Although I have taken part in pagan community events, I have not been to a Lughnasadh event. This camp and the characters herein are entirely fictional, hence no organisation names or place names. This piece of fiction is a first draft and is subject to change.
Hereafter, the story contains gaps because I worked on the scenes that stood out to me the most before the November 30th deadline.
Today’s wordcount: 2,300
Current Total: 47,000
Pagan Story (Chapter 10 cont.d)
Lughnasadh had come. By six o’clock the hall was filled with families and individuals whom had dressed up in their very best, be it a leather dress, ceremonial dress or a costume of John Barleycorn or The Green Man gone golden brown. Moving distances of more than an inch a minute was only an option if you were small, in which case one navigated and dived through a forest of legs, occasionally causing a ‘trunk’ or two to fall.
“Ooouurgh! I think I landed on me Ogham sticks!”
The stall holders had rotated their stock and some tables looked as full as they had done on the first day. The lapis lazuli necklace and matching bracelet that Tony had seen for a friend’s birthday was no longer there (sold out) and the unusual silver and garnet circlets had been replaced with combs and hair clips. Shopping here ha always felt strange to Tony: there were some things that were difficult to get anywhere else – even on the internet – such as the place mats made of beech wood and scorched with Celtic knots. Some of the jewellery made nice presents, and the thrift railings were good for budget shoppers; he had sorted out his next year’s wardrobe in one hour’s visit. Just about everything else though was either over-priced or complete scrap. He watched a love story unfold earlier as a couple caught sight of a painted plastic tree with a nineteen-twenties cartoon face and manufactured green ‘gemstones’ for eyes. It had become so necessary to their happiness that they could not return home without it. One person’s tat was another’s treasure,Tony reasoned: he wondered what would be made of the collection of Tremar money boxes in the lounge window back home. There wasn’t much here that he thought would suit Flora: she had all that she needed already. What could she want? His head turned to the book stall and he had to force it back to the plants in front of him. Flora could kill anything. She was banned from going too near Rhiannon’s border plants, the pond was his territory (which she was all too happy to let others clean), and Loki had once chased her away from his oak tree hammock with a garden rake. For a pagan named ‘Flora’, the woman had a definite lack of ‘the green touch’, yet she tried. She loved cheese plants. Tony picked out the sacrifice that would become the dining room resident’s successor should it survive, handed over the cash, then paused to consider how it was going to journey home with seven people, seven people’s worth of luggage, and a professional sound system to compete for space with. His mind began making calculations and visualisations: if he opened up the roof hatch, propped it upright and didn’t make any sudden brakes… Bridgit was approaching: he could tell because his ears had become tuned to the pitch of Thomas’s horrendous wail. Tony was going to make his way over to the musical instruments but instead tripped and fell on a girl in a long blue dress whom had been playing hide and seek in the leg forest. He grabbed the tablecloth as he went down, early bringing the miniature cacti onto his legs. Some of them were not so miniature.
“Oh, Alex: I thought it was- never mind. How are things looking backstage?”
“The usual mess and tangle of wires, which we’re trying to sort out now. Duct tape: all that stands between modern civilisation and the forces of chaos, I tell you. Reese is of course complaining about why we had to bring the gear; more like why I – you – had to bring my gear. You remember the sound system two years back? I remember the sound system two years back. Oh dear, oh, dear. This little one won’t stop crying, will you? Where’s your mummy, eh? Where’s your mummy? Where is Bridgit? Have you seen her? I’m going to go on in half an hour: can’t take the little one up there with me.”
Alex struggled with Thomas. Tony realised something, and it felt like a warm blunt object had settled next to his heart. It was a stone. All the time that Alex, Bridgit and Thomas had been in their family’ company, how many times had he held his own son? The stone felt dirty.
“Listen, mate: after this is all over, how about we meet up next weekend and have a chat? Away from the family, you know? It’s been a while.”
“Well I can’t this next weekend: got to go north for a while. Talk later, yeah?” Before Tony could reply Alex was enfolded into the crowd. The only marker for his location was Thomas’s howling lungs.
Loki watched and noticed, lurking in the corridor outside the spare spare cloak room. Bridgit had met up with Wynn, and Thomas wasn’t with her.
“Looking for me, no doubt. I told him that I’d be at the back of the hall, shopping.”
“You sly vixen, you!” He laughed until he coughed. “We’re going to get caught if we do it like this, you know. Loki’s gonna grass on us: he’s too much of a prissy goodie goodie not to. Little shit.” Loki’s head filled with burning coals. His fingers pressed into the packet of chalks still in his pocket. Some carefully placed words, and it would all be over.
“He’s only a year younger than you,” Bridgit snorted. “But yeah, you’re right. He’s probably told his dad already, but luckily I know Tony: nothing’ll come of it.”
“Wait, what? Why nothing? His father – your husbands best friend, am I right? – knows about us, and he won’t say a word?”
“Tony leaves things too long, then finds them not worth mentioning. That, or he won’t get the message across clear enough; Alex can be so dense sometimes,” her tone was part remorse, part fondness. “Got time for a quickie?”
“What? Fuck no!” Wynn giggled. “When’s the old man getting up and doing his thing? Can’t you wait?” Bridgit didn’t answer.
Wynn groaned. The door didn’t do much to dampen the noise and the effervescent crowd seemed to be bottled in the great hall. The smacks, slurps and rustles reverberated. Loki couldn’t bring himself to be embarrassed from listening to those two. He had known that his father wouldn’t do anything – Bridget had known that his father wouldn’t do anything! These doors, he noticed, didn’t have keyholes. No doubt they didn’t have bolt locks, either. All he had to do was to open the door and run away. It wouldn’t be much of a revenge, but it would be the beginning. His ginger hand went towards the knob. His fingers wrapped around the bulb. Touching it sent the vein in his arm throbbing. Loki was choking. Then, footfalls were coming his way. It was the first and the very last person he wanted to be with him right now.
‘I’ve got him to sleep!‘ He mouthed. ‘I’ve got him to sleep!‘ His shoes padded with care along the carpet, coming closer and closer to Loki and the terrible door. Loki’s hand slid from the hand grip and it spun. Its warning went unheeded and the bodies on the other side continued to heave. All he had to do was shout ‘Alex! Hi’ and all would be saved: He might even be redeemed in Bridgit’s eyes, though he held out faint hope for Wynn’s. All he had to do was speak. Move. Make sound. Instead his ribcage pulled in to constrict his lungs and crush his faltering heart.
Alex stopped short of his personal space. ‘Where’s Bridgit?‘ Alex froze. He could hear the noises on the other side of the door. His lips twitched. They turned into a smile. He hasn’t realised – he hasn’t! He thought. As long as Bridgit didn’t speak… Lead him away. Lead him away before it’s too late, his inner voice said. Loki had never felt more rooted than he did in this moment. Alex was starting to scrutinize him. His face was giving it all away, and then he made his biggest mistake: he looked at the door. Bridgit moaned. Alex put his palm on the door and twisted the knob. The barrier slid open and now Loki and Alex could see Aereyst-Wynn – Michael – had his mouth wrapped around Bridgit’s. Her hands were up his dishevelled shirt. His hands were kneading what was at the back of her trousers, but not through the fabric.
What they had seen was like an after image – a moment caught longer than it should have been from staring too long at the sun. Already they were standing three feet apart and waiting. As soon as the door swung open, it swung back on is safety hinge. Alex forced it open. He was the star now: all eyes were on him. Loki couldn’t move from the doorway. The door would shut again soon. He made no move to keep it open. Michael and Bridgit looked at Alex, who had stopped an arm’s reach away. Loki couldn’t see Alex’s face. The other two only watched, as if silence would make all proof go away and speech had the power to make it appear.
“I am going to go on stage in fifteen minutes,” he said, slow and deliberate. The other two were perfect mannequins. Alex screamed. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Thomas woke. The fight continued under his screams, unknown to the rest of the happy holidaymakers.
“What do you mean? We weren-”
“Don’t fucking give me that shit, I saw you! I heard you from the other side of the fucking door!” He paced. Thomas was as frantic as his father. Alex rounded on Michael. “How old are you? Can’t fuck anyone your own age, despite all the drugs and alcohol in the world? Or you just got a thing for other men’s wives?!” The door closed. The latch clicked in the lock.
“You never help me any more!” Bridgit wailed. “I feel – so – alone – with – our baby!”
“Thomas! His name is Thomas! You picked the name, so use it! I never liked it!” Bridgit’s words were disappearing under emotions and tears. Loki wanted to go. He still couldn’t go. His lunch was working its way back up to his throat: what would happen to Thomas? Alex was still shouting. Michael hadn’t said a word: he had nothing to lose but his health. Bridgit would come out the worse. Thomas drowned the words but not the meaning. The door wrenched open and Loki jumped. Wood splintered and pattered onto the carpet. One part of the handle was in Alex’s grip, the other was spinning like a roulette table on the stone section of the floor.
Alex was mauve. White spots marked his face. He looked at Loki. This was the one time that Loki-Joseph couldn’t look away. Alex knew then, that Loki had known, and not just an instant before he had arrived. Guilt burned on his face. Alex walked away, the brass door knob till gripped in his hand. He went to sing ‘The Worship of Trees‘.
Loki’s legs became unstuck. The bathroom had never seemed so far away. The world had never sprinted by so fast. Everything and everyone moved like a trail of phantoms on a sleepless night. Loki ran into a cubicle and slammed the door behind. His palms pressed into either wall while he held his mouth open over the toilet bowl. Nothing would emerge. The sickly heat in his body wouldn’t go away. Nothing would make himself feel better. Even the inner voice was muted. The crowd cheered: the opening bars to ‘The Worship of Trees‘ was being played by Alex’s band. Loki forced his back into the door and slid down against it. He pressed his lungs into his knees.
Now he realised what Rhiannon had meant, that night they had talked beside the ruins. He had known before but now he realised, and the difference was a chasm.
Now it was done as he had wished. Now it was out of his hands.