I grow nervous as the blood in my veins pumps quickly. I wring my hands trying not to appear scared and feel dampness in my palms that wasn’t there moments ago. Breathing deep I look up to see cold bare trees flying past me. Their wiry limbs waving, as if to say, “Goodbye… and good luck.”
I’m leaving civilization deeper into the Romanian countryside. The horse carriage driver that greeted me stepping off the train in Brasov, was respectable, but not talkative. His jaw tighten after I asked him to deliver me to Bran Castle this late afternoon.
He helped me with my bag and opened the carriage door. However, before it closed I noticed him glance at the setting sun and clutch the crucifix dangling from his throat. His eyes showed concern. Then the door slammed shut.
On the bumpy ride I focus on the scenery. Fall has made itself known. The green rolling hills of summer have become waves of amber and naked bushes. My heartbeat steadies.
Then from the blurring trees I see them. Red eyes focused only on me. We lock stares. The red orbs dart in and out of the black trees. They are keeping pace with my carriage.
The driver notices too because he gives the horse a shout, a whip snaps and the carriage speeds deeper into the forest at breakneck speed on it’s way to Bran Castle. I hear a wolf howl. His defeated call is answered by other howls. My blood chills.
My eyes travel up a large hillside before my coach and to my amazement I see Bran Castle with it’s majestic walls and peaks. It looms in front of us getting closer and greater with each hoof clomp. I study the details as I slide open the carriage window. My lungs quickly adapt to the light icy mountain air. It’s an unforgettable sight.
Within moments I hear the gravel below crunching their welcome to the mouth of the castle. We stop. By the time I step out of the carriage I see the driver has already placed my bag on the ground and is hastily stepping back up into the buggy.
I say, “Thank you sir!” He offers a quick wave and shouts out a “Hya!” to the horse and they dart off down the mountain to the main road. A wolf howls in the distance.
All is still. I take a deep breath before walking towards the stone steps up to the massive wooden entrance. I reach for the door knocker that resembles a golden Medusa head. The door creaks open.
A towering figure stands before me. The faint smell of rancid meat and dried flowers waifs across my nose. My eyes widen as I look up at the Count himself.
His face is creamy and smooth. Eyes like the darkest black with hair to match. His thin lips widen into a kind smile but his eyes never change. I can see his perfectly straight teeth. Before he bows his head to welcome me, I see the notorious fangs peek out.
I croak out the words. “Good evening Count. Thank you for having me…” I swallow dryly and hard. “…For dinner.”
His smile spreads unnaturally wide and the door creaks open for me to step in.