As we stepped into the marquee, Gemma turned to me and said ‘Three things are certain in life. Death, taxes and rain at festivals.‘
The oddly reassuring aroma of sweaty men, beer and furtive cigarettes of all kinds greeted us both. Sure, Neon Catafalque were playing next on the main stage but we’d already stood through fifty minutes of torrential rain and needed shelter.
Smiling to herself, Gemma reached into the chest pocket of her oh-so-retro radioactive puke green and retina-scorching pink cagoule and pulled out her phone. ‘Ha! It lives yet! This thing IS 100% waterproof. Told you you should have got one too.‘
I rolled my eyes and pulled my old phone out. There were a few drops of water on the small screen, but it lived too. It was my turn to gloat: ‘This phone has been alive since 2005.’
We walked further into the marquee and stood on the edge of the thin crowd. Obviously, the bands were between sets. According to the waterlogged setlist lanyards we’d been given at the start of the festival, the next band up was one called …. something. Despite the lamination, the rain had still managed to find it’s way onto the paper.
‘Do you wanna get a drink or something?‘ I asked.
Gemma just looked over at the bar and said: ‘Four quid for a warm beer that’s been sitting on the table all day? I’ve got a vodka back at the tent, it’s in the blue water bottle under my rucksack, next to my spare jacket. Do you wanna get it or should I?‘
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds. I looked through the entrance of the marquee at the white static and blurry people outside. Although I was quite literally freezing my tits off, I could probably catch some of Catafalque’s set on the way back. Plus, I could change into something dry too. This thought went through my mind in less than a second before I said: ‘I’ll go.’
Gemma grinned ‘Try not to drink it all on the way back. And borrow the jacket too, it’s high-visibility‘ I made a drinking motion and a mock salute before heading out into the maelstrom once again.
Since we’d entered the marquee, it had got noticeably worse, to the point where I could barely see anything more than about five metres ahead. Still, I’d staggered back to the tent on instinct alone at the end of a couple of nights here – so, it shouldn’t be too hard in the daytime.
But, the pattern of the raindrops hammering my body and hypnotising my eyes made me wonder if I’d veered off course slightly. Maybe it was like that thing where people lost in deserts always end up walking in circles.
Then, for a second, the rain stopped and I saw a shadow above me. It looked like a giant swooping vulture at first, but I soon realised that it was an umbrella. I turned to my left and saw a tall man standing next to me. He was cute in a gothic kind of way, with his black hair and gaunt, chiseled face. He could have been in his twenties or he could have been in his forties.
‘Thanks‘, I muttered. ‘Are you seeing Neon Catafalque later?‘
‘I’ll have to give them a miss. I’ve got other people to see.’ He said, in a voice that didn’t quite seem to have an accent of any kind.
‘So, have we met?‘ I asked.
‘This is the first time. I thought that I’d show up a few minutes early.‘
I laughed ‘I didn’t realise we had an appointment.‘
‘Yes, in five minutes.‘
‘I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.‘ He raised an eyebrow, I continued ‘Anyway, You’ve come all this way and you aren’t watching the bands. Aren’t they goth enough?‘
He sighed ‘Quite the opposite, they never shut up about me. It’s embarrassing really. I’m the only person who has a fan club who literally runs away whenever I actually say hello to them. So many years and no-one has asked me for a single autograph. Even washed-up rockstars get better treatment!‘
Feeling sorry for him, I rifled around in my bag for a pen and a dry piece of paper. I handed them to him: ‘First for everything, I guess.‘
‘To tell you the truth, I’ve forgotten how to write. But, I’d really like to give you an autograph. Anyway, I think that it’s almost…‘.
Before he could finish his sentence, he reached into his pocket and fumbled with something. An exasperated sigh crossed his face. ‘Damnation! Is that the time? I’m late for my next meeting! I guess that we’ll have to postpone..‘
In an instant, I felt the cold rain lash my face again. He was nowhere to be seen. A sharp pain lanced through my shoulder, like someone had gripped it with a Freddy Krueger glove. I nearly jumped above the clouds.
‘Shit. Sorry for startling you like that, I thought you’d got lost. You were literally just walking around in circles.‘ Gemma took her hand off of my shoulder and smiled at me. My shoulder still ached. I rubbed it.
‘Ah, I think I’ve pulled a muscle or something, it must be my bag. Hold on.” I handed the bag to Gemma, before walking to the awning of a nearby stall and taking my jacket off.
Gemma’s eyes widened ‘No way! You’re going to have to tell me where you got it done! I wouldn’t trust the stalls here even if they paid me. I’m surprised you didn’t get an infection or anything.‘
Wiping the rain from my eyes, I looked at my shoulder. I had a tattoo! It was a small, intricate drawing of a human skull. A tiny, shaky “X” lay next to it.
Gemma leant over took a closer look and said: ‘Wait, don’t tell me that you got some rockstar to sign your shoulder. I’d be so jealous!‘