The bonfire was still raging when we arrived around 2:15. Peter and I split up on a mission to find Bryce, our eyes combing the endless drunk college kids in their costumes, searching for a young man dressed as a baby – wearing just a cloth diaper, bonnet and pacifier even though the temperatures were around freezing and the frosty air warned of snow.
Every minute that slipped away without the sight of Bryce seemed precious. All of this kids were so vulnerable, so drunk, so cold and unaware. It’s possible Samson may have already pulled Bryce off into the darkness that surrounded the edges of the bonfire and was preparing him for the frigid waters of a Madison lake or river.
And then I saw him. Bathed in the amber light of the immense stack of burning wood, Bryce was dancing in his baby costume at the edge of the fire, surrounded by a few other blacked out, reveling young men who looked like they weren’t even sure what planet they were on.
I ran up with waving arms, quickly catching Bryce’s drunken attention. I quickly thanked the heavens he was so drunk he didn’t appear to recognize me from a couple of nights ago when I made my move on him.
“Bryce, you have to go with me and a police officer, you are in real danger.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Bryce slurred back.
I started to step back, realizing how ridiculous I looked. I gulped when I saw Bryce’s male friends come more into focus and realized one was the bearded man who assaulted me back on the street.
“What the fuck? It’s this faggot?” the bearded guy shouted.
Bryce tilted his head at me, like a confused dog.
“Oh shit, this is the guy from a couple of nights I told you about.”
“Oh fuck,” the bearded guy cried out with joy.
Bryce, the bearded guy and the other couple of friends descended on me.
I took off towards the fire as fast as I could, calling out Peter’s name into the night that was pumping with loud music. I weaved in and out of other ridiculously-costumed partiers searching for Peter until I reached the other edge of the crowd and fell on the frozen ground hard, smacking my already battered face.
I was going to lay there and recover for a few moments, but then I heard the voices of Bryce and his comrades and worked my way to my feet. I took off across the slick grass between the bonfire area and where we parked. Maybe Peter had returned to the car?