Part one of WIP. We enter the story...
Please note: This is unedited.
Chapter one Romania 2015. (unedited) PT. 2.
"My grandfather was good friends with your father, that is the only reason my Father allowed you such freedoms. It ends now. Pay the price and do as you’re told. I will not ask again. You know well what happens to those who defy the rules here. Think of your wife, your unborn baby, which is due to arrive within the next quarter, think of your daughter, she's not yet five, she needs you to be there for them. They are depending on you to do the right thing here too.”
“Anton, you are a half breed, the worst of our kind. You will one day find that your ‘power’ is not infinite. Already some wish to see you replaced as the head.”
“Petu, you talk about my breeding as if yours is any better. The truth is, you don’t know what you are. Your parents were poor, unable to read or write. They existed here, but only barely. You were born not because of a want of another mouth to feed, but because your mother did not know that all she had to do was keep her legs closed. Take him to the cell, leave him there until his screams deafen him.”
“I can almost see it when you talk about this, A lumbering man, grabbing Petu, yanking him roughly off the dirt floor. A sadistic smile plastered to his angular face.”
“We know from other dealings of the time that he was most likely bound. Unable to defend himself when this “trial” took place.”
“I’m starting to feel bad for this guy. An orphan at a young age. In the deepest parts of the wild regions. I can see how this would not be a good situation for any of them. And we are sure this conversation took place?”
She smiled, “We are sure something like it did. But to know if these were…” She paused, “Exact words, we don’t know, we think so.”
My inner writer was working overtime building images and scenarios in my head. A slight buzzing sound interrupted my musings. “Will you excuse me, I have to take this.” She held up a cell phone. I will be back shortly.”
I returned to my thoughts, my mind building images of this man, both feared and loved. Reviled and respected to some extent.
I asked the translator to read more. “There is too much more,” he replied as if that cleared anything up. I sat back with my notepad, scribbling words almost as fast as they flashed through my mind. Looking at the few pictures within the folder the woman had been reading from.
… Petu rubbed his knees after the door slammed shut, no light, the village did not have electricity, no window to let in the sun, he worried about his wife, and how she would cope being near delivery with a small child on her hip. Praying that, as always, the village women would not allow one of their own to suffer unduly.
A small hole at the bottom of the door would allow a small plate to be passed, but the wood plank was secured. He tried pushing upon it and the thick planked wooden door with all his strength to no avail...
The opening of the door behind him interrupted his thoughts. “Sorry, I am still working.” She smiled politely.
“So, He’s taken to this room?” I held the glossy black and white picture, inspecting it.
“We believe so. It’s still standing as the walls are much thicker than any of the buildings in the village if you can even call it that anymore. A ghost town, maybe that’s a better word?" She turned the page and began to read silently. “The next part was given as part of an interview with an elderly woman. She recently died.” The last was stated without a hint of compassion as if the news was no more bothersome to her than giving someone the daily weather report. The fact that she seemed so cold about the death of someone she had spoken with and how she desperately wished to forget the pictures of the corpse created a sort of odd feeling of dissonance.
“He was sent to the cell house, and there he stayed for a period of two years. We were glad he was gone. Things could go back to being quiet, normal. Without his shouting, his strange ideas, his insistence that his family was related to Vlad Țepeș.”
“So he thought he was a direct descendant of Vlad the ruler? The inspiration behind Dracula?”
“His daughter confirmed this for us. He did believe he was related to the most powerful figure of the middle ages.”
“Was he insane?”
She chuckled lightly, “We don’t think so. But that’s a word we do not usually use here. We leave that sort of thing to you Americans.” She turned the page again, “According to the woman here, Petu was left in the cell for two years. In that time his wife died during childbirth and his daughter was given to a neighbor to care for. She claims that he was forced to eat rats as the men who were charged with bringing him food would neglect to do so for days at a time. She said there was a small bucket of water they delivered once a week. Sometimes, someone would take pity on him and bring him the news, but generally speaking, he did not get many visitors aside from his daughter, and they never opened the door when anyone was around. Only to remove the waste, and place the water bucket. Which we think is what these metal rings were.” She pointed to a spot in a picture I had not seen yet.
“So this happened when?”
“According to the records we were able to locate, Petu was about 25 maybe 30 so mid to late 70s. We honestly don't know for sure. His daughter claims to be 35. Which makes him about 70 at the time of his death.”
“And they were still bringing water in wood buckets?”
"The villages change slowly. This is perhaps why they die. They are unable to adapt to the new world we have. They are entrenched in the old ways and resist change. If they have done something one way for hundreds of years, why would they change just because we think it is outdated, or in this case outright barbaric? To them, it is simply tradition. And tradition and superstition run together in this area.” She stated this matter of factly.
She groaned as her phone began to dance across the table’s top.
“Go ahead, please.” I smiled, awestruck by what I learned so far. I picked up my pen and began writing again.
… Day turned to night, days to weeks; Petu lost track of time, there was nothing to break up the long solitary hours. Except for the scurrying of rodents, many of which became his meals as it seemed his jailers would forget to bring food to him most days. The small space stank of vomit, urine, and shit. A banging on the door woke him from a restless sleep. “Petu, your wife, she went into labor, I’m sorry to say neither she nor the boy made it. Catina is with Marius.”
Petu closed his eyes, and clenched his fists, pressing them tightly to his face. Trying to not scream. Marius’ family, he respected enough that he knew they would not spoil her nor abuse her. He cried, screamed and begged until it seemed he forgot how to speak.
“Hey, does that page say when or why he was released?” I asked the young man who sat next to me so quiet I had nearly forgotten he was there.
The man picked the page up and read it before speaking, “He fell ill, late into his second winter within the room. Fearing he would die he was released from his prison, but he was changed. He no longer loudly proclaimed Vlad III to be the shining example of how they should live their lives. Most took it as a blessing that he rarely spoke at all. Allowing his daughter to do most of his talking for him instead. But the fear he had instilled in them remained, and so they paid higher prices for items of the best quality, they avoided him and his child whenever possible. He no longer attended village events, choosing to instead sit within the boundaries of his property out of sight.” He summarized the next page of writing for me.
I wrote as he spoke. Perhaps the woman they had interviewed was a bit of a storyteller too? I mused silently. Waiting for the woman to return. I took another pad and made a few notes to use for later.
“Where is the bathroom?” I asked the man next to me.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Out there...” He pointed at the door which was slightly ajar.
After a few moments thought, I decided to stay put least I lose my train of thought. I put the pen to paper once again, the story forming almost as if by someone else’s hand.
...As the years passed, his reputation took on a life of its own. Many grew to fear the house and man at the end of the single one-lane road. Ostracized his daughter was the one who suffered the most. She grew bitter in her dealing with the people in their village, and longed for a chance to escape. However, she did not wish to leave her father behind.