In the days just before leaving for Beltane, I had written to D and J, my aftercare team, to let them know what little I knew. When I mentioned my OM’s recommendation to take me away from the Ordeal space, somewhere distanced from the rest of the festival, D asked me one question.
“Woods or water?”
I asked for woods, and it was decided that we would go to the Labyrinth.
The moon was veiled as we walked (or limped, in my case), me wearing only a blanket and shoes, with J on my left and D on my right. They carried everything else – my basket, a plastic bag, other things I can’t recall. We walked slowly, talking a little, with D directing us to the treeline behind the horseshoe of lettered cabins.
As we walked up the path, D greeted the Old Man, as well as the spirit of George (one of the original Beltane organizers), and all the Little Ones who occupy the Labyrinth. We walked off the path, heading to George’s bench, where we lay down the blanket and they helped me to sit.
The plastic bag held baby wipes and paper towels. I cleaned off the copious amounts of lubricant used on me. (I hate lube.) D and J gently wiped down the bruises and cuts they could reach while I was sitting, and D brought out the Wasa, coconut water, and string cheese I had brought.
We talked while I ate, meandering all over the place in our conversation. There was laughter and some tears. The early fireflies came out and blinked at us. I drained the coconut water, ate half a Wasa, and just a few bites of cheese. Finally I grew cold, and as I dressed in the soft clothes I had brought, a couple of friends came up to the darkened Labyrinth. We said some brief hellos before my stomach started me wandering away.
D caught up with me, asking worriedly where I was going, since I was walking through nettles. I had been aiming for a tree, and she guided me back to the path so I wouldn’t scratch myself. I stopped partway down the path, bent down, and choked.
There are some very well-fertilized nettles by the Labyrinth now. So much for the food.
Once I was able to stand without dire consequences, we started heading out again. D asked if I wanted a full shower or just a rinse, just to get the worst of everything off my body and out of the cuts. A rinse sounded good, and we headed for the horseshoe cabins.
It was the first full light I’d been in since I left camp who-knew-how-long before. I had seen dark marks on my legs when I sat on the bench, and D warned me not to look behind me. I wasn’t shocked by the marks; the most difficult part was peeling the clothes back off. I fiddled with the shower and stepped in.
STING. OH STING. HELLO THAR WATER.
There were some giggles at my comments, since every time I moved there was a new painful place for the water to find and I was making snarky comments to go with it. It felt good to rinse off, and I reveled in it until the steam got to be too much. I opened the curtain, knelt down on the shower floor, and let the cooler air try to soothe my stomach again while I drip-dried.
J was invaluably funny, and had both D and I laughing at his antics with the automatic paper towel dispensers and by dancing badly to the drums and song echoing across the field. “I think we know what John’s Little would look like,” D commented at one point. “He’d be the one turning on all the gadgets, just for fun.”
They do say laughter is the best medicine.
Eventually I managed to get to my feet and go sit on a toilet – good thing, since it turns out I needed to. Good thing there was a trash bucket, too.
So much for that evening’s dinner.
D was turning a little green, so J sent her outside and cleaned up the bucket for me. (Bless him for that.) There was nothing left in my system, and my stomach finally calmed down long enough to get my clothes back on. D radioed for a taxi, since I wasn’t up to walking much more. J walked back while D joined me in the taxi with our stuff (there was already a passenger).
D and I were dropped off just outside the campsite, and as I walked towards our tent, I saw our friend X look up from a chair for just a moment before my Kitten stood, staring out. He rushed over, saw the collar, saw me.
“I’m okay,” I said to him, reaching out. “I’m okay, and I get to keep you.”
He lowered his head, his voice full of tears as he begged forgiveness for cuts he had put into his shoulders and chest. I hugged him, whispered in his ear, “He says Y/you are equals,” and held him. He tried to take a few of the things D was carrying for me while thanking her and J profusely; she directed him back to me and put the things in our camp. I went down on the ground, since my stomach was going topsy-turvy yet again. I managed to get through that round without any more technicolor yawns.
The Ordeal had begun at 8:30. It was 11:30 when I got back to camp.
Once I was settled in a chair, Kit and I talked. He had passed the Ordeal space on his way to the dungeon building and had heard me. One of his Guides had stopped him; one of his Deities spoke to him as one of the camp owner’s cats anchored herself on his lap and he listened to me scream. He managed to get to the dungeon, but talked to a friend only until he saw E walk through the doors. In the end, he went back to camp and waited for me, alone only while he chanted and cut, performing his own Ordeal on himself. The rest of the time, he had friends with him, keeping him company. So many thanks for that.
Kit got me into the tent, on the bed, and had to hand me a plastic bag for the dry heaves. I don’t think I’ve ever been that wrung out. Once I was done, he pulled out the arnica we had brought along to treat the bruises. He made little noises of pain and sorrow as he rubbed me down, checking me thoroughly for any other injuries. He managed to get a little more coconut water into me, as well as some anaprox, and we finally settled down for some sleep.