Beautiful people, I know this is way overdue. I think I grossly overestimated my available creative mind-space in the idea to start a new serial the week before starting a new job! When I sat down to write this weekend after a full day of visitng Wimbledon (check out my instagram feed ^_-) on Saturday and a day of Stage-managing today, I honestly didn’t know how I would find the threads of the story again in my mind. Nonetheless, with focus it did happen! (Never give up!)
So here is the beginning of day two with Charis at the festival, and it felt right after such a long break to charge straight into the action! I do hope you enjoy! (If you are just joining us, welcome! Catch up here for The Festival. Day one.)
The Festival. Day two. Of babywipes and breakfast. J R Manawa.
In the early hours, sometime in the space of time after 3am and before dawn, Charis found herself wide awake. She knew it was after 3am because the last time she had checked her phone it had been 3:07am on the dot, and her phone had been on 4% battery with nothing to charge it. Now she was wide awake and prying herself up off the tarpaulin floor grimly. Her phone was dead, but the night was not. Dawn had not yet come. She blinked several times, not quite sure what had woken her, but she had a nagging sense in the back of her mind that something indeed had. Outside the noise of those returning from the late club night could be heard; general drunken revelry and noises of misbehaviour. She could see flickering light growing in the distance through the thin blue canvas of the tent which she guessed meant something had been set on fire. It looked to be far away cross the sea of tents, but on the other hand it could also have been a small fire much closer. Either way it was probably worth checking out. She pulled on her windbreaker, picked up her torch and crawled out of her tent. As she did, someone bowled across her path and collided with the grass, having been taken out by the guy rope attached to her tent.
The boy, sporting an untidy Mohawk, and suspenders with no shirt, emptied his beer can down Charis’ shoulder as he did so, and vomited over the grass to the side of her tent door.
Charis groaned, “Nice one mate,” she muttered, though guessed the boy was far too drunk to be concerned.
“Help,” he moaned suddenly, in a shallow voice.
“I don’t think I can be of much help, really,” she replied sourly, “I have no idea where your own tent is, and you certainly won’t be staying here in mine.” She was unimpressed. “Do you want a drink of water perhaps?” she suggested, kindness winning her over as she turned to reach back into the tent for her bottle.
“No! Please,” his voice rasped and he pushed himself up toward her. As he did, Charis saw the dark the red gushing wound in his neck, and it opened wider, spraying blood all over her windbreaker.
She opened her mouth to scream, realising under the light of her torch that the vomit on the ground was actually a thick pool of blood, the same blood that spilled down the front of his chest and spurted forth sporadically from his neck as his breaths came in short, shallow gurgles.
But her scream met a silencing wall in the form of a cold hand placed tightly over her mouth. She dropped the torch and her hands shot to the hand over her mouth. She had never been the defenceless damsel-in-distress sort, self-defence classes in school and living in central London had taught her wisely. She filled her lungs through her nostrils and forced her mouth open. Her attacker anticipated a second scream, and the cold hand tightened over her jaw.
Charis took the moment, biting down hard on the attacker’s fingers and thrusting her head backward. But the attacker was faster, and her head found nothing to connect with. Instead she ended up on her back in the damp grass watching helplessly as two shadowy figures swept into the space between her tent and Kelly and Nick’s and fell upon the boy with the open throat.
The sweet-salt taste of blood was thick on her tongue as a third figure, her attacker, knelt down over her. Her teeth were still clenched over flesh as a single word was whispered into her ear.
Charis woke with a gasp, her hand shooting to her throat.
There had been a dream, something horrific, she knew it, but it teased the edges of her memory. She was lying on the floor of her tent, more or less where she had fallen asleep the night before. It was hot now and humid inside the little dome with the sun beating down on the thin blue canvas. She felt like she was in a sauna.
Then she remembered blood. Her hands shot to her top, but she was wearing her Iron Maiden vest, which was fine, except that it wasn’t her windbreaker. She had suddenly remembered wearing her bright yellow windbreaker during the night, but it was nowhere to be seen. After a thorough search it was not to be found anywhere in the little tent.
“Charis? Are you awake in there?” Kelly was clearly outside of her tent, and had heard or seen the flurry of Charis’ search.
“Uh, yeah,” Charis peeked her head out of the tent, “have you seen my windbreaker?” she asked abruptly.
Kelly scrunched up her eyebrows, “Have I seen your windbreaker? I didn’t even know you brought a windbreaker with you,” she looked both ways around their camp site, “what colour was it?”
Charis shook her head and sighed, “It doesn’t matter,” she said with an uneasy laugh, crawling further out of her tent. She put her hand down on something hard. Looking down she realised it was her torch, and she pulled her hand back like she had been stung. Her eyes shot to the side of the tent. It had been a dream, hadn’t it? She remembered now. The boy had fallen there, just to the left of the guy rope by her tent door. There had been blood, but there was only a square burnt patch on the ground now, grass blackened and dead from extreme heat.
“Where did we have the barbecue last night?” she asked suddenly.
Kelly looked about confused and then said, “There!” pointing to the same burnt patch.
Charis looked up at her with worry, “Really?”
“Are you all right?” Kelly raised one eyebrow, “Are you still drunk?”
Charis shook her head.
“Good,” she shoved a can of cider into Charis’ hand, “let’s go and buy some things for breakfast,” she said, cracking open her own can and taking a quick sip, “not many mornings of the year you can have cider before breakfast,” she said with a laugh.
“Indeed,” Charis grinned, pushing the awful feeling in her gut aside and standing to her feet, raking the mess of her hair out of her face.
“Nick!” Kelly yelled as they walked by the entrance to their tent, “Get another barbecue ready, we will be back with meat soon,”
There was a sleepy grunt of acknowledgement from inside the tent.
“I love those pound shop barbecues, such a bargain!” she told Charis, who had to agree.
On the way up the hill to the village they passed a few bleary eyed revellers who clearly had not been to bed yet, a few that were still crawling drunk, and a few quite happily going about wearing their pyjamas or waddling around in their sleeping bags. The queue for the port-a-loos was already astronomical, and Kelly told her as they passed it that she had gotten up super early to go to the showers but the queue for them had been ridiculous too. Apparently it had started at 5am, almost before dawn.
“So I had a baby-wipe bath instead,” she explained, “and why am I doing all the talking?” she asked, looking at Charis.
“Sorry, I’m a little sleepy still I guess,” she grinned sheepishly and pulled her hair up into a messy bun to keep the wild strands out of her face. Of the last few months she had taken to wearing her hair a pale shade of moonlight grey which required no small amount of upkeep. An application of peroxide every three to four weeks, followed by a lathering of grey toner every other week to maintain the shade, and a myriad of deep conditioning treatments in between. Despite the conditioning effort, the girl who cut her hair told her it would all fall out one day. Charis had shrugged and jokingly said she’d have to see it to believe it. Thankfully there were no signs of this happening yet. Her perpetually messy waves meant that the entire length of her hair still stayed up in a bun without the aid of a hair tie, even if it did make her look like a hippy art teacher from a public school.
“Well, a bacon roll will be sure to wake you up,” Kelly said, patting her on the shoulder.
But she stopped very suddenly, gripping Charis’ arm.
“Charis! What is that?” she asked, a look of confusion in her eyes as she leaned in toward the side of Charis’ face for a closer look.
“What?” Charis had jumped with surprise at how quickly Kelly stopped.
“It looks like blood,” Kelly explained with worry, “all over your ear,”
Charis’ mind flashed back to a boy in suspenders, and blood spraying over her. Her hand shot to her ear and felt the dried crust there. A trail of it went all down her ear and onto the back of her neck. She pulled her hand away and looked at the dried blood beneath her nails in horror.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Kelly repeated her earlier question.
Her heart dropped. “I woke up in the middle of the night, and I swear there was a boy bleeding outside my tent,” she blurted the words out, and then started to scratch the blood off her neck furiously.
“Here,” Kelly handed her a pack of baby wipes from her skull and rose imprinted shoulder bag.
“How’d you get his blood on your ear?” she asked, unfazed by Charis’ explanation.
Charis shook her head, “You don’t understand Kelly, he was bleeding out, like massive gash on his neck and arterial splatter everywhere.”
Kelly shook her head, “Are you serious right now?”
“I thought it was a dream,”
“That’s a bloody horrible dream,” she said, consolingly.
Charis agreed. “However it doesn’t explain this,” she held out the bloody baby wipe and grimaced before throwing it in a bin as they passed.
Kelly gave her shoulder squeeze, “I’m sure it was a dream. Maybe you got a bit wild with that gamer boy last night? Neil? Or whatever his name was,”
“I never caught his name,” Charis told her pointedly, “I sent him home after you two fell asleep on the grass like a pair of roosting lovebirds, so I certainly didn’t spill his blood for any ritualistic love-making reason if that is what you are thinking. Besides, he was emphatically not my type.”
Charis shrugged, “It sounded clever in my mind,”
Kelly fell silent as they walked to the make shift supermarket, housed in a stark white tent with a security guard managing the flow at the door. There was already a queue.
Finally she said, “I cleaned up the cans and rubbish this morning, our whole camp site. It must have been a dream, because I saw no blood or sign of any weirdness anywhere,”
“It had to have been a dream,” Charis agreed half-heartedly as the security guard allowed them in the door and Kelly marched toward the fridge. Charis watched her searching the fridge shelves, while she remained deep in thought with her hand to her ear.
“Yes!” Kelly exclaimed exultantly, holding up a sealed pack of bacon rashers, “last one!” she clutched it tight, wary in case someone might snatch it out of her hand, but the rest of the early morning shoppers seemed more concerned with purchasing matches, portable phone chargers, or sunscreen. “Grab a packet of rolls would you?” she asked Charis, pointing to the stack of squashed, steamed-up burger bun packs beside her.
Still in a daze, Charis picked one up and followed her to the counter.
I can truthfully attest that part three is already in progress. So watch this space, and feel welcome to sign up via wordpress or your email to follow me! Your support makes me super happy ^_^