Because if you do, you better start talking now."

"Well," Dr. McMonkey said while looking around the room, "We could hide him I guess. Or maybe... I don't know. I really don't know."

"Well then get his shoes on. You're lucky he died in his clothes; otherwise you'd have to dress him."

"Ew," he said while replacing Spored's missing sock. A cursory glance around the room revealed that Spored's boots were close by, so Dr. McMonkey grabbed them and tried not to breathe through his nose while putting on the dead man's shoes.

"We should find some sunglasses for him too," said Blackcloud while she rummaged though her bag, "That way no one will be able to tell what he's staring at."

"Okay his shoes are on," said the doctor, "Are you ready? Lets pick him up. Grab his arm and throw it over your shoulder."

"Like this?"

"Yeah, that's right," said the doctor, bracing himself, "Alright, on three we'll lift him up and move to the elevator. One, two... THREE!"

"Urk!"

"Holy crap!" cried Blackcloud as she tried to lift up her end.

"My back!" screamed the doctor, "Put him down! Put him DOWN!"

"Who would have thought a mushroom would be so heavy," said Blackcloud as she dropped Spored's body back to the floor, "This isn't going to work. We just can't pick him up."

"We could hide him in the mini-fridge," the doctor said hopefully.

"No, they'll check in there," Blackcloud mused as she walked around the body. "I've got it. Grab a leg. We'll drag him."

"You're kidding?"

"Nope," said Blackcloud grabbing a leg, "He'll be fine. We'll just pretend he's tired."

"We're so busted," Dr. McMonkey said picking up his other leg.

"Prop open the door," said Blackcloud, "Use your bag."

"But my medicines are in there."

"No buts. Prop open the door."

"Fine," said the doctor, wedging the pink bag in the gap between the door and the floor, "I hope nothing breaks in there."

"Shh! It'll be fine. Come on!"

They pulled Spored's body out into the hallway and called the elevator. Blackcloud waited in front of the four bronze doors for a car to arrive on their floor. Dr. McMonkey picked up his bag and closed the door to the room. After a few minutes one of the elevator doors slid open.

"Come on, hurry!" hissed Blackcloud.

"I'm coming!"

They each grabbed a leg and pulled Spored's body into the elevator, but it was too small to accommodate him while lying down. Just as they realized that he wasn't going to fit the elevator door closed on Spored's head.

"Oh my god!" said Blackcloud "He's going to get killed like in that movie with the killer elevator!"

"Did he ever write a review for that?" the doctor asked.

"Now's not the time! His head is going to..."

The door slid open silently and there was a chime from the control panel. "Door obstruction," said a female voice, "Please clear the doorway in order to resume normal operation."

"Oh. Or it could just not work."

"Wow," the doctor said, "This elevator is smarter than your average elevator."

"Thank you," replied the elevator. Blackcloud and Dr. McMonkey looked at each other for a moment before folding Spored in half. The doors closed a moment later and they let Spored's body rest against them. Dr. McMonkey pressed the button for the lobby.

"I hope no one else needs this elevator, or we're going to have a lot of explaining to do," said the doctor quietly.

"Shh! The elevator will hear you!"

They spent the remainder of their descent in silence. The elevator decided to play some soothing music to ease the tension. After a few moments the elevator arrived at the lobby.

"Shouldn't we..." began Blackcloud when the door opened and Spored fell backwards and landed on the floor in front of a half dozen guests.

"Oh my god," cried one of the guests, "That man is drunk and passed out in the middle of the day!"

"Are you sure he's OK," said another guest, "He looks kinda dead."

"Oh no!" said Blackcloud as she jumped over Spored and out of the elevator. "He's just a raging alcoholic. We have to get him to the treatment center so he'll be ready to drink some more tonight."

"Treatment center?" asked one of the guests.

"She means the bar!" cried Dr. McMonkey, "Everyone stand back, I'm a doctor! This man need alcohol, stat. Quickly nurse, grab his arms! We'll pull him out of the way and get him to a bar, stat!"

"Do you want me to call an ambulance?" asked one of the hotel staff.

"No need! I am this man's personal physician, and I know what's best for him. Clear the way, come on, come on!" cried the doctor grabbing Spored's arm. They dragged him from the car and into the lobby. "You could call a cab for us, we'll need to get over to the convention center. We'll need a lot of liquor to fix him up!"

A little girl tugged on her mother's arm. "Mommy," she asked, "Is that man going to be OK?"

"Don't worry," Blackcloud whispered to the little girl, "He's a writer."

The mother pulled the little girl away from the group, "Stand back Marissa. Don't get near the writer. You'll get a disease or something." Blackcloud shot the woman a scathing look and helped pull Spored out the door into the street.

After a brief cab ride Blackcloud and Dr. McMonkey arrived at the convention center. They dragged Spored's body out onto the searing sidewalk and began looking for the entrance. Bits of Spored's shirt began to tear away as they dragged him over the concrete toward the doors.


















Typical citizens on the streets of Baltimore.


"So how are we going to find out who killed Spored?" asked the doctor.

"Well, the best thing to do when you need information is to ask someone," replied Blackcloud. "Hmmm... hey, those guys might know something," she said pointing to two large figures surrounded by people with cameras.


















"You mean the Italian plumber and the giant blue hedgehog?" asked the doctor, "Why would they know anything?"

"Well we won't know until we ask," replied Blackcloud. She paused to brace herself as she dragged Spored's body over a large rock and through a puddle of mud. His head landed in the puddle and his hair got soaked with mud. "Besides," she continued, "There are a lot of people around them. Maybe they've heard something."

"I don't know about this."

"It'll be fine," she smiled and began waving at the two figures, "Excuse me! Excuse me!"

"Hey! Its-a a cat girl and a guy with-a pink bag," said the plumber cheerfully, "How canna I help-a you?"

"We were just wondering if you'd seen anyone who might have killed our friend," Blackcloud said while grabbing a fistful of Spored's hair and pulling him into a sitting position. "Have you ever seen anyone who attacked this guy?"

"Your friend is dead?" asked the hedgehog, "That's a real shame. You know, if he had some rings on him he would have been fine. You know, rings... they take the edge off of things." The hedgehog's face twitched and his hands clenched briefly. "Hey... you don't have any rings on you, do you? Not that I NEED rings you know, I just... its just that its been sooo long since I've had some rings. You know how you can get when you don't have any rings right? I mean, when you have rings you feel invincible, like you can jump into fire or on some spikes and you'll be fine... but without them, you could die at any time, you know. And then what? I'll tell you what! Game over man! Game frickin' over!"

"What issa wit you and the rings alla da time," replied the plumber, "I never hadda da rings and I'mma OK. You gotta a real problem, ya know?"

"I got a problem? I got a problem! Listen to you, slapping your face and your name on every frickin' thing you see," the hedgehog was gritting his teeth and pushing his finger into the plumber's chest, "Kart racing, tennis, volleyball, fighting games, role playing games, golf, children's games, typing instruction games, art games and kids games. Looks like some body's overcompensating for having a tiny linguine!"

"Shut-uppa you face!"

"Hey man, at least I'm honest with myself. What are you, the Gene Simmons of video games? You have to slap your brand on everything like you're marking your territory! That's an awful lot coming from a guy who used to be a second banana to a gorilla."

"I'm scared," whispered Dr. McMonkey.

"We should go," said Blackcloud quietly as she grabbed Spored's leg.

"You-a two bit washed up a-junkie," the plumber ranted, waving his arms wildly in the air, "You'da be starvin' in the street if-a I hadn'a taken you in."

"I'd still have a career if you weren't so busy indoctrinating children into your little cult! Maybe you should've stared earlier. Ever think about sticking your face on an ultrasound machine?"

"You shut-uppa you face right now!"

"Make me, you walking stereotype!" said the hedgehog pushing the plumber.

As Blackcloud opened the door and started to drag Spored inside the plumber threw a punch at the hedgehog. The hedgehog fell backward, but got up, rolled into a ball and spun in place for a moment before taking off and slamming into the plumber's face. She did not wait to see the outcome.

"OK, this is really weird," said the doctor, "Not only did they not have any information, but they didn't seem to care that Spored was dead."

"Maybe they thought it was part of our costume," Blackcloud said while looking through her bag for her map, "It might help keep us from having to tangle with the authorities if we use that to our advantage." She unfolded the map and looked over it. "Where do you think we should go first?"

"We should go to the dealer's room."

"Will that help us find Spored's killer?" she asked.

"Huh? Oh yeah. Yeah, sure. Plus... its the dealer's room."

"Why do I get the feeling that you're not really interested in finding Spored's killer," said Blackcloud, twitching her tail rapidly.

"Oh no. No, I totally want to find his killer," said Dr. McMonkey holding his hands up in mock surrender, "It's just that the dealer's room will be full of people we can ask for help. Also, they have plushies."

"What?" cried Blackcloud. Her eyes widened and she grabbed the doctor by his lapels, "You mean cute, adorable, squishie, soft plushies that I can buy and take home and hug over and over again!" She paused and let go of the doctor's lapels, taking a moment to brush off her shirt. "I mean, yes. There will be a lot of people there. And perhaps, maybe we can look at plushies while we ask them questions."

"OK, let's head to the dealer's room!" cheered the doctor as he grabbed one of Spored's legs.

"Yes, lets go!" said Blackcloud. As she grabbed Spored's other leg. She barely noticed the face of the Italian plumber being pushed up against the glass door of the convention center, leaving a red smear as he slumped down onto the pavement. She glanced back in time to see the hedgehog being handcuffed by police and shoved into the back of a squad car.

The dealer's room was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs. Blackclould looked down the steps at the bottom thinking about what might happen if she and the doctor tried to drag him down. She pictured Spored's head hitting every single one of the steps, bouncing off the thin layer of carpet covering the concrete. In her mind's eye she saw Spored springing a leak and dripping blood... or whatever it was he had in place of blood all over the steps. She could see the guard at the front door asking some pointed questions about why her friend was bleeding all over the convention center carpet. This could be a problem, she thought, How are we going to get him down there without breaking him open like a pinata?

"Hey, what are you waiting for?" called Dr. McMonkey as he coasted down the escalator, "Lets go! YAY!"

"Oh," she dragged Spored's body over to the escalator. How did I miss that?

At the bottom Dr. McMonkey grabbed a leg and helped her drag Spored into the dealer's room. The guard stopped them at the doors, but only to check to see if Spored was wearing his Otakon ID badge. As they passed through the doors they saw the dealer's room. It was a vast, man made cavern packed with people moving among the stalls of Anime related goods. The sound of thousands of shoppers reflected off the distant ceiling, creating an echo that added to the incessant din that filled the room. Rows of people moved slowly from one stall to another, crowding around each table to get a view of the products displayed before moving through the crowd to yet another table.

"YAY!" cried the doctor, "I mean, um... lets ask some questions."

"Sure. Right after I check out those plushies."

"Oh look they're so cute!"

"How much for this one?"

"Oh wow its a pirate radish!"

"Isn't that awesome?"

"Hey lets go over here!"

"Check out that gloomy bear! Its so cute."


















"Oh my god, kawaiii!"

"Hey, lets get one of those too!"

"Oh hey, I need that shirt."


















"My bag's getting pretty full," said Blackclould, "Hang on a second." She looked through her bag which was quickly filling up with plushies and tried to reorganize its contents. A bag of catnip fell out of her bag. "Oh, how did that get in there?" she giggled and tried to stuff it back inside, but there was no room left.

"What's the matter?" asked the doctor.

"It doesn't fit," she replied, "Come on, why isn't... hey, hang on a second, I have an idea." She took the small bag of catnip and stuck it in Spored's pocket. "See, he doubles as an extra purse!"

"That's awesome. I mean, it still sucks that he's dead, but... awesome!"

"See, now I have my own Spored_to_Death bag! He's an accessory!"

"Does that mean we can buy more stuff?"

"Yay, stuff!"

"Look at this, isn't it cute?" asked the doctor.

"Hey, check out this House T-shirt! Its awesome!"

"Hey look at all the manga!"

"Come over here! Check this out! Isn't that a squishable? Look this is what they look like when they're all packed up!"


















"Hey, look. Ninjas!" cried the doctor.

"Hello," said the male ninja.

"Wow, real ninjas," said Blackcloud, "Can we get a picture?"

"Sure," said the female ninja. She stood next to her companion and they posed, "One, two, three, cheese!"


















Blackcloud took a picture of the ninjas. Then she remembered that she was supposed to do something other than buy things in the dealer's room. "Oh yeah, I have a question to ask you guys. Did you see anyone who might have..."

Which was when she realized that Spored's body was missing.

"Oh crap," she said quietly.

"Did we see anyone who might have what?" asked the male ninja.

"Oh my god. Um... We had a friend with us," Blackcloud said, "He was just lying here on the floor a second ago."

"Uhh... there wasn't anyone lying there," said the female ninja as she scratched her head. "Oh! Do you mean that guy who was lying on the floor over by the bathrooms?"

"Oh yeah, the mushroom guy," added the male ninja.

"I thought you were dragging him," Blackcloud said to the doctor.

"I thought you had him," replied the doctor.

"Where did you see him again?" asked Blackcloud.

"Over by the bathrooms," said the female ninja, "Near the stall with the Hello Kitty teacups."

"Hey," said the male ninja, "Look at the time. We've got to go!"

"Oh, right!" replied the female ninja. "Good luck finding your friend," she said cheerfully before both ninjas disappeared in a puff of smoke.

"Holy crap," said Dr. McMonkey, "I think they might have been real ninjas!"

"Never mind that," Blackcloud said, grabbing the doctor's arm, "We have to go find Spored!"

***

Spored woke up on the floor. This was no real surprise as he had fallen asleep on the floor; if by "falling asleep" you meant passing out through severe alcoholic inebriation. But there was something different about this floor. For one thing, the floor that Spored had fallen asleep on was the floor of the hotel room. This floor had no carpet, which made it only slightly less comfortable.

For another thing, he was being stepped on by people who were all crowding around looking at Hello Kitty wallets.

Spored wrestled his way up into a standing position and tried to make sense of his situation. He was surrounded by Otaku purchasing small trinkets and branded implements from various stalls in a room that could easily hold a hockey rink. "Oh, I'm in the dealer's room," he concluded as he brushed himself off. I must have been trashed last night, he thought. How did I get here? Did I do anything that I would regret? Am I wanted by the police again?

The last thought prompted him to look for the nearest exit. Normally he would have stayed to purchase something, but the thought of immanent incarceration coupled with the throbbing headache from last night's drinking made escape his highest priority. He waded through scores of people, looking for a sign marked exit.

Instead he found this:


















"Where the hell is the exit?" he asked. The sign remained silent, ignoring his request for information. Spored found the nearest wall. He moved toward the wall and when he reached it he turned and followed it. The room only has four walls, He mused while moving through the crowd, If I follow one I should find a door. Hopefully. Maybe.

The throngs of people crowded around toys and games, manga filled shelves next to super-deformed character plushies, and more than one merchant was displaying swords and other medieval weaponry. Spored tried to keep his bearings in the room, but the throbbing in his skull made it hard to concentrate. Then, at the end of one wall Spored saw a large group of people all heading for a set of doors. "Bingo," he grinned and moved into the crowd.

Once outside Spored found the escalators to the street level and exited the convention center. He moved across the street, aiming for the two bars sitting next to each other. He stared at them, trying to decide which one to go into, and finally decided with the toss of a coin. The coin told him to take the bar on the right, and he was in no mood to argue with currency, so he moved to the bar and took a seat.


















The bar was teeming with people in costume, so it took some time before the bartender got over to him. Girls with tails sat around tables next to guys with spiky hair and swords. Guys dressed like giant furry creatures sat next to women with guns wearing clothes that had more in common with dental floss than swimwear. Orders came and went, currency changed hands, and Spored eagerly eyed the bottles draped behind the bar. Eventually Spored managed to catch the bartender's attention.

"What'll it be?" asked the bartender.

"Can I have a pint?"

"Sure. What's your poison?" the bartender smiled beneath his mutton-chop mustache, "We've got a couple of great local brews on tap,"

"I'll take a whiskey," said Spored.

"I thought you wanted a pint?" the bartender's brows furrowed.

"Yes," said Spored, "A pint of whiskey. But now that you mention it, I'll take one of those beers as well."

"Sir," said the bartender while giving Spored his best stop screwing with me stare, "We don't normally serve whiskey in pint glasses."

"Well then I shall require the largest glass you can put whiskey into, and then fill it with whiskey. The cheapest will do," said Spored. He leaned in a whispered almost conspiratorially, "You see, I have one hell of a hangover."

"Oh. And drinking a pint of whiskey will fix that, will it?"

"Well, it should take the edge off at least."

The bartender stared at the mushroom silently for a moment. "Okay pal, its your liver," he said as he poured whiskey into the pint glass. "One pint of whiskey. What kind of beer did you want?"

"Surprise me," replied the mushroom.

"OK," said the bartender turning to the tap. "So are you in town for the convention?" When there was no response he turned back to see the mushroom put the empty pint glass down on the bar. "Jesus buddy," he said softly.

As the bartender stared at the talking mushroom man in a mixture of amazement and horror the door to the bar opened and half a dozen cat girls entered. They flicked their tails and talked animatedly while adjusting their outfits. At any moment one of them could have a wardrobe failure much like the one Janet Jackson had at the Superbowl.

"Did you see that guy staring at me in the last workshop?" the first one said while pulling up her top, "What a pervert! He just kept staring at my chest for an hour!"

"Oh, and there was that guy in the hall outside the dealer's room who kept staring at our tails!" said the second one while setting her giant spiked mace down for a second to fix her shirt, "Can you believe that guy! Ecchi!"

"My god," said the third one clutching a giant mallet, "This convention is just full of perverts!"

"They're everywhere!" shrieked the one in glasses with a mace, "I bet they're all going to the hentai shows tonight!"

"Oh my god, you'd never get me to go to one of those!"

"Ya-da!"

"Hey, my pants keep riding up! Can we find a bench to sit at so guys won't keep staring at my legs!"

The bartender found himself staring at the cat girls. He didn't know what "ecchi" meant, but he was sure that he didn't want to get caught checking them out, so he studied the beers on tap for a few moments. He poured a beer and tried not to look. He failed. He was torn between the amount of skin the cat girls were showing and the size of the weapons they brought with them to the bar. He contemplated asking them not to bring their weapons inside, but decided against it.

"How much do I owe you?" asked Spored.

"What?" said the bartender as he set down the beer, "Oh. Yeah, the whiskey. Well it was quite a lot. We don't usually price for..." his voice trailed off as one of the cat girls bent over to pick something up off the floor.

"Hey this beer is fantastic!"

"Huh? Yeah, its brewed right here in Baltimore," the cat girl retrieved whatever it was she was looking for and the bartender decided to direct his gaze elsewhere. "Listen, why don't we just say $35 for the whole thing."

"Sounds fair," replied Spored as he dug through his pocket and pulled out some rumpled bills. He felt something in his pocket that seemed unfamiliar and took it out with the money. "Hey, what's this? I've got catnip in my pocket."

Spored rifled through the rumpled bills and left enough on the counter for his tab and a tip. He stared up at the bartender who backed away without taking the money. The bartender's eyes were fixed on something behind Spored and he seemed afraid of whatever it was.

"What did you say, you pervert?" asked a voice from behind him. Spored spun the bar stool around and stared a cat girl straight in the chest.

"Oh. Hello."

"What are you looking at, pervert?" she hissed.

"Pervert?" asked Spored, feeling a little tipsy from imbibing all the whiskey at once, "Look here, I'll have you know that I'm not a pervert... although I happen to think like one occasionally."

"What did you say?"

"Hmmm... I guess that sounds pretty bad," he cocked his head to one side, "Look, let me buy you a drink."

"Now you want to get me drunk?"

"I dunno," replied Spored, "Which answer is less likely to get me hit?"

"What?"

"Hey," said the cat girl with glasses, "He won't stop staring at your chest!"

"What? Hey, stop staring at my chest!", hissed the cat girl, "My eyes are up here!"

"Oh yeah," said Spored drunkenly, "Mammals have eyes. I keep forgetting that."

Then they were upon him, a flurry of furry fury armed with gigantic weapons enveloped Spored. To the untrained eye it looked like one of those old comics where a fight was represented by a cloud of smoke with limbs poking out of it occasionally. This is exactly what it looked like to Spored, who's eyes were not only untrained but horribly drunk. Eventually there was blissful darkness; but before that there was a whole lot of pain.


***

"Where could he have gotten off to?" Blackcloud looked up and down the street for Spored's body, but he was no where to be found.

"You don't suppose he got up and left?" asked Dr. McMonkey while shrinking back nervously, "I mean, he's not a zombie, right?"

"I don't know. How should I know?"

"Well, I mean zombies aren't real, are they?"

"What about the ones that Spored has working at the office?" Blackcloud grabbed Dr. McMonkey's wrist and led him back up to the first floor of the convention center.

"You mean they're not guys in costume?"

"No. Haven't you ever noticed that Spored pays them in brains?" she stopped in mid-stride, "I guess I should say paid them in brains now." She bit her lip and looked around the floor for signs of a body, drag marks, even foot prints.

"Hey, why don't we ask that guy over there?" the doctor chimed in.

"Who?"

"The guy in the butterfly costume," the doctor replied, pointing to a man in a giant yellow costume standing next to a woman who looked remarkably like Jacqueline Onassis.

























"Oh. Of course. They obviously must know where Spored's body is."

"They do?"

"I was being sarcastic!"

"You don't have to be mean about it!" the doctor grabbed his bag and started off in the direction of the butterfly man. Blackcloud watched him go, feeling a little bad about snapping at him.

"Hey. Excuse me. Sir?" the doctor asked.

"What? I'm little busy right now," replied the butterfly man, "Hey, hang on a second. Have you seen a guy in a pink shirt with glasses, bald... probably on drugs?"

"No, I can't say that I have."

"What about a really big blond guy in an ugly shirt? Looks like he eats kittens and craps hate."

"No. I'm sorry, I haven't seen anyone around here that looks like that."

"Honey, you can't expect random people to know the location of your arch nemesis," replied the Jackie O. look-a-like in an incredibly deep voice, "The chances of finding people like that is really next to zero."

"Well what else do you want me to do?" replied the butterfly man, "I mean we've been walking around for hours, and its not like they run a booth or something."

"You really think that its pointless to ask people if they've seen your friends around?" asked the doctor, "You mean... there's no hope?"

"Oh sweetie," said the Jackie O. look-a-like, "Did you loose somebody too?"

"Yes" said Dr. McMonkey barely able to hold back a tear.

"Well who did you lose?"

"My friend," said the doctor, "He's kind of a mushroom guy. And he was kind of... dead."

"Wait, you mean the guy who was lying face down on the floor of the bar across the street?" interrupted the butterfly man, "Seriously? You know that guy?"

"Oh my god, really!" the doctor grabbed the butterfly man's hand and shook it vigorously, "Thank you, thank you so much!" Then he turned and ran off.

"That, by far, is the weirdest thing I've seen all day," the Jackie O. look-a-like whispered quietly.

"Yeah, I know," the butterfly man replied, "Its like some contrived plot device."

Dr. McMonkey ran up to Blackcloud. She started to apologize for snapping at him when he grabbed her wrist and starting pulling her toward the door, "Come on, he's across the street!"

"What?"

"Yeah, the butterfly guy said he saw Spored in the bar."

"You mean, he's alive?"

"No, he said he was on the floor, so he's probably still dead," the doctor said pushing the door open.

"Stop yanking me around!" Blackcloud pulled her arm out of the doctor's hand, "And what do you mean by "still dead"? He can't come back to life. Right?"

"Lets just go, OK! What if the killer is trying to hide the body?"

"In a bar?"

"Well..."

"Or... what if the killer is trying to frame us?"

The doctor looked at Blackcloud in shock. "I didn't think of that."

"Come on, lets go," she said racing up to the crosswalk. She hit the button to cross the street and waited impatiently for the light to change. Dr. McMonkey clutched his bag, and tried to stay close to Blackcloud. She shifted from one foot to another, watching the light. When it changed she grabbed the doctor and ran for the other side. The other pedestrians looked on as they pushed through the crowd.

When they reached the other side of the street Blackcloud paused in front of two bars. "That butterfly guy didn't say which bar, did he?"

"No."

She looked around. There was a crowd of people standing around something in the bar on the right. "That one!" She grabbed the doctor and they pushed inside.

As she pushed through the crowd Blackcloud saw Spored's body on the floor in a pool of blood. "Oh my god, Spored!" she knelt next to him and almost picked up his head, but he was covered in blood and she stopped herself before she got covered in it.

"Hey, do you know this guy?" someone asked.

Suddenly she was very conscious of the fact that everyone was staring at her. Oh crap, I can't let them find out that I know he's already dead! She put her hand on Spored's back and shook him. "Spored? Spored, speak to me!"

The bartender leaned over the bar, "Hey, I've called for an ambulance. They should be here any minute."

Blackcloud gripped Spored's shirt and shook him harder, "Spored, come on get up!" This isn't good, she thought, If the paramedics get a look at his body, its all over. What do I do?

"Stand back," cried Dr. McMonkey as loud as he could, "I'm a doctor! Move, move now! Move out of the way!"

Yes! she thought.

"OK, lets see here... " Dr. McMonkey said as he knelt down next to Spored's body, "Oh my god! This man needs immediate medical attention!"

"Uh, yeah!" replied the bartender, "we can see that."

"No, no! What I mean is... there's no time to wait for an ambulance!" the doctor grabbed one of Spored's legs, "You, girl. You're his friend, right? Grab his leg. We have to hurry!"

"Hey doc," said the bartender as he came out from behind the bar, "Maybe you should wait for the ambulance."

"No time! Now, grab the leg, we have to flee... I mean hurry!"

Blackcloud didn't wait for further encouragement, she grabbed Spored's leg and they ran out the door.

"Man, this place gets crazier every year," said the bartender.

"Quick, we'll lose them in the convention!" said the doctor as he pulled Spored's body across the street.

"Wait! The traffic!" Blackcloud tried to pull back but the doctor was already half way across the street before she could stop him. She wanted to close her eyes but knew it would probably result in them all being run over by a car. Instead she ducked her head and pulled the body across six lanes of traffic, leaving the crowd of gawkers behind at the bar.

They bolted through the doors of the convention center and rushed though a large group of people. They moved up some stairs and Blackcloud listened to Spored's head thump against each step as they ascended. She looked to her right and met the gaze of several people riding the escalator in the same direction. "Crap!"

When they got to the top she pulled the party towards the enclosure for the restrooms and grabbed Dr. McMonkey by the collar. "Stop, stop. I think we lost them."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, pretty sure," she panted, letting her ears droop down at her side, "That was close. You did some quick thinking back there."

"Really?"

"Yeah," she smiled and her ears perked up a bit, "If it weren't for you, we'd probably be in jail right now. Or... worse."

"What could be worse than jail?" Dr. McMonkey asked, clutching his bag in both hands.

"Well, as I figure it, the killer must know that we're on his... or her trail. That's why they had to move Spored's body," she looked around cautiously, "I think the killer might be watching us."


















"Oh no," Dr. McMonkey hid his face behind his bag, "I don't want to die!"

"Relax! The killer can't get us here," Blackcloud stood up straight and preened her tail, "We're in public. No killer who was worried about being caught would attack us at the con."

"So we're safe as long as we're at the con?"

"Yes, I think so. But we have to stop fooling around," Blackcloud smacked her fist into her open palm, "We're in serious danger here."

"Um... is there another type of danger?" asked the doctor, "I mean, if we have to be in danger..."

"This is it! The time is upon us! We are going to rise to the occasion and catch Spored's killer!" she put her left arm around the doctor's shoulder and made a fist with her right, punching up at the air to show her determination, "The time has come to become real detectives! We came to this convention as guests, but by the end of the day we're going to be heroes! We'll forever be known as the dynamic duo that cracked the first ever Otakon murder mystery of mystery!"

"We're detectives now?"

"At the end of this day we're going to see Spored_to_Death's killer in chains. Or, whatever they use now when they arrest killers. The time has come to quit fooling around!"

"Yeah!" added the doctor.

"Nothing can stop us now! We have a strength of will, we have the pure determination required to become first class detectives!"

"YEAH!"

"From now on, the only thing we will think about is catching the killer! We will succeed! Nothing will distract us ever again!"

"YEAAAH!!!"

There was a chime and then a voice from overhead interrupted their moment of solidarity, "May I have your attention please. Seating for the Kanon Wakeshima concert will begin shortly. Please assemble to get in line for the concert.

Blackcloud felt the doctor go rigid. She looked over at him and his jaw was hanging open. He had dropped his bag and his hands were hanging slack at his sides. His eyebrows tried to crawl up his forehead and his eyes widened to the point where she thought they might pop out of his skull and dance around. A sound started to build in the back of his throat. It was very quiet at first, but it grew in volume in a matter of seconds.

"eeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!"

"What?" she grabbed his arm, "What's the matter with you? What's wrong? Are you having a seizure?"

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohymyghod," he gasped, "KanonWakeshimaishereohmygodIforgotabouttheconcertohmygod,holycrap,holycrap, wehavetogo,wehavetogo,WE HAVE TO GO NOW!!!"

"But... the killer..."

Dr. McMonkey stared at Blackcloud with eyes that held fanaticism bordering on madness. "We! Have! To! GO!"

"Okay," she said quietly.

They dragged Spored over to the seating area. A polite woman in a maid's outfit asked them to stand in line. "Miss, Sir," said the maid, "I'm sorry, but your friend needs to stand up in line. He's over the tape."

Blackcloud looked the maid straight in the eyes, "Its not my friend, its my handbag."

"Oh," replied the maid. She stared at Blackcloud and then down at Spored's body. "Could you please pick it up then? Its over the line."

"I'm sorry, but its very heavy. I don't think I can hold it the whole time."

"Hmmm..." hummed the maid quietly. She put her index finger under her chin and appeared to be lost in deep contemplation. "Oh, I know!" she cried. Then she kicked Spored's body in the ribs, pushing him slightly over the line, "My it is heavy, isn't it?" She kicked him again, and then again, moving him slowly in between the taped lines of the floor. Her foot became a flurry of kicks, pushing the fungus man into position until no part of his body came over the taped line.

"There we are, all better!" the maid chirped and moved on to the next group of people.


















Frogs know the importance of standing in line.


The seating proceeded without further incident, but the maid did occasionally stop back to kick Spored's body back into position. As a fungus he was not the most structurally sound piece of Mother Nature's engineering and required occasionally prodding to remain in position. Once the seating began Blackcloud and Dr. McMonkey pulled Spored's body with them into the concert hall, but were stopped before they took their seats by an Otakon staff member.

"I'm sorry miss, but your... bag... is too big," said the staff member, "If you can't stuff it under a seat then I'll have to ask you to leave it at the end of the aisle."

"Well..." Blackcloud began, but Dr. McMonkey shot her a pleading look, and she was not able to resist his "puppy dog eyes of sadness" technique, "All right. Just don't lose him... it! I mean it!"

The Otakon staff member took Spored's body and left it at the end of the aisle. Other people filed into the aisle, occasionally stepping on him. Blackcloud was about to protest when the lights dimmed.

The voice of Otakon announced that the concert would begin shortly and to note that on the left of the auditorium was the area for the after show autographs. Then there was silence. Blackcloud waited. Dr. McMonkey waited. Dr. McMonkey scratched himself. Blackcloud looked up at the television screens on either side of the stage and watched a yellow rodent with a lightning tail crowd surf over the audience. Someone got shocked by the rodent. Then there was some more waiting.

Then there was even more waiting.

Finally the room grew dark, and the voice of Otakon announced that the opening band for Kanon would be a local band from the Baltimore area known as Geist. The room was silent and dark.

And then it wasn't.

The audience collectively got their brains blown to the back of the auditorium by a wave of sound which was punctuated by pulsing lights that shot through their eyes into their now vacant skulls.

Figuratively.

It was as if a tidal wave of metal crashed into the audience, at once catching them up and lifting them into another world; a world that had existed parallel to ours but had been kept in check by the forces of daylight and social order. Once in the darkened seats the audience was at the mercy of this other realm; a realm that was illuminated by a angry neon light; fueled by the music being wrought from instruments that seemed too small to make sounds of that caliber. They were swept up, taken away on the sea of music and transported into a world created by the five figures on stage, hewn together on a raft of collective consciousness.

And most of them weren't even on drugs. Most of them.

In the shadows of the concert hall an Otakon staff member tripped over something at the end of an aisle. His startled cry was muffled by the band's finale. He rose to his feet and stared at the offending object. In the dim light he couldn't quite make out what the object was, but he thought it looked like a person.

The voice of Otakon boomed overhead and once again announced that the area to the left of the stage would be set up for autograph signing. The Otakon staff decided that this offending person, if it was indeed a person, should be removed from an area where others could trip on it. Therefore he saw no reason not to drag the prone form in front of the autograph area and leave it there, for better or for worse.

"Jerk," he commented before once again stalking the aisles to ensure that everyone had a safe and enjoyable time.

***

There was a roar of clapping and cheering, so naturally Spored tried to take a bow. Unfortunately he was unable to move due to tremendous pain which wrapped his body like a warm comforter. Of pain.

After the cheering subsided a slow, melodic tune reverberated through Spored's body. He wondered why there was music until a voice began to sing. His kept his eyes closed and let the voice wash over his tired form. I get it, he thought, I was beaten to death by those cat girls. I must be going to heaven. The voice was beautiful and slow, and when it paused it was replaced by the somber tones of a cello.

Huh? I always thought angels played harps.

The song ended and the voice said it would announce the name of its partner, who was called "Mikazuki," and indicated that the name should be remembered.

Why would I need to know that? Spored thought, Is there a test to get into heaven? This is getting strange. He opened his eyes and was greeted with another unfamiliar ceiling. Is the music coming from an alarm clock? Spored swatted about but his hand only contacted a tiled floor.

Something isn't right, he thought, I need to figure out what's going on. He pushed his palms against the floor and pushed himself half upright. There was a warm glow so he let his gaze move toward the light. A figure stood onstage, wearing an ornate dress. She sang softly, holding the attention of the audience as she swirled her skirts and moved lithely across the stage. Spored watched her sing, transfixed by her grace, until the strength in his arm gave out and the back of his head smacked against the cold tile floor.

Huh... I guess this is the Kanon Wakeshima concert. How did I get here? Spored gathered his resolve and forced himself into a sitting position. For that matter, why am I not in a hospital? And where did my friends go? They wouldn't leave me on a cold tile floor.

Would they?

The song came to an end and the audience clapped and cheered for Kanon. Spored realized that his head hurt and clapped his hands over his ears until they subsided in their aural assault. Then, Kanon announced that the next song would be her last song of the concert.

Which is when roughly fifty percent of the audience got up from their seats and started moving towards him. Fast.

What's going on? Spored looked about, confused, until his eyes fixed on a sign that had one word printed on it.

The sign read, "Autographs."

"Oh crap."

By the time he turned his head back to the stage a tidal wave of Otaku were upon him. A knee inadvertently found his face, crushing his nose and sending his head back down to the floor. A wave of feet trampled over him as the Otaku jockeyed for position overhead. Spored managed to gain some leverage by biting the ankle of one unlucky fan. As the fan recoiled it made a small hole as others looked down to see what was going on beneath their feet. Not having enough time to stand Spored did the only thing he could think of; he grabbed the nearest ankle and pulled himself forward.

The trampling lessened in intensity, but resumed as the need for autographs outweighed the temporary curiosity of the horde of Otaku. To keep himself alive Spored grabbed another ankle and pulled himself along, swimming beneath a sea of fans.

"Hey, that guy's getting ahead!" screamed one fan. Spored looked behind him and saw a body hit the floor and start to mimic his fan swimming tactics. When other Otaku began to notice people getting through underneath them some of them tried to mimic the feat as well. But while the fans were moving toward the autograph table, Spored made for the door. After escaping the sea of Otaku he turned, watching as a knot of flesh formed at the base of the autograph area. Otakon staff valiantly tried to disassemble the Gordian knot of arms and legs as more fans piled on, looking for purchase.

Spored had hardly noticed that Kanon had started singing again amidst the chaos. She kept her attention on the fans who remained in their seats. They had come to the concert to see her sing, and Spored reasoned that it was more polite for fans to wait for her to end her performance. While it was true that there would only be a limited amount of time to get in line for autographs, wasn't it more important to watch a performer do what they came half way around the world to do: perform?

Please forgive their zeal, they mean no disrespect, he thought. It occurred to him that it might be possible to convey that sentiment directly, but it would mean getting all the way to the back end of the sea of Otaku that had formed in one corner of the auditorium. Spored noted that the knot of Otaku was quickly becoming a living Katamari and decided against it. Instead he left as quickly as possible.

He wandered around for some time, looking for his friends. He asked a particularly tall gentleman if he had seen them, but the gentleman started ranting about being some sort of shape shifting master, so Spored pressed on alone.

























Eventually he found his way to the art room. It was full of artists sequestered in stalls, busily sketching and sewing cute and adorable things. Spored caught the sight of a particularly tall fellow and decided to ask him about seeing his friends.

"Excuse me," he asked, "I'm looking for a cat girl and a doctor with a pink Sailor Moon bag," as Spored examined the tall man, he determined that it was actually a giant robot. Having already had a strange day he decided to ask the robot anyway.

"So, big guy... have you seen them?"

























The robot remained resolutely silent. Perhaps it had not seen them. Or perhaps it was waiting for something. Or someone. Perhaps it was waiting for a special person, a person who would send out a call for the robot, and the robot would rise up from the streets and fight along side that person. Perhaps that person would come to terms with their incredibly convoluted past, and find the determination to rise up and wrest control of their own destiny. The destiny of a man. Yes a man... with the most common name in the English language.

Or perhaps the robot was just being a jerk.

Either way it stared out into space with its cold robotic eyes, ignoring Spored's question. He snorted and gave the robot the finger. It did not hit him, which was a first for the day.

Spored made his way toward the exit, plotting his next move. A rumbling in his stomach told him that he should find nourishment, and not the liquid kind. As he walked past a stall with a poster board inviting fans to draw on it he heard two familiar voices.

















The pig with the eye lasers wins. Pew Pew!


"Oh my god, we're dead! The killer's gonna find us and butcher us to death until we die from it. To death!"

"Get a hold of yourself," Blackcloud hissed while grabbing the doctor by the lapels and slapping him across the face with her tail, "We've just got to find Spored's body, find some clues, not get distracted, catch the killer, save the... ohh! Sheeps!"

"No, no! There's no time for cuteness, we're gonna die!" the doctor wailed.

Spored walked up behind them, quietly enjoying the scene.

"But its not a sheep, its a picture of a cat dressed up in a sheep outfit," Blackcloud picked up the picture and cradled it, "I want it! Ohhh! How much is this one?"

"No!" the doctor tried to pull Blackcloud away from the table, but the power of the cute artwork kept Blackcloud clutching the table with her claws, "Oh god, we're gonna get killed until we die to death from it! We have to go, remember? Spored's dead!"

"Oh. Oh, that's right," she said dropping the picture. "Spored..."

"What?"

They turned. Spored stood before them with his hands in his pockets, staring at them as if they had lost their minds.

"You're alive!" the doctor screamed, hugging him.

"You jerk!" screamed Blackcloud, punching him in the face.

She looked at him bewildered that he didn't fall over from the punch, "What the heck? How are you still standing?"

"I spent some time building up my defense against cat girl punches," he smirked, "Anyway, I'm starving, lets go eat!" He started in the direction of the exit.

"But where were you all day?" Blackcloud asked as she caught up to him, "I mean, we took you to the con, and then you were missing, and then we found you, and you went missing again..."

"Hey, how do you build up resistance to cat girl punches?" asked Dr. McMonkey, "Just out of curiosity. I'm not going to use that knowledge for perverted means."

"No, you would never do that," laughed Spored.

"So what happened to you?" Blackcloud asked, "Don't dodge my question!"

"I dunno," he replied, "I woke up, had some whiskey and a really nice beer. Then I got beat up by cat girls. Then I woke up again and got trampled by fans. And then I was here."

"So, you don't remember any of the concert?" Dr. McMonkey pushed open the doors and they walked out into the warm night air.

"I remember some of it."

"So what do we do now?" Blackcloud asked.

"I think we should go to a nice restaurant," said Spored, "I'm starving. I don't think I ate all day!"

"Can I have fish?" asked Blackcloud.

"Can I have black pudding?" asked the doctor.

"I... uh... sure. I guess."

"You know Spored, something seems missing," the doctor flung his bag over his shoulder, "Like something important. Something we missed."

"Well I missed a lot, but I don't know what you mean," Spored crossed the street through a thong of Otaku.

"Yeah, something does seem off," Blackcloud concurred, "Its like... there's something we forgot to do."

"Look, whatever it is we can figure it out..."

"YOU!" screamed a voice from behind them.

Spored turned slowly and saw that there were half a dozen nuns standing behind them. The nuns let their hands rest on their rulers, which were secured to their persons in ruler-shaped sheathes.

"Um..." Spored began.

"You're that PERVERT from last year!" the largest nun in the middle withdrew a yardstick from her waist and held it with both hands like a sword, "We remember you!"

"That one in the middle, right?" asked a smaller nun as she pulled two twelve inch rulers from her waist and held one in each hand, "That's the one?"

"Hey, I don't know you ladies, all right!" Spored took a step back.

"Yeah that's him," said another nun as she pulled some small rulers from her sleeve, "Get him!"

"There's been some ki..." Spored managed before a ruler connected with his face, and once again he felt the hard unyielding embrace of the sweet, sweet pavement.

The End.


Um... my apologies Sporefans, this F.I.C.T.I.O.N. generator appears to be broken. None of this happened, and none of it could possibly happen. This is the most ridiculous, ludicrous, half-baked plot I've ever seen. There is no way that any of the events depicted here could possibly have happened at this years Otakon. This thing isn't worth the fifteen bucks I paid for it!

Perhaps next year I'll have a team of monkeys write the Otakon review instead.

Oh, and please enjoy the video. Of all the one's I looked at, I liked this one the best!



1 comment:

blackcloud said...

wow, thanks to that review, i now know even more Japanese words for pervert!