The Festival. Day three. In the end.

Nothing like a bit of fun at the festival before we re-introduce our antagonist, right?

The Festival. Day three. In the end.

The zipper on the tent doorway flapped wildly in the early morning breeze as Charis crawled into the door of her tent. Nick was already cooking bacon on a disposable barbeque outside their tent, and he chuckled wickedly as Charis tip disappeared into her tent.

“Walk of shame?” Kelly asked, peeking her head out.

Charis grunted and collapsed onto the floor of her tent.

It was mid afternoon when she was finally roused again by Kelly throwing a can of cider into her tent, followed by a tray of hot donuts. “Are you even coming out today?” she asked.

Pushing herself up and wiping the makeup out of her eyes with the back of her hand, Charis then finally crawled out of her tiny tent. Her back hated her for the fact that she still hadn’t pumped up her airbed, and sleeping in a tent under the heat of a midsummer’s sun was a sweaty and claustrophobic experience. Charis cracked open the warm cider before she even looked at the donuts.

Outside the tent, both Kelly and Nick were sitting in their camp chairs, cans already in hand. They had been chatting for some time before Charis appeared, she had heard them from inside the tent, but once she appeared they both fell silent.

“Good night last night?” Kelly asked finally, adjusting her Stetson and taking a long sip from her can.

“I’ve had better,” Charis replied, quite honestly. There was no way she could tell them what had happened. She wouldn’t put them anywhere near the danger at all if she could help it. “Did you find your phone?” she asked, as the events of the night came tumbling back into place within her mind.

Kelly nodded, “I am a complete numpty. It was just lying on the chair under the awning, out in the open.”

“You are so lucky, you know that?” Nick told her.

“Yes, yes I do know, you’ve told me several times,” she snapped.

Charis had to laugh.

“Are you going to eat those?” Kelly asked suddenly, nodding her head toward the tray of donuts she’d brought Charis.

“I want to say no, but yes, I am,” Charis stuffed one in her mouth before passing the tray around.

“Okay, we are already missed Apocalptica, are you going to be ready to go soon? Otherwise we will be missing Rise Against and the one you wanted to see, was it A Day to Remember?” Nick pointed out, looking up from the festival programme on his phone.

“Okay, okay, just let me sort myself out,” she reversed back into her tent, and changed her clothes. She didn’t bother removing the makeup from yesterday, instead she re-applyed straight over the top and wiped away what had smudged onto her cheeks while she slept, before tying her hair up into two buns, and winding a string of black silk flowers around them. She scrawled a line of stars over her cheeks and forehead with a black eyeliner pencil, and threw on an oversized Black Veil Brides t shirt with jean shorts and her knee high Dr Martens.

When she crawled back out of the tent, she found Nick cutting the neck out of the Jack Daniels t shirt Kelly was wearing with his pocket knife. Kelly was watching his work from the reflection on her phone screen.

“No no! You missed that bit!” Kelly directed him.

“I’m ready when you are,” Charis announced, walking past them and out onto the pathway that had become a landslide of mud overnight. Her Dr Martens sunk deep into the mud until they found purchase on the solid ground beneath. She squished them around for a bit, ruminating over the thought that they would never be wholly clean again, before she considered that she would be dead by dawn tomorrow anyway, and it didn’t really matter in that event whether her boots were clean or not. She chewed on her lip and stared at the mud on the ground, listening to the squelching of boots and the sound of the ill-prepared floundering in their flip flops and converse sneakers as they passed her by.

Nick and Kelly joined her before she had time to dwell in her thoughts, and together they began their muddy trek from the camp site to the arena.

“Why’re you so quiet?” Kelly asked as she walked alongside Charis.

“Tired I guess,” Charis shrugged and smiled ruefully.

“I don’t understand how you were out that late,” Kelly laughed.

“I met some girls after I lost Nick at the Mainstage,” Charis lied, “We went back to the big top, where they have that all night rave. It was pretty crazy. I danced too much, my thighs are killing,” It wasn’t entirely a lie, but she couldn’t very well tell Kelly that she’d spent the night on the dance floor with a vampire believing that she was going to die.

They missed the first part of Rise Against, and then went on to see all of A Day to Remember, where they met up with Ben and Amy again, and the gamer boy from the first night, whose name Charis learned was actually Robbie. Feeling very much the odd one out with only Robbie for company, Charis finally abandoned them to work her way into the depths of the pit for Black Veil Brides.

“Come here love, give us a kiss!” One of the punters demanded suddenly, wrapping his arms around Charis out of nowhere and pulling her toward him. Charis could smell the alcohol on him as she shouted in surprise and struggled to wriggle away from his sweaty body.

“How about no?” She shoved him backwards.

“Are you all right there?” the boy next to her asked, as the drunk moved on to two other girls in the crowd. Unfortunately for him they were standing by their boyfriends. Charis didn’t have a chance to respond to the question before the drunk came flying back toward them, having taken a fist to his face.

He spat blood and laughed, flipping his middle finger at the one who punched him before turning back to Charis, “So is this one your boyfriend then?” he asked, eyeing up the boy who had asked Charis if she was all right. He was young, with a shock of chocolate brown hair and a septum piercing, and he turned to raise one eyebrow at Charis.

“Yes, yes he is,” Charis ducked behind him.

“What?” the boy laughed as the drunk leered at him.

“You did ask how I was,” Charis reminded him.

“Ahh, I didn’t expect to have to rescue you,” he glanced back at her over his shoulder and grinned, “I’m David, by the way,”

“Well thanks all the same, David,” she laughed.

“You’re a dirty rotten liar. He isn’t your boyfriend,” the drunk reached around David to grab at Charis again.

David was quick to shove him away, but in the thick of the pit, someone else pushed him back toward them. David side-stepped quickly as the drunk swayed back toward them, and Charis only just jumped out of the way in time for him to tumble to the ground, clutching at another girl’s legs for balance. The girl screamed, and two of the men in the crowd took it upon themselves to pick him up off the ground and toss him toward the other side of the mosh pit.

“Thanks for that,” Charis said to David, rather apologetically, as they watched the drunk fly through the air.

He grinned impishly and brushed his hair out of his eyes as he shrugged in response, “Do you always go in the mosh pit alone?” he asked suddenly.

Charis shrugged, “Just today. Sometimes you have to live like it’s your last night on earth, right?”

He frowned, and then smiled, “Yeah, I guess so. I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name?”

“Charis,” she said, as the next song started and the pit opened up in front of them. David threw himself into the brawl straight away. Charis watching him disappear in a mess of flying arms and legs, and could only laugh. It wasn’t long before he was sent flying back.

“I think someone just punched me in the chest!” he laughed wildly, yelling over the music.

Charis shook her head as he pushed himself back in.

She almost didn’t notice the sun beginning to set as the pyrotechnics came to life on stage and the song ‘In the end’ belted out across the crowd, with Andy Biersack encouraging the crowd to sing with him.

It wasn’t until Charis sung the words that she realised how empty she felt.

In the end, as we fade into the night

She hadn’t run when perhaps she could have. She hadn’t told anyone about what had happened, and maybe she actually should have. She hadn’t fought for her life, and what if her life was actually worth saving?

Who will tell the story of your life?

It was only now as the sun set on her short day of freedom that she began to realise how little she valued her own life, and how calm she was about the idea of simply not existing any more, and how easily she had believed in her own fate and accepted everything she’d been told.

And who will remember your last goodbye?

She looked from the band on stage, Andy roaring into his microphone, and the flames as they exploded over the crowd, and then she looked down to David in the pit, throwing his own body around with reckless abandon, and she had to swallow a lump in her throat.

‘Cause it’s the end and I’m not afraid to die.

Perhaps, it was time to run.

She wouldn’t tell Kelly or Nick. Disappearing completely would be the best method to keep them safe. In fact, she wouldn’t tell anyone, she wouldn’t go home, she’d just run as far and fast as she could. There wasn’t much to leave behind anyway, in all truth.

I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid to die.

“Are you not going to say good bye to your new friend?” a voice asked smoothly. She’d been looking at the ground as she pushed her way out of the crowd, but her head snapped up quickly when she heard the voice.

“August,” she breathed, and looked up into his eyes. He was standing right in the middle of her path. The sun had set and she had almost walked straight into his chest without realising it. His eyes stared back, grey and cool, searching her.

Then he smiled, “I told Peter he couldn’t have you, you know? I like you too much, but I don’t see why he can’t have your little friend over there,” he grinned, nodding toward David.

The crowd surged and changed around them. Black Veil Brides had finished their final song, and now Marilyn Manson was coming to the stage. Smoke billowed out over the audience, and Charis and August were so close to the stage that they were engulfed in the grey haze along with everything around them.

“If you mean David, you can leave him alone. I hardly know him,” Charis glanced over her shoulder at the boy with the septum ring. He was oblivious as he watched the stage, waiting impatiently for Manson to begin.

“If you hardly know him, then surely you cannot be too bothered if Peter takes a liking to him.”

“I don’t see Peter,” Charis commented, turning to look for him, but August spun her back to face him. She glared at August, “If you don’t leave him alone, I’ll cry wolf right here, right now,” she was pressed up against him as the impatient crowd grew tighter. She could feel his cold breast rise and fall with the mimic of his breathing.

“You should have done that last night when you met the werewolf,” he laughed.

“It’s a figure of speech,” Charis replied sourly.

“There is a fair chance I have a better command of the English language than you,” he replied, his tone a little insulted.

She glared at him, “So have you come to crack lame jokes and threaten me, or are you going to finish what you started?” 

Written by JR Manawa.

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