Cosplay or Die
“I’d just moved to Minneapolis, which was kind of where I didn’t want to be, but also where it made the most sense, since I’d just gotten out of this relationship with my first real boyfriend. I mean, there were dudes before Owen, but none really like him. We did the whole young domestic thing, renting a shitty little one-bedroom like three miles from his parents; until I found out he was cheating on me with my best friend, Nina.
“Then I moved in with my Aunt Jodie, who really didn’t have the room, but didn’t mind that I was around most of the time. She was only thirty-seven, but I swear that woman lost every desire to get laid when she was sixteen. Three cats and she still spent most of her time flipping through pictures on animal rescue sites.
“Anyway, I started at Leia’s Vault maybe two weeks after getting settled. I’d never really read comics before, but was always drawing weird doodles on napkins and post-its when I got bored. Leia introduced me to so many of my favorites, but she got a little too fresh after about a month, so I flipped and started at The Collection Pit.
“Those assholes knew so much more shit than I did, and they were always acting like huge dicks, trying to flirt except they had no game. It was funny watching them argue over the most mundane details, except they called it super hero theory, like we were in fucking school or something. I really never cared much about any of that mainstream shit anyways. All these invulnerable hunks blowing shit up or chicks with huge tits dying then coming back to life with even bigger jugs. Or it’s like the same dumb character except they’re a hybrid of like four other characters or some child of the old villain out for revenge, plus nobody ever really ages unless it’s a parallel universe, and there are so many of those. It’s goddamn impossible keeping track of who’s who, where or whenever they are and why they’re doing what they need to for the good of all mankind.”
“Or to speed up the process of our extinction,” Jeremiah said. “Do you want another drink?”
I wasn’t sure if he was intrigued or merely humoring my origin story, but I agreed to one more round. “Anyway, I’m still not sure who sent it, since there was no return address. All the guys at The Pit denied it, and what’s worse is I believed them since none of them had the best poker face to begin with. I Facebook messaged Leia about it, and she just acted like a bitch, so I don’t think it was her either.”
“That’s a bit strange.”
“I know, but it was brand new. Black leather, exactly my size, with a typed note that said #Cosplayordie. I didn’t know who was fucking with me, but figured if I put it out there, then maybe I’d get some answers.”
“Mouse-gal isn’t much of a detective,” Jeremiah observed.
“Now you’re gonna give me shit?”
“Sorry.” He leaned his elbow against the bar. “Please continue.”
Behind Jeremiah’s mutton chops, a few posers in Space Trapper X gear slapped each other’s asses and smiled with the flash on. “So I took a selfie, and apparently it went over well with a few folks, mostly dumb boys, but that’s a good percentage of my target audience for however long I end up doing this.”
“Forever, right?” Jeremiah suggested.
“I’m not gonna look like this forever.”
“Plenty of characters out there for all ages and walks of life.”
“Just so long as your tits don’t sag too much for the general public.” I was drunk enough to speak candidly, before realizing that even there, amongst our people, nobody gave two fucks who we were.
“I guess that’s true.” Jeremiah forced a laugh. I stared at his teeth; one on the bottom was crooked.
“Anyway, I was getting somewhere, wasn’t I?”
“We don’t have to get into it all now, if you don’t want to.”
“What?” I said. “Don’t you wanna hear how I ended up here in front of you?”
“No, of course I do.”
“So there was that first selfie that maybe got me a hundred followers, and then Tracy Lynn Rose shared my second and started following me. I didn’t really know her deal, but we kept sharing and then messaging. She got me on the guest list at Juju-Con, and from there shit got kind of crazy. Every week is a new shoot and character. I get rando’s messaging me all the time, telling me really sick shit, but you get used to it. It becomes the only way of life, ya know?”
“I’m thinking of abandoning my social media presence altogether.”
I wasn’t sure why that was the line that did it for me. Maybe it had been the day, standing in a convention center, freezing in knee-highs and angel wings. It wasn’t necessarily Jeremiah’s portfolio; a generic hodgepodge of four-part crossovers and mediocre gore that made a girl wonder what kind of soul he had. I was still young enough to find out, first venturing to his hotel room then moving to Chicago three weeks later on a whim.
His apartment was smaller than expected; shelves full of coffee table books with laser blasters on the cover. We both worked from home; him doodling in the spare room while I posed on a new mattress or around our small garden out back. The kink didn’t really come until about a month in. Owen had been worse, far more domineering than Jeremiah, but sweeter at the same time. It was strange, comparing the two while simultaneously plotting any number of subsequent arrangements.
On a Sunday morning, he went out for bagels while I searched for a needle and thread. His top desk drawer was a mess, pens and pencils scattered amongst ticket stubs and feminist pins plucked from various cons. I was about to close it when I noticed a pink post-it in the corner, typed with blue ink. #CosplayorDie. Opening the bottom drawer, a few more sheets sat underneath bubble mailers and labels, then a list of addresses and corresponding Instagram handles. All young females, each with under five hundred followers.
Returning his supplies, I considered my next move, before sitting at the kitchen table and impatiently awaiting his return. Breakfast usually came later on the weekends.
Christopher S. Bell has been releasing literary work since 2008. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. Christopher’s work has recently been published in Drunken Monkeys, Hobart, Porridge Magazine, New Pop Lit, Queen’s Mob Teahouse, and Entropy among others.
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