Now we return to the tale at hand, and one of my favourite things, exploring the complexity of a relationship between two characters and how their individual personalities cause them to interact…
Oops! I forgot to link to the start of the story if you are just joining us! You’ll find it here!
The Festival. Night two. How not to die.
August’s body moved a little too quick for Charis to feel comfortable with. There was a wild, almost feral behaviour in his movement and posture as he searched the crowd for Peter. But Peter was long gone. After a moment he stopped, and his shoulders dropped. He shrugged with a carelessness that Charis could not understand before he turned back, hand outstretched to help Charis off the ground.
She was already up. “Too slow,” she joked, carefully. She was not at all sure what she had just witnessed, nor was she convinced she was safe now that Peter was gone and she was left with August.
He blinked, his eyelids crossing over his dark grey irises for only a moment. By the time he blinked them open, he was no longer there, he had moved behind Charis at a speed her own eyes could not take in. His arms twined around her, his chin rested in the curve of her neck, and his voice, “Am I really too slow for you?” whispered in her ear.
She shuddered. What kind of creature was he? A human simply did not move that fast. Her mind fought to shove all the things she was seeing into an order that fell within the boundaries of reality, but nothing quite fit. It didn’t help that she was freezing cold and dripping with mud, and the rain persisted, though her poncho had ripped and been discarded beneath her feet. August was cold too, his embrace was doing nothing to help her body temperature except for the awkward tingle of excitement she felt at his proximity.
Slipknot were finishing off their final song, and the crowd was still wild around her, but she felt like the pause button had been pressed on her and August. Only seconds may have passed, but it was seconds in which August remained still against her neck, and Charis did not dare to move.
“You smell good, Charis,” he said suddenly.
In response she placed her arms firmly on his and spun to face him, her expression exasperated, “August, I smell of mud and sweat, and don’t tell me that telling someone you barely know that they smell good is not creepy, because it is.” They had already crossed stranger boundaries so far that she didn’t think much of placing her hands firmly on his shoulders and shaking him.
“And blood and cinnamon, with a subtle note of pear cider,” he added with a grin.
“A subtle note of pear cider?” she echoed, unable to help the indignant squawk in the back of her throat.
He reached up a hand to touch her cheek, an overly familiar gesture that was clearly intended to make her feel even more uncomfortable. Her eyes focused on his hand. Along his index finger were a clearly visible set of cuts. They were healing over extraordinarily well, but Charis recognised them easily for what they were–bite marks from her own teeth.
The crowd was moving away, Slipknot had finished. People brushed by her and August at the speed of light, and yet she stood frozen in time. The rain was hounding her face, running in rivers off her eyelashes as August cupped her chin with his wounded hand and tilted her head to bring her eyes up to his.
“Are you afraid?” He asked, one corner of his mouth turning up in a questioning gesture.
“No.” She was lying, and at the same time she wasn’t. She had lost all bearing on reality to the point where she wasn’t sure exactly how she felt. She was cold and scared, angry and defiant, ready to run, and yet curiosity tempted her to stay. Her mind had become sluggish and slow, like a computer so suddenly overloaded with information that it grinds to a halt.
“You’re lying,” August murmured. “I can smell fear on you.”
She ignore his statement, and cut straight to the point, “Why did you kill that boy?” she whispered the question.
August sighed, “I was hoping you wouldn’t bring that up,” he took a step closer to her, moving his hand down to her neck. “Peter wanted to kill you outright,” he continued, “he argued that you had already seen too much. I was hoping you’d keep your mouth shut and assume you’d been dreaming. You were never supposed to be there, never supposed to see what you saw. I put so much effort into protecting you that I’ve lost all taste for killing you.”
“Peter insisted on hanging around to make sure you were none the wiser, even after I took the time to clean you up and put you back in your tent.”
Charis shook her head slowly, feeling his fingers sliding against her skin like smooth stone, unmovable.
“I want my windbreaker back,” she said suddenly. It was the first clear thought that returned to her mind.
August laughed, “I have to kill you, you know?”
“Not if I kill you first,” she replied quickly. Her heart had jolted back to life in her chest at his statement, thumping at a million miles an hour.
He chuckled softly, “How would you kill me?” he asked, as he stroked one finger over the pulse in her neck. The crowds were disappearing fast as people returned to their tents for the night, or made their way to the after midnight rave in the village.
“How would you like to die?” she asked carefully, knowing it was a dangerous game that she had chosen to play.
“Well,” he laughed, “certainly not like that boy with the mohawk,”
Charis swallowed, “Is that the way you intend to kill me?” she asked suddenly, thinking of his hand resting poignantly at her neck. “Will you rip my throat out and leave me to bleed to death too?” For a second she thought she saw him grimace.
“I’ll be gentle. If you scream I’ll just break your neck, it will be quick.”
The colour drained from her face, she hadn’t expected his reply to be so soft and serious.
“Have I finally scared you? Your face just went pale,”
“I am slowly processing how serious you are,” she answered, because there didn’t seem any point to disagree. “You can’t kill me right here anyway,” she pointed out.
“Not until everyone has gone,” he agreed.
“Well,” she shifted her body weight, and he tensed, expecting her to run, “I guess I will have to stay where the crowds are then,”
A crooked smile spread across his face, “Sounds wise,” he said.
She turned and began to follow the crowd. He looped arms with her, carefully placing his hand over hers, “Where to then?” he asked, his tone genteel.
They walked back to the campsite village in the drizzle and gloom and once they arrived, Charis pointed toward the rave tent. There was at least a few thousand people inside who certainly weren’t ready to sleep yet. Lights spun in psychedelic rhythm to to music, and the tower of sub woofers blasted out a bass line that the whole crowd moved to, writhing as one. Charis had always been more of a mosher than a clubber, but she wasn’t about to let that get in the way of prolonging her own life.
“I want to go there,” she said, changing their direction and pulling August along with her. She expected resistance, but he was pliable under her direction where before he had been as firm as stone.
“You don’t strike me as much of a dancer,” he said, thoughtfully.
“You don’t strike me as much of a killer,” she replied.
“Nature must obey necessity,” he quoted Shakespeare with disturbing ease. Charis knew the words only for the fact she had paid some attention while studying Julius Ceaser in college.
“No human has a necessity to kill. Ever. We do it because we have become monsters.” Charis told him.
“I never said I was human,” he smiled, but his smile turned mirthless, “monsters, however,” he agreed without explaining.
Feeling him begin to hesitate, she wound herself out of his arm and pulled him along toward the entrance, “I assume you are going to dance with me then?”
“I was thinking of just standing there and leering like the monster I am,” he said, and she was only half sure he was joking, but she took him by the hand anyway and pulled him into the muddy, sweaty mess of the massive dance floor without any further hesitation.
Well, admittedly this story is turning into a longer tale than I initially intended it to be! But I hope you are enjoying it…..! The next chapter is already in progress, watch this space! In the meantime, you might want to catch up with Jenny’s story here and here, because I have a feeling she will also be reappearing soon….