“Now, explain this from the very beginning. From how it began till how it ended.” Spoke a young police officer in a serious controlled tone. His eyes bore a rare brown tone, a very dark brown tone that it is nearly black. His face was clean-shaven and his uniform looked proper. He had a baldhead what matched very well with his strong manly face. He sat on a chair facing, across a metallic table, two young people.
One was a woman and the other a man. The woman had long wavy dark brown hair and big brown eyes but they were golden brown like honey. She looked very slim and healthy.
The man had a short-boyish haircut, straight in coal black and grey blue eyes. He too was slim, healthy and quite tall.
They both were very pale because they still had a shock from what happened before. The officer offered them a cup of tea but they refused. For a moment there was utter stillness.
The officer took the two documents that lay on the table beside him and turned few pages. “So miss Anja Stranov. What can you remember of this occurrence?” Asked the officer in a calm tone looking up to her.
She hesitated to answer. She took a deep breath.
“Shall I start instead?” Asked the man looking into her eyes worried.
She shook her head. “It all started about a month ago. Thomas and I are ballet dancers, dancing in the same ballet school. We are best friends since the age of ten.” She paused.
“We started a new act where we needed different ballet shoes, especially in a different colour. Not white or pink, but in red. I had the main role and needed those shoes.” Explained Anja pointing to a pair of red ballet shoes that lay on the other side of the table far away from her.
“Thomas only needed a new pair of normal ones because the older ones were falling apart. Once we knew about it, we searched through every ballet shop here in Bern.”
The officer listened in his highest attention, taking at times few short notes.
“What do think of those Anja?” Asked Thomas pointing to a pair of red ballet shoes that lay on a shelf.
“They’re wonderful!” I replied cheerfully, taking them gently from the shelf, but as I saw the price tag my smile and a part of my hopes vanished.
“Don’t worry Anja, you’ll find the right shoes soon enough.” Comforted Thomas placing a hand on my shoulder.
I took a deep breath. Once we were out of the shop empty handed, an ice-cold wind with snow blew strong onto our faces. Immediately we tucked our scarfs tighter and zipping the coats up to our chins. Slowly we walked to the train station, heading home. We arrived home to our flat. Thomas and I share a flat that is a bit outlaying of the city centre.
Many days passed without any luck finding the right ballet shoes and my dance teacher began to lose her patience. After all she is sometimes impatient at certain things. Apparently the red shoes were one of the certain things. One day she couldn’t hear the same story that I’ve been explaining anymore and told to me that if I don’t find any red shoes till the end of the week that I will be replaced. It was Tuesday then but I was already worried about it. I didn’t want to lose the main role. For the first time having a main role after all those years of dancing.
Without a second thought I’ve decided to go to that one shop where they had it at a very expensive price. After dancing and taking a shower I immediately set off to that shop.
Along the way my eyes stopped upon a window of a second hand shop. There lay before me presenting beautiful red ballet shoes, they looked brand new as if they were never used and at a cheap price! For a long moment I stood before the window as if being hypnotized. I thought I was dreaming.
After a few moments I awoke of my amazement and entered the shop. The shop owner was an elderly lady who came to me after a few moments. “I would like to buy those red shoes.” I noted, pointing to the window at the shoes.
“Yes, just a moment.” She responded while heading to the window.
I walked over to the pay desk, waiting patiently to pay the shoes.
The owner quickly asked if the shoes have the right size. I quickly tried then on, they were more comfortable than my old ones and they fitted perfectly! I took them off and paid eagerly.
Down the streets I ran as fast as possible to catch a train. The running didn’t bother me at all; nothing can let me down today for I was at that moment the happiest person in the whole world. Knowing I have in my sports bag a pair of perfect ballet shoes and couldn’t wait to tell this great news to Thomas. As I got out on the right station, I ran all the way to the flat; also running up the stairs to the third floor. Nothing at that moment was fast enough, not even the elevator or the train nor myself actually.
As I entered, Thomas was watching television. Without taking either my coat or boots off I stood between him and the television.
Thomas looked at me confused while I was catching my breath. “Thomas! I found, the perfect pair, the red shoes! Look!” Revealing the shoes out of the bag. “At a cheap price you’ll never guess!” I gasped with a broad smile.
“What! Where did you buy them?” Asked Thomas astounded, he stood up and took a closer look at the shoes.
I explained how I found the shoes while taking off my coat and boots. “Luckily you found them and now all’s well that end’s well.” Said Thomas as I finished explaining. I gave him a smile to his notation.
Next day I got up easily because I was very excited how my dance teacher would react when she sees my red shoes.
“Well, I must say they are lovelier than I’ve imagined. I’m glad you’ve got it in time Anja; to be honest it would have been a shame giving the role to some one else. You dance so well, you deserve to have a big role.” Said my teacher in a quiet, satisfied tone.
I gave nod of appreciation. The rest of the day went as per usual but there was a slight change; how I danced. I felt free like bird and so light that in a jump I could fly up to the ceiling. In every move I felt elegance, even the slightest turn of my head was turned differently.
Sometimes while I danced, others stopped and stared at me in amazement. Many complimented me for my elegance; even my stern teacher was surprised. It was as if the shoes made me dance better than before. It must be my best doing, because of the role and having now the shoes. After all since I have the shoes I am very happy, maybe I show a part of my happiness to others through dancing. Anyway, I didn’t think too much about it, there was nothing to worry. Yet I was surprised too and above all happy. If only my grandmother could see me now, she would be so proud of me. She was a famous ballerina in her time in the Soviet. She is my inspiration and taught me already few small elements after kindergarten while my parents were busy working and planning to immigrate to Switzerland.
Many days passed and my dancing has improved. In our act everything went perfect, too perfect actually. Then one day a reporter came to see how we dance and what our next act would be. It was no surprise that a reporter always comes and interviews us. But it wasn’t the usual reporter Mrs. Schmidt. It was some other reporter. A man, he was tall and lean, had short dark brown hair as his appearance. From his temples grew already few grey hairs. His face was clean-shaven with no wrinkles and he wore clean, proper clothes, a black turtleneck jumper with a red wool scarf and long dark brown trousers with elegant leather shoes. His piercing ice-blue eyes looked everywhere, as if he can see everything but mostly they were fixed upon me. Not only because I had the main role but also when I stood quiet amongst other dancers or close to Thomas. He looks at me with a strange gaze. It was a gaze that gave me a chill down my spine. Yet he looked neither the youngest nor the oldest but many women found him somewhat attractive. I have to admit he is a gentleman, offering sometimes help and holding doors open and he is good looking to me too but, a voice inside me said to stay away from him as far as possible. He came visiting nearly everyday; sometimes with a camera or a notebook and pen to take notes.
He even interviewed few of us dancers when we weren’t dancing. I hoped he wouldn’t come to me and ask for an interview; luckily I had the main role and was therefore mostly busy. One day my teacher bid me to have a private lesson because of my role. As I came somehow did the reporter too. I didn’t feel comfortable about it and asked my teacher privately if he could leave.
“Nonsense Anja! He’s a reporter. Just imagine he’s one of many from the audience.” She remarked to my question.
Everything went fine during the lesson, until my teacher gave a small break and left me alone with him. He walked up to me but so quiet I didn’t hear nor see him come to me because I had my back to him at that time. As he spoke he frightened me naturally.
“You dance exceptional. Such elegance and perfection.” He nearly whispered very close to my ear.
I gasped of fright and turned round. “Thank you,” was all I could say with widened eyes of fright. His voice was deep and soft. Strangely I began to blush and tried to hide it.
He noticed and began to grin. In his eyes I saw and felt somewhat affection. While deep inside me the voice was screaming to the top of its lungs, warning me that I should better run away. Yet my mind wondered what could be so bad on him? He did only good and pleasant things. Secondly I don’t know him, why should I judge him already now? But staying cautious is never a wrong action.
“I’m Joseph, I would like to interview you after this lesson if that is alright with you?”
“Erm… Yes, it’s alright.”
Then a familiar voice interrupted our small talk. “Alright Anja, are you ready? Let’s continue.” Said my teacher while Joseph gave a smile and went back to his seat. Close at the end of my lesson Thomas came. For a moment I was surprised to see him but positively. As my lesson ended I took a shower and returned, seeing Thomas and Joseph having a small talk.
“Thomas! What a surprise. I thought you would still be having a drink with your friend.” I gave surprised as I walked up to him.
“Well, it ended earlier than expected. So I thought we could go home together.”
“It’s nice to think about that but Joseph wants to interview me.”
Thomas looked Joseph with a hint of dislike. “Ok. See you later then.” Said Thomas with a wave of his hand and a forced grin.
I waved back, “See you later.” From the tone and choice of words gave me a bad feeling. I’ll talk with him when I get back.
“If you two please excuse me, you have to interview somewhere else. I have to close up here.” Noted my teacher while fishing out her huge bundle of keys from her leathered shoulder bag.
Joseph and I went out, tucking our coats and scarfs. “Do you know a good place where I can interview you and warm our bones?” Asked Joseph.
I gave a suggestion of an Asian restaurant not far from the train station. He accepted my suggestion. We entered the restaurant and found a table. While taking off our coats, he was kind and helped me. We seated at a small table and ordered tea. Joseph interviewed me very normal, nearly like Mrs. Schmidt. Everything went fine during the interview. But inside me the voice told me just answer the questions and don’t give any extras, keep a distance from him. At the same time I felt he was trying to reel me in, from his tone at certain words. So I took heed of what my voice says.
I came home about an hour later; Thomas was in the kitchen reading newspaper.
“Thomas, is anything alright?” I asked as I entered the kitchen and took a seat opposite of him.
“Oh, everything is alright. Except that reporter, Joseph.” He almost snapped.
My head tilted slightly to the right side of curiosity. “What’s with him?”
“To me he gives this, this negative aura. I know it sounds crazy but there is no better word to say it. Not because he’s a gentleman, it has nothing to do with jealousy that is guarantied.” He sighed while trying to find the right words to say it. “Somehow, something inside me tells me not to mess around with him and he’s hiding something. I’d guess something obvious, that others haven’t seen yet and I’m trying to find out.”
“I have to admit with the inner voice, but keeping a secret. I mean who doesn’t?” I scoffed.
“I’d bet my salary that it’s a dark secret what no one else has.”
“What sort of dark secret?” I scoffed with a grin of doubt.
“I don’t know yet, but-“
“Are you going to play ‘Sherlock Holmes’ now?”
“If I must.”
“Ok! Fine! Go poke your nose around with or without a magnifying glass. But don’t expect that I will help you.”
“Wasn’t expecting.” He remarked; I gave a nod and stood up to have some supper.
Since having an interview with Joseph, I sometimes had a small talk with him in between lessons. Once he asked if I would like to have dinner with him after a lesson. For a moment I thought about it, the voice cried at me negatively while my mind said positively. I agreed to his question.
There was a flash of happiness in his blue eyes. He told me in which restaurant at which time and day I should come. As he told me the name of the restaurant, I was surprised because it was a name of a luxurious restaurant. “This Friday, 6:30pm, The Sarvoir?”
“Sure, I’ll be there.” I answered, nearly stuttering of surprise of his suggestion.
As Friday came, I was a bit nervous. After dancing I went quickly home to take a shower and change. As I stood before the mirror I had difficulty finding the right dress for tonight. Finally I decided to wear my long dark emerald dress made of silk, that my mother sewn for me on my 18th birthday, and tied my long hair to a braid. I had no difficulties finding the restaurant and came punctually.
At the reception they asked for reservation. Once I said Joseph’s name a servant lead me to a table where Joseph sat already waiting patiently for me. He quickly stood up to greet me and gave the servant a tip.
“I hope you hadn’t waited long.” I began, slightly worried and apologetic while taking my seat.
“Oh, no. I came here a bit too early. You look wonderful Anja.” Responded Joseph with a smile to me as he took his seat beside me.
Immediately I felt how my cheeks began to grow warm and smiled back. Soon came a servant handing us the menu card. Everything went fine. After a delicious dinner Joseph bid me to a dance, with some hesitation I accepted. Slowly we danced across the dance floor, the way he held me I knew clearly he loved me. I enjoyed it but the voice inside me was screaming at the top of its lungs, yelling repeating non-stop two words: Stop! Run!
Suddenly while dancing I noticed Thomas sitting at a table in a corner of the hall, hiding half behind a plant with big leaves and a large scarf wrapped round his neck. Thomas? What is he doing here? Soon after dancing I said to Joseph I have to go to the ladies room and walked up to Thomas’s table that lay luckily along the way. “What are you doing here Thomas?” I asked nerved.
“I told you I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on him. And what I saw till now doesn’t look good.” Answered Thomas sharply in almost a whispering tone.
I scoffed. “With whom I’m falling in love is my own business, Thomas. Unless you’re jealous then say it now before it’s too late.”
“I told you before, it’s not jealousy.” Remarked Thomas.
I breathed deeply and walked away. Once I was composed I went back to Joseph. As a few hours passed Joseph was generous and paid the dinner and in our own time we left the restaurant.
“Would you mind for a short night walk?” Asked Joseph with a smile and holding up his right elbow. I smiled and hooked to his arm; very old-fashion but polite and gentleman like nonetheless.
“I wouldn’t mind Joseph, my next train comes in an hour.”
“You came by train?” He wondered surprised with widened eyes and raised eyebrows.
“Yes, I don’t have a car and I don’t need it.” I Responded.
The air was ice cold and windless but few snowflakes came floating down gently. For a while we didn’t say a word. Seeing few other couples walking past us, we turned down to a deserted snowed street. We noticed at one lamppost a man was leaning against it. We couldn’t see his face because it was covered by the shadow of his hood.
“I’m not going to let you kidnap her! Let her go!” Demanded the man. I recognized the voice. It was Thomas! “Let her go! I know what you are and what you are planning to do!”
Joseph stayed calm and threw a short glance to me and back to him. “There must be a misunderstanding. We’re only taking a night walk and then we will separate our ways. I-“ Explained Joseph calmly, suddenly he stopped. I felt his arm beginning to tremble. He pushes me away and gives an anguish cry to the dark clouded sky. Struggling against something inside him.
“Joseph?” I gave worried. Terror got hold of my limbs and thus petrified.
His hands were to his head and half crouched to the ground. Fighting some inner force. His cries sounded horrible and not easily to forget. It was nearly as if watching a person being tortured or killed while there is nothing you can do to stop it or make right again.
Thomas pulled me away from Joseph. “Get away from him!” Thomas reminded.
Suddenly the cries stopped and I began to hear a devilish laughter coming from Joseph. He stood slowly up right again facing Thomas and me with an evil broad smile. His ice-blue eyes were now blood red and they somehow glowed like blazes in a fire.
“Joseph?” I asked in awe almost in a whisper.
“Joseph never existed, only I exist! Giving to all those meddling fools a false name to believe on.”
Fear overcame me; this is not the Joseph I knew few minutes ago.
“And you my dear, you shall always be mine! Since the first time I saw you! Dancing to beautiful and perfect that held me in a trance. A trance filled with delight like in a dream.” Told Joseph while walking slowly closer to me and reaching out a hand, his eyes fixed to mine.
Thomas stepped in front of me, “Run Anja!”
I wanted to listen Thomas and run but I couldn’t move my legs and couldn’t get my eyes off Joseph’s.
“It’s no use little man, she’s mine and under my power!” Smirked Joseph.
“No!” Shouted Thomas and ran towards Joseph. With a single move of Joseph’s hand, Thomas slipped. He fell, hitting his head on the floor and fainted.
I wanted to shout to the top of my lungs but I couldn’t. Tears of fear came rolling down my cheeks. Joseph walked slowly up to me. Stroking my cheek and gave the same evil smile as before. Suddenly I felt very exhausted, every limb in my body felt heavy and everything around me went black. Before I was completely gone, I felt how I fell into Joseph’s arms.
The next thing I knew I was waking up. Finding myself lying on a black queen size bed and wearing a different dress all in black with a few thick blood red stripes, black tights and fitting to it my pair of red shoes! I quickly got off from the bed to take a better look of myself and what was around me. The room was big and very dimly lit. At a fireplace the fire was burning warmly and few candle holders stood at dark corners, the only light providing in this room. I walked up to the fire to warm myself.
“You look beautiful Anja.” Whispered a familiar voice to my ear and felt a cold hand touch gently my shoulder.
I gasped and turned to see who it is, Joseph. There he stood before as I saw him before fainting. His red eyes appeared more fierce and piercing than before. His sight sent me a shiver through my entire body of terror.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.” He gave concerned with open arms.
“Where am I and why am I here?” I asked frightened.
“This is my home darling, our home. This is where you belong now. Here beside me.” He spoke so softly it was mesmerizing. Walking up to me and embraced me gently. It was without a doubt a lover’s embrace.
“Home? This isn’t my home Joseph. Where is Thomas?” I asked calmly. Oddly his embrace gave me courage.
“Stop calling me Joseph! I’m Kastar!” Remarked Kastar lightly angered. His eyes shone for a brief moment in bright red in the dim light. He gripped tightly at my upper arms that it hurt.
I liberated quickly from his grip and made space from him. “What are you?” I wondered insecurely. A new wave of emotion filled with fear came over me.
“I am no human like you are, I’m a demon from hell!” He answered proudly with a broad grin. “Do you remember how you found the red shoes? At that second hand store. Oh, and how you stared with disbelief and joy at them.” He grinned and stepped closer to me, I remained the space about the same taking few steps back. “Your dancing has put me in a trance, like a spell and what a lovely spell that moves from within me. I had the urge to come close but I didn’t know how. So I came up with the idea with those lovely shoes that you are wearing now. Fitting perfectly to your situation and the rest was just a masquerade.” Explained Kastar and chuckled, looking deeply into my eyes.
Immediately I froze and soon I felt his hands holding mine, they were ice cold. I wanted to shake my hands free from him but I couldn’t. I was again in a trance, strangely I can’t move at my will but still feel and think clearly with a clear conscience. His face came closer to mine and at one point, I felt his hard cold lips touch mine.
Quickly I was able to step away from him.
“What is it?” He asked confused.
I couldn’t speak. Tears began to well in my eyes while holding a hand to my mouth. “I’m afraid. Frightened.” I answered with a trembling voice.
“Afraid of what?”
“Of you. Where is Thomas?” I asked almost sobbing.
“Oh him. He’s taken care of, you can see him for yourself over there.” Answered Kastar pointing to one dark empty wall that transformed rapidly into a glass wall.
“Anja! Anja, can you hear me!” Cried Thomas beating with his fists against the glass. His voice sounded lightly muffled due to the odd glass that encased him.
“Thomas!” I cried of relief to hear and see him. My dear and poor friend! Quickly I ran to the wall.
“Anja, you’ve got to get out of here or he will kill both of us.” Whispered Thomas.
I heard an evil chuckling coming from Kastar. “Now why should I kill Anja when I love her? You should rather worry about your own skin, little man.” He remarked. “Enough with this chitchat. Come here Anja.” He demanded.
I obeyed, walking to him trembling of fear. I can feel his power and aggression just by looking at his eyes.
“Now that’s better, why don’t you dance a bit of ballet?”
I wanted to refuse as the music began to play magically somewhere. Suddenly my legs began move to the music that Kastar provided it through a snap of his fingers. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. Sweat and tears rolled down my skin. Kastar sat all this time in a couch and watched with an evil smile. His eyes shining red like blood with a spark of evil love. Very soon I gave up struggling and after a while with a snap of his cold pale fingers I stood up straight before him. He gave a smirk.
I breathed heavily and my entire body ached in protest. “Why are you doing this to me? Why?” I wondered frustrated as more tears welled in my eyes.
“You do know. You just don’t want to realize it, Anja. Out of love.”
“This is not love! This is possession!”
“Why, don’t you possess someone when you’re in love?”
“Not like this! Not like a slave! I’m not a slave!” I cried out and knelt to take off the shoes.
His cold hands were faster than mine, holding tightly at my wrists that it hurt. I gasped and looked up.
“Anja, I admire your courage and your cleverness. But you have to do better than that my sweet.” He sneered with a continuing smirk. “Those shoes will stay there.” Kastar told sternly while embracing me.
My body shivered in terror and exhaustion as more tears rolled from my eyes. For a long moment of silence held in Kastar’s cold embrace, I tried to calm myself down. Gathering strength to hold it out and not panic. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes. Mustering some courage I can find. I have to help Thomas!
“Never would I ever harm you Anja, my love.” I opened my eyes, Kastar’s eyes meeting mine. Suddenly I felt his icy hand stroking slowly through my hair, neck and cheek. Abruptly he kissed me. My eyes widened of surprise and pushed him away with all my strength. Quickly rubbing off the feeling of his lips from my lips with the back of my hand. Before Kastar could say or do anything. I ran to the wall where Thomas is held and with a heavy candleholder from one corner. I smashed it against the wall with all my might. Although it had the solid stone look, it shattered fragile like glass.
“Anja!” Thomas called.
“Thomas!” I cried of joy with out reaching arms to him. For a short moment I felt save in Thomas’ embrace and tears of joy and relief streamed over my cheeks.
“Why you little minx!” Roared Kastar. Within a flash he held Thomas by the neck high against the wall that his feet dangled. I remained motionless and had to collect what just happened now.
Thomas struggled not to be choked and trying to free himself; clutching at Kastar’s pale hands.
Kastar began to chuckle devilishly. “You humans are so pathetic! But one thing I have to admire by you is your courage.”
“No! Please stop! Please!” I cried trying to help Thomas by pulling Kastar’s arm away. I nearly broke out in panic just seeing how my dear friend chokes. “Please let him live! I will do whatever you desire Kastar!” What am I saying? But what choice do I have to save Thomas? I was on my knees in tears, looking up to Kastar with fear and hoping he would let Thomas go.
Kastar turned to me, his blood red eyes shone of surprise. “Very well.” Spoke Kastar calmly dropping Thomas.
He dropped almost like a lifeless doll to the ground. Thomas coughed and gasped, rubbing at his neck. Trying to speak but nothing came.
“There has been a secret desire I wanted to do but I thought I shall wait until you’re ready. It seems now you called for it and I will answer it gladly.” He walked slowly closer to me. Suddenly he took me by the waist and stood across the room. He kissed me and I felt his tongue! I tried to push him away and stop the kissing but he was too strong. The other hand stroked slowly coldly from my cheek down my neck to my shoulder onward over my bosom the stomach and stopped at my hip. Then his hand continued at the back over my ass cheek, pulling slowly my leg upward to his hip. He continued to kiss me but I wanted push him away so badly yet I couldn’t. He has set me on a trance! I wanted to scream. I wanted to fight and run; instead tears came rolling down my cheeks. It was a living nightmare! Over Kastar’s shoulder I saw Thomas at the back lying very weak on the ground. Fighting to stand up and speak but he couldn’t. Kastar stopped kissing and began to lick the tears from my cheeks. “So beautiful, so sensual.” He whispered frantically while looking at me with an evil smile and kissed me again.
Suddenly Kastar stopped kissing me and I was lying on the floor like a doll. My head hurt from the abrupt fall; as I slowly got up I realized what happened. Kastar was at the other end of the room fighting against someone or something. I blinked, realizing I was free from his trance. Thomas was still lying on floor. Quickly I rubbed of the feeling of Kastar’s lips from my face and wiped away the tears. I was free! Quickly I ran over to Thomas and embraced him. More tears began to well in my eyes.
“You two! Get out of here!” Called a manly voice while struggling with Kastar.
“But were is the exit?” Wondered Thomas hoarsely.
“Behind you!” Answered the dark shadow that fought wildly against Kastar. Reminding me how two lions would fight only in lightening speed that I can barely make out which moves were done.
Quickly I took off the shoes so that Kastar won’t get another chance to stop me. Helped Thomas stand up by holding one of his arms over my shoulder. Quickly Thomas began to recover his strength as if some spell has been lifted as we walked into the shattered wall that I broke before.
“How we got out in detail from there on, I cannot recall. Until you found us freezing in the snow.” Explained Anja with a trembling voice, shivering from cold and fright. Tucking a bit tighter at her blanket. Thomas embraced her to warm and comfort her.
“Interesting story, miss Stranov.” Noted the officer and placed down his notes on the table.
“You do believe what I told you? Do you?” Asked Anja frustrated.
“Others won’t but I do and every word you said. Don’t you worry. Everything’s taken care of.”
“How can you be so sure? You only found us few hours ago on the streets with no sense of orientation.” Noted Thomas suspicious.
“True but not just that.” Remarked the officer with a broad grin. His irises shone blood red for a brief moment. “I was the one who saved you two from the demon called Kastar.”