The Red Shoes
“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 features. He sat on a chair facing, across a metallic table, two young people. One was a woman and the other a man. 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 silence. The officer took the two documents that lay on the table beside him and turned a 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 as she was about to start. “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.”
The officer listened in his closest attention, taking at times a few notes.
“What do you 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. 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 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 the main role after all those years of dancing and training. Without a second thought, I’ve decided to go to that one shop where they had it at the least high priced. 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 low price! For a moment, I stood before the window as if being hypnotized. I thought I was dreaming! After a few moments, I awoke to my amazement and entered the shop. The shop owner was an old lady who came to me after a few moments. “I’m interested in the red shoes,” I noted, pointing to the window at the shoes. “Yes, just a moment.” She responded while heading to the window. The owner quickly asked if the shoes have the right size. I carefully 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 station, I ran all the way to the flat; also running up the stairs. 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, red shoes! Look!” Revealing the shoes out of the bag. “At a cheap price, you’ll never guess!” I gasped.
“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 excited, wondering 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 someone else. You dance so well; you deserve to have a big role.” Said my teacher in a quiet, satisfied tone.
I gave a nod of appreciation. The rest of the day went as per usual, but there was a slight change as to how I danced. I felt free like a bird and so light that in a jump, I could fly up to the ceiling. In every move, I felt perfection and 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 delighted, 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.
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. From his temples grew already grey hair. 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 ice-blue eyes looked everywhere as if he could see everything, but mostly they were fixed upon me. Not only because I had the main role also when I stood quiet amongst other dancers or close to Thomas, but he looks at me with a strange gaze. It was a gaze that gave me a chill down my spine. He looked neither the youngest nor the oldest, but many women found him attractive. I have to admit he is polite, offering sometimes help and holding doors open and he is good looking, but a voice inside me said to stay away from him as far as possible. He came visiting nearly every day; sometimes with a camera or a notebook and pen to take notes. He even interviewed a 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 have a private lesson because of my role. As I came somehow, the reporter knew of it 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. I bit lip and started with the warm-up. Everything went fine during the lesson until my teacher gave a break and left me alone with him. I turned away from him.
“You dance exceptionally with such elegance and perfection.” He whispered into my ear.
I gasped of fright and turned around. His voice was deep and soft. Strangely I began to blush and tried to hide it. “Thank you.” I thanked shyly.
He noticed and began to grin; in his eyes, I saw and felt somewhat affection.
Deep inside me, I felt and heard the voice screaming to the top of its lungs, warning me that I should better run away. My mind, however, wondered what could be so bad on him? He did only good and pleasant things, except that whisper. Secondly, I don’t know him, why should I judge him already now? Yet staying cautious is never a wrong action.
“I am Joseph. I would like to interview you after this lesson if that is alright with you?”
“Erm… Yes, it’s alright.” I nodded and forced a smile.
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. 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 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 at 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.” I think I need to talk with him once I’m home.
“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 suggested 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 as Mrs Schmidt did. Everything went fine during the interview. But the voice warned me only to answer the questions and don’t give any extra information and keep a far distance from him. At the same time, I began to feel he was trying to reel me in from his tone at certain words and how he looked at me. So, I took heed of what my inner voice said. 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 for that reporter, Joseph.” He folded the newspaper aside.
“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 polite, it has nothing to do with jealousy that is guaranteed. 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 will find out.”
“I have to admit to 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 sighed with rolled eyes.
“I don’t know yet, but-“
“Are you going to play ‘Sherlock Holmes’ now?”
“If I must.”
I stood up. “Ok, 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 the nod and turned to the stove to have some warm soup.
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 the name of a luxurious restaurant. “This Friday, 7:30 pm, ‘The Savoy’?”
“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 satin, that my mother made for me as a birthday present, and tied my long hair to a braid. I had no difficulties finding the restaurant and came punctually. At the reception, they asked for a 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.
I felt immediately 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 dance, shyly I accepted. Slowly we danced across the dance floor, the way he held me, I sensed adoration. I enjoyed it, but the voice inside me was screaming at the top of its lungs, yelling repeating non-stop two words like a broken disk: STOP! RUN!
Suddenly while dancing, I noticed Thomas sitting at a table in the corner of the hall, hiding half behind a plant with big leaves and dark tainted glasses. 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 to the toilet. “What are you doing here, Thomas?” I asked nerved.
“I told you I’d be keeping a sharp eye on him. And what I saw till now doesn’t look good.” Answered Thomas sharply.
I scoffed. “With whom I’m falling in love with 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 took a deep breath and walked away. Once I was composed, I went back to Joseph. The time flew by, and Joseph was generous by paying 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?”
“Yes, I don’t have a car, and I don’t need it,” I Responded.
The air was ice cold and wind still, but few snowflakes came floating down gently. For a while, we didn’t say a word. Seeing a few other couples walking past us and soon 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 due to his large 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-“ Suddenly Joseph stopped. I felt his arm beginning to tremble. He pushed me away and gave an anguished cry of pain. Struggling against something within him.
“Joseph?” I gave worried.
His hands were to his head and half crouched to the ground. Fighting some inner force. His cries sounded horrible. It was near as if watching a person being tortured or killed.
Thomas pulled me away from Joseph. “Get away from him!” Thomas reminded.
Suddenly the cries stopped, and I began to hear a peal of devilish laughter coming from Joseph. He stood slowly upright, facing Thomas and me with a broad smile.
“Joseph?” I asked afraid 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 a few minutes ago!
“And you, my dear, you shall always be mine! Since the first time I saw you!” Told Joseph while walking slowly closer to me and reaching out a hand, his eyes fixed to mine. They were darker than the night and terrifying.
Thomas stepped in front of me, “Run, Anja!”
I wanted to listen to 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 the lungs but I couldn’t. Tears of fear came rolling down my cheeks. Joseph walked slowly up to me. Stroking my cheek and gave an evil smile. Suddenly I felt drowsy, 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 found myself lying on a black queen size bed and wearing a different dress all in wine red with a few thin black 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 candleholders 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, is was Joseph.
“Don’t be afraid; I won’t hurt you.” He gave concerned, his eyes were still black as before.
“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.
“Home? This isn’t my home Joseph. Where is Thomas?” I asked calmly.
“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.
I took further steps away from him. “What are you?” I wondered in great fear that I almost couldn’t speak.
“I am no human like you are. I’m a demon from hell.” He gave a menacing cackle. “I noticed you dancing the other day and searching eagerly for specific shoes. Dancing elegantly, gracefully with perfection and beauty. From that moment on, I loved you and will onward into eternity. At first, I didn’t know how to lure you, 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, coming closer to me. I wanted to keep a distance from him, but my back hit the wall and before I knew he stood in front of me, taking my hands gently into his and looking into my eyes.
His hands 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 cold lips touch mine.
Quickly I was able to step away from him and liberate myself.
“What is it?” He asked, confused.
I couldn’t speak. Tears began to well in my eyes as I held up a hand to my mouth.
He walked up and embraced me.
“I’m afraid. Frightened.” I answered with a trembling voice.
“Afraid of what?”
“Of you. Where-where is Thomas?”
“Oh him. He’s taken care of, and 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. Glass dampened the sound, but still, I heard him.
“Thomas!” I cried of relief to hear and see him. My dear and poor friend! Quickly I ran to the wall and held up a hand upon the surface.
“Anja, you’ve got to get out of here, or he will kill both of us.” Called Thomas.
“Now why should I kill Anja when I love her? You should rather worry about your own skin, little man.” Remarked Kastar and began to cackle. “Enough with the chitchat come here, Anja.” He demanded.
I obeyed, walking to him trembling of fear.
“Now that’s better, why don’t you dance a bit of ballet? You do it so wonderfully.”
I wanted to refuse as the music began to play magically somewhere. Suddenly my legs began to move to the music that Kastar provided it through a snap of his fingers. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. Kastar sat all this time on a couch and watched with an evil smile. His eyes shining black like the night with a spark of an evil love. Sweat and tears rolled down my skin as I tried to resist, but it was no use, and after a while, with a snap of his cold, pale fingers I stood up straight before him. He smirked.
“Why are you doing this to me? Why?” I asked out of breath and frustrated.
“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?”
“No! I’m not 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 continuing to smirk. “Those shoes will stay there,” Kastar told sternly while embracing me.
More tears rolled from my eyes. For a few long moments 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.
“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 anything.
I ran to the wall where Thomas is held and with a candle holder from one corner. I smashed it against the wall. Although it had the solid stone look, it shattered like glass.
“Anja!” Thomas called.
“Thomas!” I cried of joy, embracing Thomas; he embraced me.
“Why you little minx!” Roared Kastar. Within a flash, he held Thomas by the neck high against the wall that his feet dangled.
Thomas struggled not to be choked and trying to free himself, clutching at Kastar’s hands.
Kastar began to laugh devilishly. “You humans are so pathetic! But one thing I have to admire by you is your courage, little man.”
“No! Please stop!” I cried, trying to help Thomas by pulling Kastar’s arm away. I nearly broke out in panic just seeing how my dear friend Thomas chokes. “Please let him live! I will do whatever you want, Kastar!” What am I saying? But what choice do I have to save Thomas?
Kastar turned to me; his dark eyes shone of surprise. “Very well.” Spoke Kastar calmly dropping Thomas.
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 should wait until you’re ready. It seems now you called for it and I will answer it gladly.” Continued Kastar walking slowly closer to me. Suddenly he kissed me, and I felt his tongue! I tried to push him away and stop the kissing, but he was too strong. With one arm around my waist, 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 my leg slowly upward to his hip. He continued to kiss me, but I wanted to push him away so badly yet I couldn’t. He has set me on a trance! I wanted to scream; 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 while looking at me with an evil smile and kissed me again.
Suddenly Kastar stopped kissing me, and I was lying on the floor. My head hurt, 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, I was free from his trance. Thomas was still lying on the floor. Quickly I rubbed off 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 where is the exit?” Wondered Thomas hoarsely.
“Behind you!” Answered the dark shadow that fought wildly against Kastar. Reminding me how two lions would fight.
Quickly I took off the shoes so that Kastar won’t get another chance to stop me and helped Thomas stand up by throwing an arm 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.
“You do believe what I told you; do you?” Asked Anja.
“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 a few hours ago on the streets with no sense of orientation.”
“True but not just that.” Remarked the officer with a broad grin. His irises shone pitch black for a brief moment. “I was the one who saved you two from the demon called Kastar.”
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