The state of the convention hall surprised me. Rick asked me to come with him on this little vacation of his. He’d made the plans back when Trina and he were still dating and he didn’t want to come alone. When he said it was a convention, I sort of expected something bigger.
I’d never seen such a large room so empty. There were maybe twenty booths in a hall that could easily support hundreds. The ‘crowds’ were even smaller. The place felt deserted. I estimated that there were less than fifty attendees, including myself and Rick. I came because my friend wanted a companion, and I knew he needed that. Plus, the convention intrigued me, having known Rick for so long, I was curious to meet people that he liked to associate with.
I mean, who wouldn’t be at least a little interested in a convention held by conspiracy theorists? I had no idea what kind of craziness we’d see, but I wanted to find out. The National Truth Seekers Convention had piqued my interest.
Rick and I arrived together, but he quickly went off on his own. One moment he was there and then the next, poof, he was gone. So I found myself wandering the desolate hall alone. I strolled by a booth on crop circles but didn’t stop. Seemed too obvious, too clichéd. Next came a booth where the people claimed that possums were actually secret agent spies sent from the underwater city of Atlantis to collect data on humans. The people at this booth were very adamant about this fact. After listening to them for a few minutes, I moved on.
I drifted around the room for an hour, checking out the different booths and listening to some of the people explain their thinking. For some of the booth runners, their excitement to talk about their theories, though they never called them that, was electric. These people were fun to speak with, they were so passionate. Then there were those who it felt like they were giving a filibuster, that they had to keep me there as long as possible while they tried to come up with something concrete to support them.
Either way, it felt everyone was pretty lonely. They all provided some interesting viewpoints, but eventually, I could take no more and needed to excuse myself. I did my best to offer them some companionship before politely excusing myself to check out another booth.
All in all, I got the sense that these people didn’t trust well. Most of these theories could be, and had been, disproven time and time again, but still, these people clung to their beliefs. In a way, it was impressive that they could stick to something so whole-heartedly. Not many people could make that claim these days.
Still, I saw a huge lack of trust in these people, despite their rather welcoming nature.
Soon enough I’d checked out all of the booths that caught my interest. I’d been around the whole room and had yet to find Rick. I finally spotted him talking to a guard while aggressively scribbling down in his notebook.
“Hey, Rick! What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer me as he pulled out a compass. The security guard rolled his eyes before walking away.
Rick groaned in frustration. “You scared him off.”
“Sorry about that,” I apologized, not really sure why it was such a big deal. “What are you doing?”
Rick looked up from his notebook with a smirk. “Finding the truth.”
The statement didn’t really answer my question, and I’d learned a while ago to not dig for answers. He’d tell me. Eventually.
Instead, I decided to talk about the convention. “It’s smaller than I expected.”
“This isn’t the real convention.” He didn’t look up from his compass as he spun in place. “A lot of the employees led a mutiny against the people putting it on to try and spread the word that this convention was just a massive cover-up for the real one and lost their jobs because of it.”
Another cover-up, of course. What were they even covering up? Did he hear himself when he said these things? Did he pick up on the irony of creating a conspiracy theory about the conspiracy theory convention? I wanted to point it out to him but knew he wouldn’t see it.
I chose not to argue with him and feigned shock. “That’s horrible.”
“I know! In their honor, I’ve been scouring the hall for clues to the whereabouts of the real convention. I was in the middle of interrogating that guard when you interrupted.”
“The guard?” I asked, making sure I understood him.
He nodded enthusiastically as he made more scribbles on his paper. “Yeah, he’s in on it. I can tell.”
My gaze followed the man in question as he patrolled the perimeter of the room, steering clear of most people. From the look on his face, I got the feeling that this wasn’t his first time working at this convention. “You sure? I think he’s just trying to do his job, man.”
Rick looked at me like I was a child. “See, you got to be careful man. Everyone is out to get you.” He fell silent for a moment as I continued studying the room. When I looked back to my companion, he was staring at me through narrowed eyes.
I raised an eyebrow at him. “What’s up?”
His face scrunched up as he thought. “That was pretty convenient for you to come interrupt my interrogation.”
I blinked a couple of times. “What?”
A scowl enveloped him and he tapped his pen against the paper. “The only thing you believe in is the Stars and everyone knows those aren’t real. Why are you even here? I know you don’t even believe any of this.”
I couldn’t believe that! My mouth actually fell open. “You asked if I wanted to come, and it sounded interesting! A lot of what they said might be scientifically wrong, but I had fun hearing them out.”
His lips formed a thin line. “That’s a likely story.”
I threw my hands in the air. “It is the story. That’s exactly how it happened!”
Rick remained silent as he stared me down. I’d been around him long enough to know when he didn’t believe something, and right now, I was the thing he didn’t believe.
I chewed my lip as I shook my head. I was the last person who would willingly spend time with him anymore, and he couldn’t even trust me? “I’ve humored you long enough if this is how you’re going to treat your only friend. Do you know why Trina left?”
He flinched at the mention of her name and began to crumple his notebook. “The government got to her. They knew I was on to their plan to enslave everyone with toothpaste!”
“No. You got to her. You thought she was having an affair every other week. You didn’t trust her, and you’re not trusting me now. This distrust is eating away at you, don’t you see that?”
“You’re just afraid of opening your eyes to the truth.” He tapped his forehead as spoke.
“No, the truth is that you have trust issues, and the drawback to not trusting anyone is that you end up alone.” I spun on my heel and headed for the nearest exit. “Have fun with your theories.”
“Have fun being controlled!” he shouted back.
Did he realize that he was the one being controlled by his fears? Probably not.