I don’t know why I'm here.
I only know the moment when this nightmare began. Just two days ago, when a nice old man, after seeing our show, asked us if we would be interested in doing an encore in a castle nearby for its owners.
"They’re a bit eccentric, but they pay well," he concluded, winking. Then again, so was he. He seemed to have come straight out of a Frankenstein movie. You know the type: all dressed in black with a hood on his head that made him look like a medieval minstrel.
Oh, by the way, my name is Marcus and I'm a juggler, more or less.
I'm touring Europe with my girlfriend and a group of friends. Twelve in total.
We were, I should say.
Sometimes, someone is taken away from the dungeons where we have been locked up and no longer returns.
Agatha, my girlfriend, does nothing but cry and I can’t do anything to comfort her since we have been placed in separate cells. They are cramped little rooms with bars instead of a door, with not even a piece of cloth on which to lie down, just a bucket in the corner for our business and a light bulb on the ceiling. The old man, who in the end was not so nice, brings us something to eat in the mornings and in the evenings, but never responds to our questions, nor does he pity our pleas or is frightened by our threats. He merely says that "The Lords of the Castle" will soon leave and, then, we will be freed. I don’t know if I should believe him. Since everything that he has told us has turned out to be a lie so far, who will guarantee us that he is not lying this time? And, to think, I just wanted to earn some extra money to take Agatha to Greece this summer. I was there a few years ago and found it very beautiful, especially for the sun and the heat. Quite the opposite of this place where the moisture oozes from the walls and sticks to you, making you shudder. I hear Günther, some cell blocks further down, do nothing but cough constantly. He’s a monster, but his health is not very good.
Oh, God, the old man is coming. Whom will he choose this time?
I survived. They took Günther, poor devil, dragging him behind like a pile of dirty laundry.
He, the old man, does not come alone when he takes someone away.
He has two oafs with him who are much younger and stronger than he. Moreover, these two are also armed with some kind of electric rod as the one used for livestock. I imagine that, with Günther, they had to give a lot of effort. I know I shouldn’t be feeling happy but, hell, I am! It didn’t happen to me or even to Agatha. It’s a horrible thing to say, I know, but not knowing what happens when you go through that damn door is the thing that ravages me even more. I’ve asked myself a thousand times during these nights that have never passed what kind of people the owners of this gigantic castle could be that they seem to have come straight out of some medieval saga.
Not from a fairy tale.
It's made up of stone: imposing, massive, and very gloomy. We had joked when we arrived with our minivan, mainly to scare the girls. "Dracula’s castle, girls, buhhhh!"
Once inside the huge interior courtyard with walls looming over us like dark guardians, the desire to make jokes escaped everyone; but, the old man seemed so happy to see us and quite eager to show us to our rooms – as he put it - that we put aside our doubts and let ourselves become absorbed with his hospitality. The huge gate was closed behind us with a metallic rattling that startled more than just one of us, just as the door leading inside also did. Joke around, keep on joking around, I found myself thinking, even if it seems that you have entered the belly of the beast. Continue to joke around because, if they find out what you are thinking, that gate will never open again.
A grand buffet feast lavishly set was waiting for us in a rather bare dining hall, that is, if you exclude the armour lining the walls and the heavy purple drapery on the windows. Not even a glimmer of light filtered through, but it did not matter because the lights were warm, the beer plentiful, the food delicious, and the fire crackling in the huge fireplace. The old man was buzzing around like a worker bee, laughing at our jokes with an irritating high-pitched chuckle and making sure that our mugs were never empty. I started to feel sleepy, but I continued to drink without even thinking about it. By then, I anticipated a night in the luxurious room, perhaps with a four-poster bed, without the elbowing of Günther, the snoring of Armin, and the constant hum of Andreas in his sleep. They are all nice guys and we've known each other for many years, but the daily and constant contact with other people and never having your own space can become exasperating in the long run.
Now, I have a place all to myself and the only thing I would like is to be able to hold my friends close to me, even only to get warm. Be careful of what you ask for because it could come true, isn’t that what they say? I digress, I know. Anything so as not to think about when that damn door will reopen and swallow one of us up again.
I was saying that I was starting to get very sleepy about halfway through dinner. A sensation of daydreaming was gradually taking over me. The voices and laughter of my friends were becoming more distant until everything started to spin me around. Then, nothing.
When I woke up from Agatha calling my name out and I feeling a terrible cold, as well as having a headache that crushed the skull, I was lying on something hard, which I later discovered was the floor of my cell. In order to get up, oh guys...I had to hold on to the bars. A part of me wanted to believe that it was all a joke, but the other, the more sensible one, was telling me that we were in trouble, big trouble. He was right, unfortunately. Oh, God, I would have given anything for a hot shower and been able to see the light of day again. There were no windows here and one can easily lose track of time...given that I will not be next.
Third day, I think, and I feel that it will be the last.
Just now, the old man came down with his usual grinning and happy air and announced that the blond beast had just arrived. Then he went up and down along the corridor and stopped right in front of my cell, looking at me with an intensity that gave me the creeps. I knew that I would be next. But, for the next what? And, who is the blond beast? The old man spat on the ground immediately after saying it and mumbled something I could not understand but that sounded a lot like an insult. Agatha, to make up for it, flew into a rage, screaming and pounding the bars, begging him with a shrilly voice to let her out, to let all of us out. We were in eight then. Four less.
They’re here for me. It’s just as well, really. At least, I'll know. It’s much better to know and that this agony will end. I especially feel bad for Agatha, and I hope she makes it. Maybe, it's not as bad as it looks. Maybe, my friends were released and have already gone. Maybe, Santa Claus exists and someone called Blond Beast does not. If only I could see the sun again... just once more... God, they also took Andreas. Come on, man, don’t scream, don’t resist. The only reward is the electric rod.
No, I changed my mind. After all, knowing can wait. There’s a strange atmosphere in here, as if the air had been compressed and sucked away by some infernal machine. I can’t breathe. We are in front of a door, but I do not want to see what's beyond. I do not want to meet the blond beast; I know I won’t like it. I want to see the sun again. I want to go home. Oh, please, take me home...
"What the hell is going on here? What the hell are you doing with my dinner? "
Is he talking about me? The wonderful electric shock caught me in the back, so walking was out of the question; but he did not seem to mind too much. He takes me by the wrist and drags me up to his room, hurling me on the bed as if I weighed nothing. How is it possible that he is so strong? I felt being lifted by the arm as if I were a three-year-old child. If only I could breathe properly...
My eyes are playing tricks on me, for example. No one can be so pale. This man seems to have taken a bath in bleach. Even his hair is not much darker. The only hint of colour is found in his eyes, somewhat strange with some details that I am not able to discern. Of course, they are fixed on me, as cold as the winter sea, though the lips are slightly curved in a smile of a cat. I know that cats don’t smile, but I think you understand what I mean, right? There was even something wrong with his mouth, as if it was hiding something... a weapon, maybe. But, what the hell could he want from me? Is he the blond beast?
"Do we want to make things easy or difficult?" he asks. What things?
Certainly, it would have made sense to say something now... he spoke to me in German, but you could hear that it’s not his native language. He does nothing; he is at the side on the bed with his arms crossed, just looking at me. I have to figure out what's so strange with his eyes and his mouth. I have to try to talk. Talking, perhaps, will solve everything. He seems to be a reasonable person at heart and continues to smile at me. As long as he does not smile more than that. Oh, please, no.
"What do you want from me? I have no money; I have nothing interesting. I only know how to juggle and to entertain people, but I'd do anything to get out of here. Tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it. "
Andreas... Andreas is screaming, perhaps in the next room. Oh, God, why is he screaming like that? Stop it, oh, please, stop it, you are scaring me and I hate being scared.
"Anything? Hmm... interesting..." Ah, you see, I knew that it would have been better if he didn’t smile. Those teeth. Those canines. Oh, fuck, vampires! Shit, shit, shit... I have to run. I have to leave. I am nobody’s dinner, I'm Marcus Hegel, I'm 23 years old, and I still have a lot of things to do. If only I could get to the door... it’s close by, just at the back. Vampires. During this entire ordeal, I had thought about everything, but not this. If only I could get to...
"I will ask you again: do we want to make things easy or difficult?"
"You really exist then... you exist, for real... I'd never have believed... I didn’t believe it..."
I'm crying. I don’t want to cry because I have the impression that nothing would come of it, but I can’t help it. He looks at me and seems to understand because he must have heard similar words thousands of times. Somehow, it comforts me. Stupid, right?
"We exist... oh, yes... Now relax, everything's fine. Look at me. You are sleepy, very sleepy..."
It’s true, I am sleepy and this bed is incredibly comfortable. And, he's beautiful. Very beautiful. I could become gay for someone like him. Now, I will sleep and I'm sure nothing bad will happen. He is lying behind me and hugs me tightly. He is incredibly strong, but it does not hurt. I feel protected so I surrender myself to him. His lips on my throat are very cold, but soft, a strange contrast with the hot liquid that I feel flowing down my neck. Is it my blood? Probably. Well, it doesn’t matter. Nothing does now.
I’m Marcus Hegel, I'm 23 years old.
In the end, I didn’t have a lot of things to do.