****** Fictional Story ******
The night was dark and mellow. Although the music had stopped for the night, the vibes still carried throughout the cool, crisp air. It was an invisible blanket that enveloped her allowing her to feel safe and pleasant. She hadn’t been ready for bed yet. There was no way she had lied in order to skip work for three days to just simply go to sleep. Work had taken up most of her time these past few months and although grateful she was to have had that as a distraction throughout her ordeal, still she was happy to be here present in this moment. It felt amazing for her to get away. She was out in the wilderness not only camping and being one with the Universe, but she was among her kind. Here she didn’t stand out. She was able to be herself, she was able to enjoy the present without a thing negatively getting to her. Her focal point for this trip was a journey towards absolute happiness and throughout her first night here she was beginning to feel it.
She still had the buzzing of the music playing in her ears so even if she wanted to try to sleep, she knew she wouldn’t be able to. If anything she’d just lay down and stare up at the sky for a bit, contemplate life for a while. He had already gone to bed. How, she didn’t know because she had remembered him taking a bean not too long ago and that was of what she saw him take. Who knew how many he had already bought and popped. Yet when they made it back to the campsite he had gone straight to bed. That spelled one word to her “duds.”She knew who he had bought them from and advised against it from the beginning. Sure, she had been away from the scene for quite a bit now but she still knew the dealers and their product as well as the quality. A schemer never stops scheming and so when he had bought the beans from Valco that had made her laugh a little. Money poured right down the drain.
She was hiding behind the tent popping a squat and couldn’t see very well. It was pitch black except for the fire that was still burning bright, yet its comforting light couldn’t reach where she was. She maneuvered as best she could trying to shift her wide leg Jnco jeans away from the stream she was creating. She couldn’t help but giggle when she had almost lost her balance, one jean leg skimming the puddle that filled up under her. When she finished, she grabbed the toilet paper that she had left sitting on top of the cooler for easy access. She searched it for bugs and once she was sure there was nothing on it, she tore of a few sheets and quickly wiped. At the same time she felt a bite or two on her exposed thigh. “Fucking mosquitoes..” she mumbled as she pulled up her jeans and made her way back to the tent. It seemed that no amount of bug spray could ever really protect her from the bugs.
Instead of laying completely inside the tent snuggled in her sleeping bag, she decided to leave it unzipped, moved her sleeping bag closer to its entrance, and laid on her back with her head sticking out of it’s opening. She wanted to drift off to sleep staring up at the stars. As she laid there she couldn’t help but feel as though the tent was birthing her. Laying there, gazing up at the crystallized night sky, she let herself get carried away, slowly allowing for the last of her dance buzz to wear off. She went over the night in her mind remembering how comfortably numb she had felt as she let herself get lost in the lights, floating away on the music’s current. Nothing had been able to touch her. At one point she had even taken off her sneakers and socks to totally vibe out, the soft grass slipping between her toes as she danced.
She had almost drifted off to sleep when all the sudden a sense of doom crept in, breaking up the bliss she had created in her mind.
Her cheeks were beginning to grow warm and she wondered that even though she was quite a ways from where the fire pit burned, would it still be close enough to make her warm like this? She sits up and feels her face. She was incredibly warm and oddly enough her lips too were beginning to feel weird. Puffy almost. The doom-like feeling she was surprised with was growing more intense. Her legs were now feeling itchy. She felt under her pant legs and traced her legs with the tips of her fingers, shocked to find raised bumps completely covering every section her slender fingers roamed over.
A slight panic began to rise within her and so she turned into the tent,
“Babe! Babe! Wake up!!” She shouted in a whisper. They had been sharing their camp site with his friends from work and she definitely didn’t want to wake them. The last thing she wanted was to make a crazy ordeal of what may just be a tiny incident. He hadn’t heard her so she quickly began to tap him, harder with each time. Her lips felt as though they were swelling with every second that passed and now she could feel it in her throat. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me babe! Seriously, wake up. Please!” Full panic was starting to set in. She smacked him on his chest hoping this would wake him up. He began to stir, waking up to a look of panic deeply set within her cranberry brown eyes, sheer terror dancing there.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on with you??” He was sitting up right, looking to see what was going on but had noticed nothing other than her freaking out. “What the fuck did you take? You know you’re not supposed to be taking shit babe!” He was frightened it was obvious in his eyes. He thought that she was on a bad trip of some sort and she knew that if she panicked the situation could turn into something dramatic. Still, it was now that she realized that it was getting harder for her to breath. The fear of what could happen crept into the back of her mind. It was like death was standing far off in the corner trying to decide whether it was hungry or not. She began to think about how she should have never come here to begin with.
The weekend of the rave she had been scheduled to work and instead she had done something she hadn’t done in years. She had ended up lying to her bosses to get that weekend off. This of course wasn’t her normal behavior, or at least it hadn’t been for the last 17 months. Once she had decided to get clean things had changed.
Her throat was feeling warm, but worse, it felt like it was thickening, threatening every breath of air she tried to take.
“I didn’t take …anything…” her breath she tried to maintain slow and steady.
“What do you feel? Tell me what’s going on!” He was analyzing her, probably trying to make sure she hadn’t really taken anything. He ran his fingers on her legs, “Oh my God babe!! What the fu..” He placed his hands underneath her pant legs this time, “You’re covered in bumps!” He grabbed her face so that he could get a better look at her. She angled her face up towards him to allow him a better look never forgetting to keep her breathing steady. “What’s going on with you babe? Did you maybe drink something that someone gave you?” He was beginning to feel guilty for having brought her out here camping with him. The situation had been compromising for her and they both had known it, yet they had believed she was strong enough to have keep herself away from anything that would have messed with her sobriety. Now his doubts were setting in and it was unnerving her. Her eyes were closed and her thoughts distant. She was trying to keep herself calm and stayed silent for a few more beats before she answered him.
“All I did… was dance. I went to pee….. a few times. I got you… beers between… bathroom breaks.” This was all said barely above a whisper. She had to try to keep a slow pace when she spoke to try to steady her breathing. Her throat was thick and it was getting extremely hard to swallow her saliva. Quickly she discarded that thought. “Focus on breathing. Stay Calm” is all she could think about right now.
“Should we go to the hospital??!! He shifted around in his sleeping bag as if trying to get untangled from its grip. “Like I don’t know what to do!” He still wore his winter beanie which was in the shape of a bright blue teddy bear face with evil clown-like eyes. The red and veiny eyes, out lined in sharp black lines, were staring directly at her, deep in to her soul.
“No! No hospital…” She closed her eyes hard. She could control this. She’s heard about how your mental state could determine how certain things in your body affected you. This was their first night of the camping trip. She refused to be the one to ruin it. “I can work through this,” she said out loud but mostly to herself. “I just need to… breath.” She remained sitting in the tent for a second until she realized how intensely he was looking at her, his anxiety radiating off of him in waves.She needed to be away from this. It was as though his anxiety was causing for her throat to swell even more. Her entire face felt hot, her cheeks feeling like hot lava cakes. Her mouth had swollen up badly, her lips feeling like a duck’s bill. She needed out of this tent NOW. She lurched to her feet slightly losing her balance for a second, then quickly decided to sit back down for a few more seconds.
“What are you doing?? Sit down.. here drink some water.” He hands her the bottled water, the cap already off, and she takes a small sip just enough to wet her mouth a bit. She takes in a little more, realizing that she’s actually thirsty but could barely swallow it.
“I just.. need to get.. outside.. and … chill. I need fresh .. air.” This time she took her time getting up and made her way through the tent’s opening.
“Yo, are you sure you want to go outside? Why don’t you just lay down instead, c’mon babe.” He pats the empty space beside him. Under normal circumstances she would have found him adorable in that moment. His big brown eyes were full of worry and reflected the dancing flames that continued to burn in the fire pit fiercely. His creepy bear beanie had slid down, hanging on only half his head now, a smirk escaping from the raver bear’s lips.
“I’ll be.. back… I just .. need fresh… air. I need to… calm.. myself down.” She turned away from the tent, internally repeating to herself that she would be alright. She believed that the power of positive thinking would get her out of this. She slowly made her way to the chair that sat right in front of the fire pit, making sure not to trip over all the crap that had been thrown around the site during the rave’s chaos, and then plopped right down into it. Her head felt like it weighed a million pounds. She couldn’t even lick her lips her mouth was so swollen. Not being able to deal with the weight of her head any longer, she leaned her head back and stared straight up into the night’s abyss. The sparkles that danced within its void captured her, trapping her gaze, and seemed to conspire in never letting her go. She sat there captivated, eyes locked onto the diamonds of the night, and there she remained. Lost in nature’s trance. She remained there long after the fire pit’s flames smoldered out. Still so as the first signs of the rising sun began to show.
Ben abruptly woke up. How had he just fallen back asleep? He had waited some time for her to return and must have just drifted off to sleep when she didn’t . He crawled out of the tent still heavy with sleep. His eyes quickly squinted against the daylight but he still searched the campsite for Lily. The place was a disaster, riddled with garbage from the night before. He then spotted Lily sitting in the chair gazing up into the sky.Poor Lil. It broke his heart that she hadn’t come back to the tent and more so that he had fallen asleep instead of staying up with her. She probably hadn’t slept at all, too freaked out to.
“Babe?! You feeling better doll?” He kept his voice low to not wake anyone else up. Rubbing the crusties out of his eyes, he made his way over to her. Either she hadn’t heard him or she was sleeping. “Hey, wake up. You’re going to get a crick in your neck lounging out like that.” It was with one more step that he then realized what was really going on with her and stood there too stunned to take another step.
Her lips were the first thing he noticed. They looked like she had spent the night sucking face with a vacuum cleaner hose. They were extremely puffy, dried out and cracked, and instead of their pretty shade of pink they had turned a deep purple. Her chest was covered in huge hives that were no longer red, just puffy. They went from the sides of her neck all the way down her chest, disappearing under her bright pink Hello Kitty zip-up. Her face had lost all color and had now set into a light blue, highlighting the tunnels of veins under her skin.
He had known almost immediately that she had been dead, but it wasn’t until he got a little closer and saw her eyes that his breath caught in his throat, eyes instantly welling up with tears. Her eyes were wide open still, staring up into the sky, and hidden within the corners of her eyes, a slight smile. A smile one could only see if you truly knew Lily for it was not obvious, it was just faintly there. He knew she was gone but her expression looked more alive now than ever. A desperate wave of sadness washed over him. He reached up to stroke her cheek and the instant his skin touched down to hers he fell to his knees.
“Fuuuuucccckkkk! Lily!!” A groan similar to a wounded animal’s escaped his lips. All he had wanted was for them to get away for the weekend. She had been working so hard on getting her life back together. She’d gotten clean and had held two jobs to keep herself busy and away from temptation. It had taken some time to convince her to get the weekend off but with a little effort she agreed to. Music had been her religion and nature her church of worship. When the rave had been initially announced and he saw it was to be held at the campsite he was convinced that this would be the place to take her. Now she was gone.
Ben looked up and just stared at the shell that had once been his girlfriend. He stared at the face of this girl he now hardly recognized. Her eyes were the only things about her that still looked familiar. He had loved her eyes from the first day they had ever met. A beautiful deep brown color with specks of dark red. Cranberry Eyes. As he stared at her he noticed movement by her nose. He moved in for a closer look when he noticed a bright red fire ant crawling around her nostril and quickly flicked it off of her. He then noticed a few more crawling on the sleeves of her sweater. As he continued to scan her body, he was shocked as he spotted more and more. Instantly he knew what had happened. The proof was there, what seemed like hundreds of them, roaming over the new territory they had recently conquered. The bottoms of her Jnco jeans looked like they were covered in a moving blanket of deep red. He took a near by twig and carefully lifted one of the pants legs up to get a look at her legs. Just as he had suspected, her ankle and leg were mercilessly bitten, now severely swollen, from the evil bugs.
It must have been during the night as she danced, numb to the world except for the music, that these silent killers took a hold of her. How hadn’t she felt them?? She hadn’t been high nor drunk, but music to her was equally as intoxicating and so he believed that she truly hadn’t felt a thing until maybe it was too late. Everyone who knew Lily knew she had been allergic to certain insect bites. Her mom had always joked about how the bugs loved her sweet blood. He had seen small allergic reactions with her before like slight swelling around the bite, but had never seen anything remotely close as to what he saw last night. He didn’t even think Lily knew what had struck her last night. Neither of them had. He quickly flashed back to a time when her mother had asked her to see a doctor in order to find out how allergic she was, but Lily argued that her lack of health insurance was what had been stopping her.
“I can’t afford a co-pay visit, testing, and then maybe later on an epi-pen.” She waved her hand in dismissal. “I got other things to work through first.” Now he wished so badly that he would have made her go. If he would have made her see a doctor like her mother had begged her to do, she would probably still be here. Still, she had taken precautions for fuck’s sake! Her zip-up and long jeans in the middle of September in Florida, her four cans of bug spray that she had strategically placed around the camp site for easy access. She thought she had had her bases covered and all for what? For her to fucking die anyways? He sobbed like a ravaged wild animal. She had beaten the drugs but that hadn’t meant she had beaten death. Death had calmly waited for her, watching for the perfect moment to come and sweep her away. It had come during a time in which its prey was most vulnerable. When she had been lost in her religion, while she had been out attending her church. He sat there by her, sobbing, until a stranger wondering by discovered them.
Lily watched as the heart and the soul of Ben mourned for her. This would be his story, his challenge to overcome. His journey here was to put back the pieces that have shattered away from his soul due to this in order to become stronger. From this point on, it would be his story to construct, the ending still unknown. She lingered there for a while listening to his cries, not wanting for them to fall on deaf ears. She, instead, absorbed them, and in return, sent him a current of love, vibes to help him with his journey. She placed a hand on his shaking shoulder, leaned in and whispered in his ear, “I’ll see you later,” a phrase commonly uttered between the two, for they never ever said “good-bye” Within seconds his cries stopped and she knew that he had felt her there beside him. She would make sure to always be there whenever he needed her. It was a promise she made to him before turning to go. With that she turned towards the lights that had been patiently waiting for her. Colors of red, blue, greens, and pinks outlined the direction she was to gravitate towards. She feels the music’s bass pound to a rhythm she had never heard before and she begins to drift towards the swirling lights.The music grows louder the closer she gets, penetrating deeply into her soul. She feels a cool breeze and it makes its way around her like a blanket, stirring the side of her head with her long hair, whipping it into a mess, and tickling the side of her shaved scalp like imaginary claws slowly tracing the zigzags buzzed into her short shaved hair. A feeling of ecstasy erupts within her and with that she closes her eyes, allowing herself to get lost in beat of the music, and off she carried by the breeze. Her body moves to beat of the after life and just like that she soars off into the clouds of a raver’s paradise.
Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Muse: Angie M. and Sebas, Location: Day Glow Fort Myers, Fl 2013