I am standing on the platform of the Rapid Shogo line, stretching flat and straight from the heart of Tokyo to the remote district of Kahimakuhari. A throng of flesh compresses me from every side: one hundred million Japanese gamers who need to be squeezed onto this one train to go to TGS. Today is the first day the convention is open to the public.
Behind the crowd, a row of subway cops in meticulously fascist uniform shouts fierce instructions through a bull horn at the backs of the heads of the otaku before them: cosplayers and booth babes, Japanese and gaijin, fat and thin… it doesn’t matter. All are dehumanized by the mere accident of their birth as gamers.
The train arrives and the doors slide open like abattoir gates. The bullhorn shouts behind me become more urgent and now the throng is panicking, a seething mass of chaotic flesh, utterly maddened. I’m suddenly pressed on all sides by irresistible walls of flesh, sinew and bone. Everyone is screaming. For one suffocating moment, I fear I will be squeezed into jelly as the crowd crushes itself from without and within. But then, just as suddenly, the momentum of the crowd directs itself, and I am swept toward the doors of the Shogo train, flotsam in a human flood.
In front of me, one of Microsoft’s tiny, dove-like booth babes. As we draw closer to the train doors, she suddenly panics and begins wildly thrashing about, trying to turn around, trying to fight her way against the crowd, crying, screaming. And then, tripping over the 12 inch heels of the Implausible Orange ‘Come Fuck Me Boots’ Microsoft makes booth babes wear, she hits the ground. But I can’t stop: there is no stopping, and I feel the sickening crack of her bird-like bones underneath my feet.
And now I am in the train. Inside, there’s no room to sit, only stand. To sit is to die, to be trampled into gelatin by the impossibly tiny feet of ten thousand panicked Japanese gamers. The sweltering body heat quickly turns the train into a furnace: the air on my face feels as if it is pressed up against a radiator. My tongue becomes a white, withered thing, a mummified worm that worriedly prods the gaping gum holes of my desiccated mouth. I long for a drink, but there is no water here. There aren’t even any tears.
The man in front of me, exhausted and dehydrated to the point of death, inadvertently evacuates his bladder. Almost liquidless, the urea pools on the floor in a jelly. The puddle of urine presents one of those terrible compulsions that only game journalist survivors me will ever be able to understand. That small plash of thick yellow on the floor was wet, and I am thirsty. My immediate instinct is to fall on the floor and lap it up for the small droplets of moisture it may still contain.. But I remember the booth babe’s bones breaking under my feet and realize that to bend over is to fall over and to fall over is to die.
I feel a hand on my shoulder; I turn around. At first I don’t recognize the gaunt side-burned face that so emptily stares at me, but then realize that it is Flynn De Marco from Gay Gamer, crushed against my back in the press of unyielding flesh. It is random chance in a universe I now know to be godless.
Absurdly, I wonder why it is that Flynn looks so alien to me now? Is it merely the fact that he was not using the opportunity of being behind me to wildly dry hump me? Perhaps. But I know, in my heart, that the reason I don’t recognize him is because he has been sucked dry of hope.
“Where’s Eliza?” he asks. He always liked Eliza.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “But she’s safe. Somehow, she got out. Do you hear me? She’s safe.”
“Thank God, Thank God…” he breathes.
“What about Tiny Dancer?” I ask. “Did…. did he make it?”
I already know the awful truth of the answer. It’s held in the horrible emptiness of his once flamboyant eyes.
“He’s already at TGS,” Flynn confirms.
I consider some empty words that maybe Tiny Dancer is still okay, but there’s no point. We both know. To be at TGS? It’s the same as being dead.
Finally, unable to give him any other comfort, I give Flynn a sad, knowing smile.
“Then they came for the homosexual gamers and I did not speak, for I was not a homosexual gamer,” I recite.
The old Flynn would have squealed in delight while batting his hands around his head when he heard this. He would have lewdly suggested conversion. He loved the poetry Martin Niemöller. But the old Flynn is no longer there. He is just an empty husk.
And that is when I finally realize exactly what it is that Niemöller was driving at, the horrible beauty of the truth his words contained. Because there are no gay gamers, no straight gamers, in the cattle car to TGS. Only dying ones.
Florian Eckhardt, co-editor of Ectoplasmosis, would like to apologize in advance to Martin Niemöller, Flynn De Marco, Tiny Dancer, Anne Frank, Vladek Spiegelman, and the nations of Israel, Germany and Japan, except he doesn’t actually get to include this promotional blurb until after this post. So he’ll apologize now. “Sorry, guys! I really hate crowds.”