*** Part 8 ***
These days at the festival are romantically bonding, at least for Greta. This is the first time she and Ron have ever been on a trip together. Waking up this morning, she reflects on how much she enjoyed last night. They went out to eat with Valgrd, Ron and Greta were in each others arms the entire time. She's somewhat sure they made Valgrd feel awkward, but Valgrd didn't really seem to mind.
Greta sits up in the bed. The sun is already shining brightly outside. Looking sleepily at the other bed, she's surprised to see Valgrd alone. Ron stirs, Greta leans over and kisses his cheek, then asks him where Ritchie might be.
"I don't know, Hun. Maybe out for breakfast?" It's a good assumption.
As it is late in the morning, the three of them get ready to leave for the festival. Noticing his guitar is missing from the car, Valgrd wonders aloud as to Ritchie's whereabouts. She and Greta take one car, and Ron takes the other.
"So, how are you and Ritchie?" Greta asks, not averting her forward stare.
"What's it you mean?" Valgrd curiously replies.
"I mean, what is the relationship between you two? Are you like his new girlfriend or something?"
Valgrd is only slightly surprised by Greta's question. She and Ritchie do spend a lot of time together, and he pretty much provides for her. "We are the friends, not very romantic like I don't thinks, but close."
"So do you like him?"
"He is good guy. And I mostly understand his problems. I think he needs a friend like me, and I needs a friend like him."
"What kind of problems? What do you mean?"
Valgrd turns her head and looks at Greta. With a pursed-lipped stare, her answer is silence.
Greta seems irritated, "Oh, you can tell me. Girl to girl."
Valgrd shakes her head slightly, keeping a distant stare.
"Ugh," Greta rolls her eyes, "it's not like you know anything about him that no one else knows or anything. What's the big secret?"
Valgrd knows better. Ritchie told her things that he's never told anyone else. Those things need to be kept the way they are, only between them. Adree probably knew some of those things, but she's no longer around.
This day carries with it much gloom. The skies seem to be a great display of mockery, and the air is still, even when they get near to the festival. Valgrd, Ron, and Greta trudge across a spongy, soggy field. Last night, the field was drenched with a heavy downpour. This morning awakens a cool, humid morning. They can barely make out the stage through the fog as they walk toward the bustling of the festival preparations.
After they set their gear in it's appropriate places, they look for Ritchie, as his gear is already there. The three split up, and as he seems to not be in any of the event tents, they begin searching in the woods around the festival site. Ron and Greta walk together, arm in arm. They would call out his name, but that might seem childish. After about a half hour, the couple sit nestled on a log, getting irritated on account of Ritchie's disappearance.
It's an odd looking place, where they're sitting. There's a large circle composed of short logs, roughly cut. Inside the circle, the leaves seem to have an underlying star-like pattern. Greta stares at the ground in front of them, turning her head to the side, taken in by the strange feeling of this place. She stands to get a better view of the pattern in the leaves.
"You see it too?" Ron asks her, standing as well.
"Yes." Greta replies in a quiet voice.
"Ritchie probably..." Ron says, shrugging his shoulders.
They both knew that to imply that Ritchie put this here would be an incorrect assumption. It wasn't drawn with a stick, but it seems like each leaf was placed carefully to make the pattern. Also, the entire ground is covered with undisturbed dew from the morning.
"Let's get back" Greta quickly says, then starts walking, leaving Ron behind. She doesn't like this place, it makes her feel... Exposed, as if someone can see her thoughts and feelings. It made her stomach feel light inside. Ron walks beside her, silently, all the way back to the festival.
In her searches, Valgrd comes across Ritchie laying next to a tree. Kneeling over him, she puts her hand on his forehead, running her fingers through his hair. How it is he came to sleep out here she can't figure out.
Ritchie stirs, then, eyes closed, reaches out and strokes her face. "Valgrd, you have seen her too."
"Seen what?" Valgrd asks, thinking he must still be mostly sleeping.
"The nightmare, my death's ghost."
Valgrd begins shaking her head, he doesn't seem to be making sense. But thinking about it, she suddenly knows, as if she'd known all along who he's talking about. But that girl in the parking lot, of what significance is she? How could she be an actual ghost?
"Ritchie, wake up" she nervously blurts out, shaking him by his shoulders.
"I'm awake," he says, sounding slightly annoyed, as if it were obvious. "It's probably best if we keep what we've said here to ourselves."
Valgrd nods slowly, playing the situation out in her head. Anyway, what he's saying has to be nonsense, right? Just some dream he must've been having when she woke him. But that feeling, the one of suddenly knowing exactly who he was talking about, it can't just be explained away.
Ritchie stands, "Well, it's probably time for us to get back. Come on." He extends an arm for them to walk back. Valgrd latches on and walks with him quietly for a moment.
"Wait," she stops, pulling on Ritchie's arm, "why you come outs here?"
"Umm, the forest, where else?"
Ritchie looks off into the distance as Valgrd awaits an explanation. Squinting, he opens his mouth for a moment, but shakes his head and continues walking without her. Valgrd doesn't bother catching up to him. When they get back, she shoots him an irritated glance and goes off to explore the festival alone.
Greta suddenly feels nervous. Never before today has she been this nervous. Gut wrenching, weak knees, cold sweat, butterflies-in-the-stomach type nervous. There is no reason for this. "I'm a confident person," she tells herself, "is it the crowd I'm scares of? No, it can't be. I have no reason to doubt that we'll play well." No reason she can think of seems to justify this feeling she's experiencing.
Ron sits next to her on the ground, handing her a cup of water. "What's wrong?" he asks, noticing her face is slightly pale.
"I don't know, but I feel like vomiting."
"Are you sick?"
"No, I'm just nervous I guess, I don't know why."
"You've been pretty bad off since we went to that weird place out in the woods."
Greta shrugs, "Who knows? Maybe I am sick and don't know it." They exchange a brief smile.
"You'll be fine," Ron says, patting her on the back, "just concentrate on the music." Greta sighs as Ron walks away, wondering why he wasn't affected out there.
As he sits backstage, waiting for the rest of the band to arrive, Ritchie tries to ponder over the events of this morning. He remembers leaving the hotel, walking across the field to the festival, setting his gear down, and taking a walk around near the woods. After that, his memory cuts to Valgrd waking him. "How did I know it was her?" he wonders, attempting to replay it in his mind. Ron and Greta arrive, and sit across from him, his head is down in thought. Neither bother to say anything, he looks pretty stressed about whatever it is that's bothering him. Valgrd comes hurriedly as the previous act ends their last song.
As she sits with the rest of the band, Valgrd can't help but feel the disjointed atmosphere amongst them. Her confidence in this group is fading. Their strength, their musical unity, seems to have waned.
A member of event staff comes to get them ready to go on stage. They pick up their instruments, and walk onto the stage. Ritchie still stares downward, his head filled with such conflicting thoughts. Everyone takes their places, and Ritchie introduces them. His eyes stare nowhere, aimlessly down or at the darkening sky. Even through their first song, he doesn't make eye contact with anyone. The audience can see that something seems to be wrong with him, the rest of the band is lively.
"This next song is called 'I Was Over,' I hope you all can feel what it means to me. It's written about my dear friend Adree, who's now no longer with us" Ritchie announces, looking coldly at the audience.
Greta begins the bass intro to the song, feeling nervous, as it's her only solo. Despite feeling sick, she convinces the audience, and even Valgrd, that she's alright. The storm in the distance is getting nearer, and it's downpour can be seen from afar. The entire band feels a sort of discomfort, part because of the impending storm, and part because they know it's hard for Ritchie to play this song. It can be heard in his voice, pain. By the end of the song, a few people are crying. It seems that this performance has gone well, but the band still doesn't "feel" it, they don't feel right.
There's a very long pause. It starts to rain, and most people are wondering if Journal of Death is finished. With a change of demeanour, Ritchie yells, "Are you people ready for something heavy?" The crowd seems surprised as they yell back incoherently. Ritchie responds, "This song is 'Dead Inside.'"
Even though it's raining heavily, only a few people left for shelter. The music is loud enough to drown out the sound of the rain, and everyone is jumping as Journal of Death sweats through playing the heavier bits. With the slower parts of the song, everyone sways together. There's a warm feeling amongst everyone, some sort of magic almost.
Completely soaked, they leave the stage and are met by unhappy faces from those backstage. It's because they were supposed to stop the show if it started raining. They pack their wet gear into the cars, and drive back to the hotel. Their next show is in two days.