‘Brother Sister’ was the third music festival Issy had attended in two months. Soren had promised a sun machine would make the grass golden, they would be enlightened and the vibes of the festival would change not only them, but the whole world. Issy was sceptical.
‘Soren, there’s no such thing as a sun machine, unless you’re high.’
‘And we will be, baby, so sun machines will illuminate the grass and gods will frolick with us.’
He flicked his tawny hair away from his face and sucked on a joint, stroking her shoulder as if she were a bomb he needed to detonate.
At the last festival Soren had been convinced he understood his place in the universe and its place in him. That the two things were interchangeable. After a few days, he confessed he no longer understood either. Issy was tired. She was tired of living in a van, washing clothes in a bucket and eating tinned food. She was tired of having hair so long it got caught in the zipper of her jeans. But most of all, she was tired of Soren’s grandiose ideas descending on them with the gravity of the sermon on the mount.
They entered ‘Brother Sister’ from a side gate and were absorbed by the throng. Other peoples’ heat and smells milled and encroached. Issy kept her gaze on the tops of their heads and took deep breaths. She clutched Soren’s hand and they were carried to the front. The band warmed up, the thwang of their guitars resonant in the twilight air. The lead singer hid behind a curtain of black locks, ignoring those who cried out his name.
Issy accepted the tab and placed it under her tongue. Her kaftan itched and she looked up at the sky. She heard the voice of the singer as he introduced the song but missed the meaning. The rays were in her eyes, orange and pulsing as the sun ebbed.
A nebulous shape emerged. It trembled and morphed into something she could identify. A chariot driven by a woman who shimmered and embodied light. Her muscled arms steered the chariot across the darkening sky. Instead of horses there was sun. It poured from the reins to the ground where Issy stood, like liquid gold. The light’s warmth caressed her arms. She felt it inside as bubbling contentment. It rose from her feet to the crown of her head.
Issy tipped her head back and accepted the gift. The woman smiled, her eyes glinted and she raised a hand in final benediction. She and her chariot dispersed into the sky—white points of luminescence met indigo.
Soren grasped her arm. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Yes. There is a sun machine, but I don’t want to be here anymore.’
Issy detached herself and pressed through the crowd. The warmth of the light still danced within her and she thought of home.
Inspired by David Bowie’s lyrics for ‘Memory of a Free Festival’ 1969
‘The children of the summer’s end
Gathered in the dampened grass,
We played Our songs and felt the London sky
Resting on our hands
It was God’s land.
It was ragged and naive.
It was Heaven.
The sun machine is coming down
And we’re gonna have a party’