May 2017


Nerdicon has taken this trend a step further with the addition of a permanent wedding planner to its staff. During the one-week span of the convention, dedicated members may attend up to five weddings a day, with interested parties able to fill out the guestbook with cosplayers of their choice who charge a nominal fee for their appearance.

“Naturally, Klingon weddings are most popular option,” says Sherwood Greg, overall coordinator of Nerdicon and head of the Council of 12. “While health and safety regulations prevent us from using genuine pain sticks or real bat’leths, Nerdicon is able to offer a high level of verisimilitude.”

Sherwood Greg goes on to say that other popular wedding options include elven weddings, stormtrooper weddings, and anime nuptials. “We have a fairly strong divide between people who want to be married as Tolkien elves and people who prefer Dungeons & Dragons elves,” says Sherwood Greg, “but luckily we have enough cosplayers to fill out either.”

One wedding option that is strangely unpopular is superhero weddings. “We’ve actually never had a superhero wedding,” Sherwood Greg says. “The closest we’ve gotten is Superman and Lois Lane, but even that didn’t last and they showed up at the subsequent Nerdicon for a divorce, which we are also able to grant thanks to our Spock also being a notary public.”

Asked why superhero weddings are so unpopular, Sherwood Greg speculated that the frequent deaths of spouses in superhero comics and movies gave people a sense of foreboding or of tempting fate. “Everyone worth their salt knows that Peter Parker’s love life is a mess,” says Greg, “and nobody wants that for themselves. It is also especially tempting for our guests cosplaying as villains attempt to disrupt the ceremonies. That’s not a problem in a Klingon wedding, were disrupting the ceremony is in fact part of the ceremony— look it up if you don’t believe me— but in a superhero wedding it’s a real mood killer.”

Susie Palmer is planning a stormtrooper wedding with her longtime girlfriend May Withers. “I know there aren’t any stormtrooper weddings in the original trilogy, or even in the—noncanonical— prequels and extended universe,” Ms. Palmer said. “But we still feel like having our union blessed by two rigid rows of galactic fascists and presided over by Darth Vader and the Emperor himself is preferable to going before a Republican notary.”

Marcus Dingman, a stormtrooper who was hired off the Nerdicon convention floor to attend the wedding, had nothing but fond wishes for the couple. “Sure they’re paying me 10 bucks to stand around and look intimidating as the Emperor give them lightsaber rings to cauterize each other’s fingers with,” he says, “but it’s really all about the love. I’d honestly do it for a nip of their wedding buffet.”

Asked if the trend toward Nerdicon weddings will eventually become unmanageable, Sherwood Greg had this to say: “if people want to get hitched in costume, we’re happy to take the money. They’re already here for a world-class nerdy experience, and they’re likely already in costume. Charging them a few bucks for extras in the use of one of our Hollywood level backdrops isn’t hurting anybody.”

“Not that I would ever consider such a ceremony,” adds Greg. “I’m married to the con, and she is a very jealous wife.”

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Ellie was always a little concerned when Dr. Harrison pulled her aside. Nurses in the hospital were often on the ragged edge, and incurring the displeasure of one of the residents was a great way to get fired and poison a possible reference. But as soon as he mentioned the name Monica, unknowing sort of quiet came over Ellie.

“It’s happened again,” Harrison said in a low voice. “The cancer ward this time.”

“Tell me all the details,” Ellie said. “You know you can trust me with this. Who else would even believe it?”

“Monica drew a picture of our senior oncologist with a little girl on his shoulder. I’m positive she meant Dr. Shakur because they’re the only one in that entire ward who’s bald.”

“And?”

“You’re probably not aware of it because you work in pediatrics, but there was a girl in oncology with stage IV liver cancer. They had actually taken her off her regimen and were providing only palliative care, but the test this morning showed she’d gone into remission. Shakur was really fond of her, and was pretty broken up over the whole thing. When he heard the news, he went into the ward and gave her a piggyback ride.”

“Just like Monica’s drawing,” said Ellie. “When are we going to tell people about this? It’s the third time this month.”

“The fourth,” said Dr. Harrison. “I didn’t tell you about when Agatha Chambers died. You’ve got enough on your plate as it is. Monica drew her as an angel, it wasn’t anything disturbing.”

“I say again, when are we going to tell people about this? This could be a situation where curing every illness is one crayon drawing away.”

“It could also be a coincidence,” Harrison said, “or at least dismissed as one. Do you really want to be the one who squashes the miracle by trying to study it? By putting a price tag on it?”

“You sound like you’re afraid, doctor,” said Ellie.

“You know what really scares me?” Harrison said. “If I’m the one who lines up ruining that poor girl’s life and she decides to draw me in a noose.”

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It was really a rather remarkably freeing decision. Once she decided, Anna felt a lot of the stress and anxiety that had bedeviled her over the last few difficult months starting to peel away like layers of a rancid onion. Throwing on a few close that happen to be on the floor in the bedroom, and not even the least wrinkled ones, she went out to the balcony that she shared with the vacant apartment next door. In fact, she was the sole remaining tenant of her four-unit building, and one of only 15 people in the entire complex, a complex originally built for 100.

The others had moved away due to the spiraling downward trend of the neighborhood, which is the only reason and Anna had stayed: it was the only rent she could afford on her meager salary as a waitress and substitute teacher. The weight of that knowledge, and the various valuable things that have been burgled from her apartment over the past six months, were one part of the puzzle. The intense feeling of inadequacy that had dogged her heels all the way to South Carolina was another. Everyone had expected great things of the valedictorian, even if it was of a tiny rural school. Her professors at art school had been a rhapsody of praise and encouragement.

And yet here she was, the shadow of squandered potential hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles, until her decision.

She drug a lawn chair out to the balcony, one that until recently been serving double duty as a dining room chair, and set it near the edge. Then, she retrieved a bottle from under the sink, one that hadn’t seen in any use since her charcoal grill had been stolen.

Sam’s Club sold a big bottle though, and it was more than enough to soak every surface in the apartment in a dripping sheen of accelerant. Taking up a perch in the lawn chair, Anna lit a match and flicked it through the open door. Facing away from the heat, she listened to the smoke alarm sing its baleful song until it died.

Everything her life had been, everything she’d accumulated, was in that apartment. In choosing to sacrifice it all on an altar like this, especially one, like as not, to see her charged with arson, hadn’t been an easy choice.

But, as Anna heard the first sirens in the distance and the growing warmth behind her, she was convinced it had been the right decision. When they came, and asked her what was going on, she simply planed to shrug, and say “I needed to make a change.”

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“Aah!” Chris cried out as the fangs sank into her neck. A few moments of frenzies sucking later, and she whas cast aside.

“What do you?” She cried. “How be? Why talk no good?”

“Because I’m a grammarpire, my dear,” said the creature, licking its fangs. “I’ve sucked every ounce of good grammar from your poor body.”

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The entire field had bloomed while I’d lay unconscious, spreading a tapestry of boldly-colored wildflowers before me.

If it hadn’t been for that remarkable chance, and the warm sun on my face, I might never have gotten up.

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“Let me ask you something you may have been asked before. You say you believe there’s something inherently good in people, despite wretched examples to the contrary. How is that?”

“Let me put it to you this way. An antelope can walk as soon as it’s born; insects begin to feed as soon as they’re hatched. But humans are born helpless. If you abandon one of us after a day, a month, a year…we will die. And yet the world is full of adults who were raised, with all the care an nourishment that implies. Someone loved each and every adult enough to see to it that they didn’t perish. It might not have been a pure love, it might even have been a love born out of fear. But what else can one call the effort required to bring forth a complete human being? With that indelible love a requirement, for all of us, how can we not have a similar spark of compassion?”

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On June 28, a middle manager at Highner-Coburn, a manufacturer of valves and o-ring seals, went into the parking lot. He locked himself in his late-model Takuro Phantom, at around 10:45 that morning.

Around noon, the fire department responded to a call about a car fire. They arrived to find the Takuro an inferno, utterly consuming the middle manager and three other nearby cars. In the news the following day, it was assumed to be an accident. But an investigation found traces of accelerant, and a reciept for acetone was found in the man’s desk.

It was, apparently, a grisly form of suicide.

And that would have been all, a gruesome sideline for a slow news day. And then on July 4–Independence Day–a woman who worked for a midtown DMV got into her Powell sedan with a can of hairspray and a lighter. The Powell took about half an hour to burn to cinders, and eyewitnesses report that the victim sat placidly behind the wheel as she, and her car, were immolated.

Between the first incident on June 28 and the final one on September 23, a total of 38 people were burned up in their cars. They represented a wide range of occupations, men and women, and all races. But they were predominantly middle-aged, white-collar workers, albeit ones without histories of depression or suicidal thoughts. The only commonality, if it can be called that, was that all of the cars were older models and tended to be from manufacturers that either no longer existed or no longer sold cars in the USA, like Takura or Powell.

The authorities were only able to rescue one victim before they were killed: Gabriel Hernandez, a 41-year-old assistant manager at OfficeSmart. Hernandez was unable to speak due to severe damage to his lungs due to smoke inhalation, and he lingered for three months before dying in November–the last official victim of the Summer of Burning Cars.

Police attempted to interview him using a letter board all the same. In response to their questions, Hernandez spelled out a single word: SPARK.

It’s still unknown what he meant.

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