When we don’t understand or believe something, we tend to form theories in our minds, ways to explain things that allow us to cope, or in the very least allow us to escape into fantasy. The problem for Charis is, how do you deal with those fantasies when they prove to be real?
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The Festival. Night two. Theory of chaos. JR Manawa.
“So do you want to hear my theory?” Charis asked August, yelling over the music as they moved into the dance tent.
August cast her a mildly interested gaze.
“I have restricted my hypotheses to the realm of humanoid possibilities,” she explained, ruminating that putting ‘hypothesis’ and ‘possibilities’ in the same sentence was rather a mouthful before she continued, “so feel free to weigh in at any point if I am way of the mark and you are actually a three headed carnivorous alien who is utilising a visual force field projection to hide in plain sight amongst us mere humans,”
“Three headed carnivorous alien? That would be a first,” he laughed openly and casually. They could have been any boy and any girl in the world, just out together having a fun night. Except they weren’t.
“My actual theories have stuck within the obvious. My most confident bet would be on vampire, followed closely by sentient zombie or werewolf. I would also lean toward incubus as a further development if those were wrong, but I’m basing all this upon assuming a known mythological explanation. I am open to considering something outside of common human knowledge or potentially that you are just a group of unnaturally fit psychopaths, though of all my considerations this somehow seems the most unlikely,” she smirked at her own suggestion.
Before he could reply, the music changed. The beat dropped hard, and Charis flexed down to the floor, moving her body with her hips and running her hands up Augusts’ thighs and onto his chest.
“I don’t know what to do with you,” he admitted suddenly, as she wrapped her arms around his neck and their bodies moved together.
“What do you mean?”
“I think you are crazy,” he whispered.
Charis began to pull back from him but he took her waist in both his hands and held her firm against him.
The idea that he may have been enjoying it ignited a hidden spark of fight in her. “How am I crazy?” she demanded angrily.
“It’s just, do you want to die?” he asked, a vulnerable uncertainty bleeding through his words. “It feels like you have some kind of death wish.” They had stopped dancing completely, and stood in the centre of the floor, their bodies pressed together and the only movement Charis’ chest rising and falling as she caught her breath.
“You gave me a death wish,” she said in a voice between gritted teeth that came out more hurt than she intended it to sound. There were a million reasons she could think of that were cause to live and fight for that right. But what she had seen the night before – the quick and fluid way they had taken the life of the other boy – it had stolen every hope she had of living through the night. In actual fact, the faint hope she had kept was latched onto the signs that August held some kind of weakness toward her. He said he had lost taste for killing her, but what did that really mean?
The DJ was blending a slow, melodic beat into the heavy tribal trance that had been driving the ecstasy of the crowd. Gradually the bass fell deeper and slower, and the space in the music opened up, wide and eerie. Charis kept her arms locked around August’s neck. Her adrenaline rush slowed with the music, and a horrid, empty feeling crashed down around her very suddenly at the thought of death. She had been brought up in a religious home before her parents separated, and while she rejected the idea of a judgemental God, or a pair of fluffy angel’s wings for eternity, she had always held a belief that death would bring a new adventure. That life as she knew it was only the first stage of existence. But what lay beyond the life she knew in the next step of that adventure, she wasn’t so sure. The more she thought on it, the less well composed she realised her theories were and the more empty she felt inside, because feeling was somehow linked with living, and emotion, and a human body that carried her soul.
She didn’t realise that August had begun moving slowly to the music again, carrying her with him. It was easy, he was inhumanly strong and he held Charis against his thigh as he moved her, though he kept his hand respectfully at the small of her back.
His steps were gentle and guiding, and she fell into the dance with him smoothly, for step after step, time ticking over and moments passing as she breathed. Then music came to a complete stop, leaving the dancers waiting, with their hands still swaying in the air before the next song dropped in, heavy and raw.
Charis kissed her forehead to August’s chest and rested there, ignoring the new swell of bass.
She felt his muscles tense, and his cool chest calmed the heat in her forehead.
“You are a vampire, aren’t you?” she whispered under her breath, in a voice which should have been too quiet even for him to hear.
“Does it really matter what I am?” he responded, his lips close to her ear.
“Not to you perhaps, but to me.” She lifted her head and looked him straight into the eyes. “Surely every creature has a desire to look into the eyes of the hunter before it dies, that the hunter would feel the life it chooses to destroy,”
There was a pause in which he blinked, “Most girls just find vampirism ridiculously sexy, if I’m honest,” he commented, and Charis saw it for a lame attempt at humour, a bid to mask the effect her words had.
“Is that before they realise they are going to die?”
“There are those who are turned on by danger, but not by the fear of imminent death,” he explained, peeling himself away from her “Of this I worry, for you, however,” he admitted.
She crossed her arms. “I think how I wish to enjoy my final night alive is entirely my choice, and is something I will let you have very little control over.” She dropped her arms pointedly and walk backward into the writhing crowd, away from him.
August paced forward, following her slowly.
Suddenly Charis felt a hand on her shoulder, she looked up and found two burly men, covered in tattoos, looking down at her.
“Your boyfriend giving you trouble, love?” one of them asked.
Charis opened her mouth and closed it once, her eyes darted to August, who shook his head ever so slightly in threat.
Don’t even try it. His expression said. Yes, I will kill them too.
“He’s not my boyfriend. I was just leaving,” she smiled bravely, and walked between the two men to the other side, leaving them between her and August.
She allowed the crowd to swallow her, to hide her within the tide of movement. The moments passed, and August did not reappear. Even if she did successfully lose him, she had no idea what she would do. He knew where her tent was, he knew Kelly and Nick. She couldn’t put them in danger.
Over her shoulder there was a group of girls, cyber Goths in fluorescent body paint, who moved to the beat with delectable abandon. They had opened up some space on the dance floor, and Charis moved toward them in the hope of finding an easy way out of the crowd, in the opposite direction to that she knew August to be.
She had just broken into the circle of dancers when she felt a hand grasp her own. A cold, strong hand.
“Hi August,” she said, not really surprised. She looked from his hand, up his well cut arm and into his eyes. She couldn’t read what he was thinking.
“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” he asked, with a feigned innocence in his voice.
She shrugged, “No, no I didn’t. It was all just getting a little to claustrophobic,” she pulled away and twirled into the dance with the cyber girls.
“Do you really want to test my patience, Charis?” he asked casually as she spun by him a second time.
Very suddenly, one of the women stopped dead in her dance and straightened up. Charis almost crashed straight into her as she turned to face August.
Charis shrunk back in surprise. The woman’s eyes were mere slits, a pale golden yellow that melted into the warm tones of her skin. She was older than Charis, mixed race and tall, with slender arms that only thinly veiled the detailed muscular sinew beneath them. Her wiry curls were pulled back into two perfect puffs, held in place with wide tribal bands, and her forehead was crowned with a chain of cowry shells and belly dancer coins that glittered in the strobe lighting. The fluorescent tribal and cyber fusion markings she wore on her bare skin shone blue under the black lights, in between her clothing, a simple crop top and hot pants with chunky New Rock boots.
“Hello,” she said, looking straight over Charis’ head and smiling thinly at August.
August scrunched up his nose like he smelt something bad, and ran his tongue over his lips, “Why would you possibly say hello to me?” he asked, as he reached forward and snatched Charis’ hand in his again.
“To make you aware of my presence.” Her smile grew warmer and more confident.
“Is that a threat?” he asked, a dull chill to his own voice that contrasted starkly with hers.
She laughed, “No, did it come across so?” Her surprise was blatantly feigned.
Charis stepped back a little, moving out of the path between them, but August still had his cold fingers entwined with hers and he kept a tight grip.
“You smell so young,” he told the woman, though she was older and taller than him.
“An astute observation,” she said.
“And you are very alone,” he said, to Charis’ surprise. In amongst the thousands that packed into the tent, she wasn’t sure that there was any way this girl could be classed as alone.
“There are plenty of my kind nearby,” she growled.
“But you don’t run with them,”
Her yellow eyes narrowed to slits, and Charis felt August tense, even down to the muscles in his fingers. Whatever this girl was, she was not a vampire, and August had cause to fear her though he goaded her.
“I don’t need them,” she said, her expression blank, she pursed her red lips and looked to Charis, “are you okay?” she asked, not unkindly.
Suddenly August let go of her hand, let her fingers slip from his grasp in graceful defeat.
“You know the law, Were,” he said, forcing a hard edge into his voice.
“My name is Jenny,” the girl told him.
Charis thought August had been about to say something further, but in that moment Jenny grabbed Charis’ arm and ran toward the door.
As Jenny burst from the tent, dragging Charis behind her like a pull toy, the sun peeled its first rays of dawn over the horizon, and warmth and daylight began to melt over the festival site. Charis looked back over her shoulder to watch August melt into the remaining darkness without even looking back.