In the thirteenth hour of the music festival, Ty’s energy had come and gone. His phone was smashed and his group of friends, Diana, Josh and Sandra had dispersed and his calm demeanor and firm grasp of logic started to unravel.
Ty had been looking forward to going to a festival for the better part of the year. Work had drained him. He hadn’t expected the festival to be grueling hard work. Admittedly, he didn’t like the group he had gone with either. Ty worked his way in somehow and took the fourteen hour drive to the middle of nowhere. Most of it was done by him, for the others pushed the responsibility on him while they laughed, played, smoked and slept.
As their destination drew near, Ty began to realize the lack of promotion the festival had produced and couldn’t recognize any bands he knew. By the time he had arrived, it became clear this was an impromptu music festival and people just showed up in the middle of a wide meadow for the festivities. He had heard of Coachella on the internet, but no one was live streaming the festivities here. Perhaps, they had a rule. But that rule was silly. You can’t stop someone from streaming and sharing their life on social media. A second theory crash landed in Ty’s mind. Maybe, none of the participants had cell phones. That was an even scarier prospect. Ty didn’t fit into this culture.
The food the vendors provided was local and homegrown. Ty tried his best to keep his face still for it looked wholly unappealing. There wasn’t any popular alcoholic brands either that Ty enjoyed. He wandered from tent to tent, declining any sale or meal that strangers had suggested. The group had passed up several opportunities for fast food along the way, so Ty was rightfully famished.
A woman slinked her way over to him donning a halter top with a long black skirt. The ends were muddied up. Her belly chain hugged her curves as she approached him with an alluring smile.
“You look lost,” the woman said.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Ty said, shifting his shoulders nervously.
“Let me guess,” she said. “First timer?”
“That bad, huh?” The strange woman nodded. Her eyes were a piercing blue set. Ty was drawn to her but, he couldn’t bring himself to look into her eyes. He surmised that she may have been on drugs. Her hips wouldn’t stop moving, regardless if there was music playing or not. “You know what it is? I don’t recognize any of the artists. You’d think after all this time living on this beautiful green earth, I’d know something someone has played.”
“There’s always room for discovery on this delicious earth.”
Ty blinked. “Delicious,” he thought. Not the word he would’ve associated with the planet he lived on, but he shrugged it off. “I guess so. I’m committed. Am I right?”
“Who’d you come with, deer,” the woman asked.
“Some friends,” Ty replied. “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call them friends. More like work acquaintances.“
“Oh? That’s unfortunate. Sharing yourself with someone is a gift. Life’s beautiful exchange.“
Ty smirked with a nervous chuckle. “Yeah. I guess so… stranger.”
“Nadia. My name is Nadia.”
“My name is Ty.” The two shook hands and Nadia pulled Ty’s hand in to kiss it. Ty slowly pulled his hand back.
“Do I intimidate you, Ty? I don’t bite… unless I’m hungry.“
Ty laughed awkwardly. “No. You don’t. You’re just…“
“What? Say it.“
“You’re a beautiful woman.”
“Do you think that, Ty?”
Ty nodded. “Do you have any friends here, Nadia?”
“I live here… in the woods. People came here into my home and started the dancing freely and the music was delightful.“
Ty’s eyebrows flashed wide. “Oh! So you live here. As in right here. Of course.”
“You think I’m strange…”
“Strange is relative. City life for you might be bizarre. But clearly, it’s something I miss.“
“I see. Perhaps in another life we can meet.”
“Wait. I’m sorry,” Ty said woefully. “That was rude of me. I’m just adjusting to all of this.“
“Come with me, Ty,” Nadia said with a reassuring smile.
“Oh. Of course.”
Nadia grabbed Ty’s hand and led him into the open meadow and began dancing. She rotated her hips to the distant drums that played in the distance. She caressed her sides and invited Ty to come closer with her pointer finger.
Ty stood awkwardly as all the people around him danced with feverish intensity. He shook his head shyly and shimmied away as the others around him swayed with wide swishing arms in the air.
Ty turned away from the crowd and approached the tents. He had seen the sun was beginning to set and the music wasn’t any semblance of what he considered normal. The music has morphed into tribal drums and yelling.
Men and women were littered around the camp naked and dancing. Ty was instantly turned off. He had no idea what was happening, but he knew he had to leave.
He had made it to the edge of the festival when the music and the people stopped. All in unison. Silence filled the space where sound once resides and an eeriness settled across the surface.
Ty turned around and wondered if someone had slipped him something against his will. Whispers began to fill his ears. Was this a dream?
“It’s not a dream, Ty,” he thought to himself.
Ty ignored it all and began sweating as he called out for his friends. No answer. The remaining people he had seen around him were planted in the ground, staring intensely at him. Ty knew he would have to make it back to the van.
“Where are you going, Ty,” Nadia asked. She somehow had traversed a great distance without Ty understanding how.
“Bathroom,” Ty said, pointing nervously to the trees.
“Let me show you the way,” she said, extending her hand with her palm facing up.
“I don’t need your help. Thank you.“
Nadia smiled. “You’re not leaving here without me.”
Ty bolted for the woods. The others ran after him. Some were clothed. Some were naked. They all screamed unnaturally. Their voices carried out in echoes to the stale, humid air.
Ty knew that he had to act fast. He hadn’t eaten for most of the day and his stomach was growling loudly. He would run out of energy before outrunning the howlers. He leaped over downed tree barks like he had done in his high school track meets. Over the third trunk, he picked up a hefty rock and lobbed it as far as he could. The sharp corner collided with the surface and landed onto the ground, creating a rustling sound. Ty ducked and crouched into the divot where the tree trunk met the ground. The howlers leapt over and ran across the forest grounds. Ty held his breath as the rest followed.
Several minutes had passed, and Ty sipped air as his heart raced inside his chest. His frame was still, but his stomach searched for fuel. His eyes searched left and right, hoping to see a way out after the howlers finished their search. His eyes fell upon a woman hiding near an upright tree. Her bare knees were exposed. His eyes followed her legs to her body and then her eyes. She was terrified. They both were thinking the same thing. What do they do know?
Ty heard rustling behind them. The strangers eyes remained wide, but Ty knew what was in her mind. What now? Who was here?
“I know you’re there Ty,” Nadia said, walking carefully in the wilderness. You cannot hide from me. Nadia was patrolling the woods, her gaze looked about from the ground to the treetops. Ty knew he was the object of her desire, but she was walking straight towards the partially hidden woman.
“Why do you hide from me, Ty? There is no one left. You’re friends are gone. It’s just you and me. You know what it’s like to be hungry, don’t you Ty?“
She paused in front of the tree. The woman’s eyes were fixed on Ty. She was stricken with fear.
“You’re making me angry, Ty,” Nadia said softly. “I will not rest until I’ve had you.” Nadia twisted about on the tips of her toes, looking near and far. Her long dark dress flowed and swished in the dark. “There’s always room for discovery on this delicious earth. You and I can become one.“
Nadia was standing right next to the woman. Her eyes were open wide, but her body was stiff like cardboard. Her eyes screamed for help, but her and Ty remained motionless. As soon as Nadia stepped next to her, her eyes closed shut.
“Ty,” Nadia said softly. “I’ve found y-” Nadia paused and looked below her. The woman may have been able to play a deceased woman, but Nadia’s lips grew into a smile. “Hello, deer,” she said warmly. You are not who I am looking for, but you… you are enough. Rise, deer.“
The woman began sobbing. Nadia’s face melted away to sadness. “No… no. Don’t cry. You are safe here with me.”
“Please don’t… hurt me,” the woman sobbed.
Nadia softly caressed and kissed the back of the woman’s hand. “I said, rise,” Nadia said loudly. Her voice traveled far into the night air.
The woman struggled to her feet.
“You and I… we shall become one. But before we do, I must ask you. Do you know where my Ty is? He is lost. I want to find him.“
Ty remained fixed with his eyes glued to the sky. He knew if he made eye contact with the woman, he would give himself up. His stomach growled loudly, but it was masked by the woman’s soft sobbing.
“Look at me,” Nadia said sympathetically. “Do you know where Ty is?”
The woman looked up to the sky, tears welling in her eyes. “I don’t know who Ty is, she replied in soft gasps for air.”
Nadia pulled her chin down so she could stare into her classy eyes. “He’s tall. Bushy hair. Square chin. Muscular. Wide shoulders. Tan, soft skin… like yours.” Nadia slid her fingertips over her soft skin. Nadia looked from her skin to her eyes. “Have you seen him?”
The woman’s stomach convulsed as she stifled her cries. “No,” the woman said quietly. “I haven’t.”
Nadia’s eyelids grew heavy with boredom. “Oh well,” Nadia said with a shrug. The howlers leaped in from the shadows and carried the screaming woman away.
“Ty I know you’re out there and I know you can hear me,” Nadia said in a less sensual voice. “That woman needed you and you just left her all alone. I hope you’re satisfied with yourself. She’s on your conscience. Do you want that stain on your conscience, Ty? Do you?”
Ty closed his eyes and slowly sipped air as he wrestled with the fate of the woman in Nadia’s camp. What would he do?