Dracula’s Castle, by Aimee Sciberras
Spine-chilling air hits my face, my nose numbing from the cold. I am running. Heart beating, almost as if it is pleading to be let out of my chest. My feet thump against the ground, making the briefest of contact with the road underneath. I had to get away. My mind refuses to go back to those moments. I frantically look around, searching for any indication of life, but the haunting silhouettes of barren trees clinging on to their last leaves are all that offer company. They sway and creak in the stillness. Stillness, yes, but not lifeless. I pause, heart pounding against my ribcage, but I don’t care. I need to find shelter. I don’t know how much longer my body can last in this weather without suffering from some form of hypothermia. Everything is black. Black. That’s all I see. There is no light except for the soft glow of the moon above. The difference between living to see tomorrow and being found face down on the road by some poor, early riser is very slim indeed. My eyes are starting to adjust to the lack of light; I rub my eyes once more, thinking I had seen a lit window in the distance. It was there alright, a rectangle of warm orange light. Its presence seemed impossible; a flicker of light among a blanket of darkness until I saw the enormity of it. It was a monumental structure, towering over all else.
What was that? I heard something. I turned on the spot, my eyes darting across the path I was on, squinting in the distance as I strain to see if there was anything beyond the thick veil of white fog that fell over the path. I swore I could hear growling up till just a second ago. I must be paranoid. The eerie atmosphere must finally be getting to me.
I find the path to the castle. Blindly, I attempt to feel my way through the overgrowth under my feet. I had already cut or pierced my feet during my manoeuvring. On the one hand I was more alert, on the other I was in danger of infecting my open wounds. The overgrowth gives way to cool stone; however, it does not relent its grasp on the gate itself so easily. The dark green vines weave around the iron gates, working their way around the intricate design that was once a testament of its creator’s artistry. Now it was subject to nature’s whims.
The doors to the castle were imposing. It was almost instinctive, my hand reaching out to touch the doors. A single door swung open at the slightest touch. I pushed my fears down and forced myself to step over the threshold.
“I see you have found your way.” The disembodied voice boomed through the open space and I felt my heart ache in my chest. There wasn’t much light, only a few candles lit here and there along with a fireplace. I swore I could see a figure at the top of the stairs. I moved cautiously closer, keeping my guard up. I spotted a set of fire irons resting by the crackling logs within the fireplace – feeling its warmth on my skin for the briefest of instances – and grasped the metal as a reassurance that I might have some kind of weapon to defend myself with. I held it tightly by my side. I turned suddenly, fire iron held aloft and pointed as firmly as my strength would allow towards the man standing there stock still, hand still on the door that was now quite evidently shut.
“And exactly what were you planning on doing with that? Please, do tell.” He lowered his hand and turned to face me, “I fail to see your reasoning considering you broke into my house,” he waved his cane around, gesturing to the interior of the residence. He took a step closer to me. I stood my ground.
“Take one more step, and I –”
“You’ll what? Come on, put that thing away and come inside. You look like death itself.”
And with that he started to walk away, making his way upstairs. The cane’s bottom reverberating against each step was the only indication of his presence after he disappeared from my view. I was rooted to the spot, iron still within grasp.
I let it go. It clanged against the ground.
I could no longer see nor hear him. I was wandering within the halls of a place foreign to my eyes.
It was a whisper, I think. It sounded like one at least. It’s my name. I must be hearing things. Surely the lack of –
This time it was clearer. Closer.
“Ah there you are!” I shuffled back, almost tripping over my own feet, but he caught me with a hand around my waist. His face right next to mine, he paused there, a second too long. He removed his hand and gently cupped my face in his hand. “We cannot have you falling over now, can we? That face is too pretty to damage.”
His face was close. Too close. I could see his features clearly; he was a young man, possibly around thirty. Close to my own age. Certainly not old enough to warrant a cane. A scar ran from across his cheek down to his top lip. It drew attention away from his steel-grey eyes. There was something in the smell of his breath that was off; it almost smelled…metallic? He let go of my face, taking a step back and turning his back to me as he entered one of the many doors I had walked past.
I entered, and Lord Almighty I have never seen such a grandiose bed complete with pillows and covers. I couldn’t help but run my fingers over the material. The warmth within the room emanated from another fireplace directly opposite the bed.
“You have some clean clothes over there. When you are ready, I will be down the hall; door will be open.” With that, he exited the room and left me to my devices. I dressed quickly, eager to step out of the dirty ensemble I had come in. I was contemplating his words; I was wary of him. The clothes fit perfectly, providing some much-needed warmth. A simple silhouette looked back at me with dead eyes, and small patches of coagulated blood decorated my skin.
I looked back up to my face only to glimpse a white figure standing right behind me. Her sunken eyes zoned in on my neck, red-stained hands closing in on my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I saw my own eyes widen in fear, the veins bulging in my neck. The woman’s mouth neared my ear, “Run.” Her voice was hoarse. Barely audible. “Go.”
The figure vanished just as quickly as it had appeared, leaving me paralysed in fear. I couldn’t run. My feet would not allow it. My eyes remained wide open, scanning the hallway as I walked and dragged my feet along with me until I stumbled into the dimly lit room wherein he stood.
“I see you managed to find your way this time around.” He lowered his gaze, scanning me, until we locked eyes. “You know,” he took a step closer to me, closing the gap, “when someone tells you to run, you really should listen.”
I didn’t have time to react. He was too quick. The last thing I saw was his cane. Then, black.
My head aches as I attempt to open my eyes.
“What…what is going on?”
“Ah, you shall soon see.” He doesn’t face me. I dart my eyes around me frantically trying to search for an escape route. I have to get out of here, immediately. My eyes land on a reflection in the mirror. I can see what he is doing. He is pouring something into a glass, but something else glints in the mirror. It looks like a blade, or a dagger. He nonchalantly pockets it in his jacket as if it were something common.
I sit up slowly and remove any sign of fear from my face as he turns round with two glasses in his hands. He lends one to me and sits down beside me. My mind runs wild. He downs his glass in one breath. I need to get close. I gently take the glass from his hand and place it on the table behind him, praying he doesn’t see my nerves. My face inches closer to his. I dip my hand into his pocket; I feel the blade; I grasp the handle and gently slide it out. He is kissing me now. I position the dagger and plunge it into his back. He grunts.
I leap backward and turn to run. But something stops me in my tracks. He is laughing.
“Oh, that was cute.” He stands, reaches behind him and pulls out the dagger. The red drips from the blade onto his hand, onto the floor. He motions with the blade in hand and the door slams shut. I dare not turn round. A smile is still fixed on his face as he saunters towards me. I could see the many scars on his face now. “That was very rude of you.” He sets the blade under my chin, still dripping with his blood.
“It’s not as fun when you don’t remember, is it?” He presses his hand to my forehead, sending my eyes rolling to the back of my head. It’s not long before I black out yet again.
I hear the clock ticking. I lift my head up. BANG. My eyes widen, I start, but I cannot move. I feel the restraints on my wrists. Tight. My feet are bound as well. He won’t make the same mistake as all those other times.
You see, I remember what happened. What truly happened I mean. It was long ago. Around 200 years. Or was it 300? I forget. My carriage was attacked by wolves, I escaped, ran as hard as I could and ended up here in tatters. I am doomed to die, bound for eternity to die in various manners, limited only to his imagination until someone sees fit to restore my soul along with my memories.. My ghost, or rather, my soul, roams here, warning my naïve, yet conscious shell of a body. But I was too trusting. Wary yes, but nevertheless trusting.
“Ah, you’re up, bright and early I see.” His shirt sleeves are rolled up to the elbows and a smile stretches from eye to eye. However, as always, his eyes are empty. No remorse, no morals, no conscience, no soul. “How are you doing, darling? Comfortable?”
“Yes, thank you, very comfortable. How’s your face? Still scarred I see.”
“Yes,” he chuckles as his fangs drop down, “let’s have some fun, shall we?”