Fear created the monsters, they did not create the fear. Man created fear, man created the monsters. History has bred folklore, tall-tales, myths, and monsters. Once in a long while, the monsters get a chance to tell their stories, their truth, and get their revenge. We become obsessed with them, their history and story. Obsession can lead to the very monsters we fear, and the very truth we seek.
The air outside is buzzing with electricity, the night is alive and heavy with anticipation. Anise halts in a clearing lit by the full moon, the only light she has with her. Looking around her breathing is heavy and labored. The only climbing she had done recently had been up and down the steps into her school’s library. She’d never prepared herself for midnight forest hikes. The forest was swaying with a breeze that only the trees could feel, as if they knew what would happen next. The weight in her bag was starting to cut into her shoulders. Anise had seemingly brought everything one could ever need with her. She’d packed food and water, clothing, maps, a gps unit, and several books on the Hungarian countryside, Cathice Castle and Erzsebet Bathory. Stopping in a clearing she pulled out her notes, making sure she was headed in the right direction and not getting turned around. She was being smart though. As she walked she dropped small peridot gemstones along the way so that when the rising sun or her flashlight lit up the path she’d follow the glimmering stones back to the safety of the forests edge.
Putting things back in her bag and starting off again she glanced at her watch and saw that it was too close to midnight and she was too far from her destination. Scrambling to pick up the pace her heart rate increased, though it wasn’t from the physical exertion. Her heart began to pound in her chest for what was awaiting her in the woods. It was the smallest of clearings she was seeking out; lined with Italian chestnut trees that had been a gift to the Countess from the Pope, within was a fairly unknown species of Orchid that could be seen glowing on nights when the moon was full. There was something so magical about the space that the sheer thought of it had drawn her thousands of miles to find it.
After another thirty minutes of hiking she finally approached her mecca. Walking to the center and removing the enormous weight from her back she rested in the grass. Isolated from the world around her she relished in the moment. Years of research and looking had brought her to this very moment, and she’d made it. A long sigh escaped her lips followed by a stream of laughter that shook her to the core. Anise waited another moment or so before remembering her real reason for coming. Standing she took to her tasks at hand and reached into her bag. Pulling out a handful of white candles, a chalice and a black rose she set about placing the candles in a circle around the orchids. Lighting them she recited a Hungarian rhyme that she’d painstakingly translated so that she would get each word, each intonation and breath right. Anise did whatever she could to leave nothing to chance or mistake. “Nearby the forest is around me, I lay my head upon my cloak. I fold my hands together. Adorned palace, its window is green, come out you, rose, the violet is waiting for you. The candle is burning, burning. Don’t let it out! Those who want to see the flame, should all crouch down.” Once her circle was lit by candle like she resumed her place in the center. Humming to the rhyme she’d sung moments ago she poured the chalice full of a blood red wine. Dipping the rose into the liquid she then laid it next to the luminescent orchids. Then she drank from the cup and laid back to look at the stars.
A little while later her candles had burned low, a few of them extinguished by a breeze that gently woke her. Anise blinked, remembering where she was and why she’d been there. Looking at her watch she saw that it was shortly after midnight. Sitting up she stretched, pulling her knees to her chest she smiled. Pulling the rose from the ground next to her she began to whisper a happy birthday to the Countess, knowing in her heart this is where she’d been buried and not in the Castle Cathice cemetery. Standing Anise began to gather the candle remnants and all signs she’d been at the site. It was protected by the Hungarian government and it was extremely possible that she’d broken a dozen different laws coming up here.
After gathering her things she turned back to look at the orchids one last time. They were mesmerizing and Anise would never be able to return here. Staring at them she began to walk closer, hoping to snap a few pictures, possibly press one among the pages of a book on the Countess she never left without. Approaching the flowers Anise suddenly caught a whiff of smoke, not as if something was burning, but rather a just blown out candle made from beeswax and rosemary. Retreating from her path she was determined to turn on her heels and run when she saw an arm just beyond the bushes. Anise walked around to see if the person connected too it was still alive.
Rounding the bush Anise felt her heart quicken its beat again, and thought to herself that she really needed to increase her cardio routine when she got home and that a real life horror movie was never on her list of things to do. The arm was connected to a small framed girl, probably around her own age. Except, the girl was absolutely beautiful, and had blood seeping out of her and onto the ground from her neck, arms, and legs. Dressed in a white cotton gown that was stained red she looked almost peaceful laying there. Anise stumbled backwards and fell to the ground. Sitting up she crawled next to the girl to see if she were still alive. A loud cracking noise from the woods startled her and she whipped around to see nothing. There was no way to know how the girl got here, let alone who murdered her.
Her room was silent, the steady beeping of the machine monitoring her delicate heartbeat was softly reminding everyone that the girl was still alive. The room was freezing, the air was heavy with anticipation and the overwhelming smell of bleach. Anise sat awkwardly in the chair placed next to the bed, typically used by family though Anise knew this girl had none. Seated there Anise had taken on the role of protector for the girl, though she was only waiting at her bedside to ask a litany of questions once she woke up. Hours were passing slowly by into days and then a week had passed, with the only noticeable change was her heartbeat. Once faint it was now growing stronger, steadier, quicker with sporadic moments of pure adrenaline. On the rare occasion Anise left the room she would over hear the nurses talking about the girls status.
She was all alone, declared a Jane Doe from the moment she was found and the hospital had given up on trying to default Anise as a guardian. With every day that wore on Anise was concerned the girl would never wake up, or that when she did something worse would happen.
After a week Anise needed to choose what would happen when the girl did wake up. From the bag near her feet she pulled out a thick folder. Though she’d thumbed through it a dozen times it was always there to remind her of the work she was ignoring waiting for this girl to wake up. Grabbing it she decided to leave the room and take the short walk to where the nurses had informed her the only decent coffee machine was.
The hospital was a labyrinth, and getting lost was easily done. Settling back into her chair with her folder and coffee she took each photograph from the file, laid them next to each other in the order she knew made sense. The police had called it a mid-summer attack, little more than the girl being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anise knew differently. Every year around early August girls were found murdered all over the grounds of a castle in Old Hungary. Castle Cathice. It belonged once to a woman fascinated by the concept of blood, the magic it held. Nearly four hundred years after her death there were still sacrifices made to her, and the girl was no exception but yet very different. Often women were found raped and slaughtered like pigs, hung and bled. This girl was different. Anise had found her bleeding on the ground near the luminescent orchids that marked the grave of the Blood Countess. There were no signs of rape or trauma, and only a handful of cuts marred her skin, made with the precision of a surgeon to bleed her in the most effective manner, yet not kill her or leave her terribly scarred.There were homemade candles, beeswax and rosemary, that had been placed near her. Anise would always remember the smell. The police simply presumed that she’d been kidnapped and tortured, Anise knew what had happened to her, that she’d gone into those woods willingly. She met all the criteria.
Wandering around the hospital Anise could feel the knots in her stomach and back. The last two weeks of her life had been a blur, first a dream vacation to study in person at the castle known to have housed and been the death of the Countess who so often consumed her thoughts. She had found the true burial site and had even been there to witness the Countess’s four hundredth birthday. The last week spent in the hospital had done little to help Anise remove the horror of the girls body from her mind. She knew why the girl had gone, and yet was so angry at how fascinated she was by her. There had been at least three flights Anise could have gotten to get her back home, back to the safety of her library and work, she missed them all. As she walked back to the girls room she couldn’t help but wonder why the girl had agreed to be sacrificed to a centuries dead countess. Beginning to feel weak, she walked back to the girls room.
Anise looked closely at the girl lying in the bed. She was so young, so delicate. Her veins were easily seen, even from across the room. If you took away the tubes and machines she could almost be Sleeping Beauty. Dark chestnut hair resting in a sweaty halo around her face, lips somehow remaining cherry red. Anise brushed a strand away from the girls face and noticed that a note had been slipped into the sleeping beauty’s hand. “Tonight she’ll wake up. Please be prepared to help her. She won’t remember what happened at first. You have to bring her home. You have to protect her!”
Anise slipped the piece of paper into her pocket, slightly disturbed at its presence and what it could mean. Surely this girl had a home here in Hungary, a family that was missing her? The note couldn’t have meant bringing her back to America, to the sparkling desert of Nevada. Sitting back Anise decided to sit and wait to see what happened. Checking her phone occasionally to respond to her professor, a tyrant livid she was still in Hungary yet not doing research, Anise needed the girl to wake up soon or else she’d have to leaver her alone to whatever fate would befall her.
A sharp intake of breath startled her, Anise had fallen asleep in the chair. Rubbing sleep from her eyes she saw a figure leaving the room and figured it was a nurse. Standing and stretching she walked to the window across from the bed. Feeling how cool the glass was and how stuffy the room was she opened it, letting a fresh breeze envelope the room. The girl began to stir on the bed. The beeping from her machines was picking up pace and Anise heard the smallest moans escape her lips. Turning to face her for the first time as a living person Anise was suddenly nervous. Flushed with anticipation and expectation of solid answers that would come pouring from the girl as easily as Anise had poured her life into her. What happened next was still unbelievable, something that Anise would never forget.
Once the girl fully woke up and regained her wits she turned to Anise and didn’t seemed frightened that before her stood a stranger who reeked of desperation and questions. The young sleeping beauty motioned to Anises’s glass, naturally she’d be thirsty after being comatose for so long. Handing the girl some water, and then helping her drink she noticed at how well healed she looked. Hardly any scars remained from where she’d been bled, and there was no sign of her traumatic blood loss. Anise was shocked that the beeping of the machines hadn’t already alerted the nurses. Poking her head out to see if anyone was nearby, she noticed how eerily quiet the hallway was.
As they waited for the nurses or a doctor to come to them Anise sat nervously next to the girl, who laid on her bed with complete calm. She’d yet to ask where she was, or why she was there. After a few moments of silence that felt like hours to Anise she asked for the girls name.
“Elizabeta.” was all the girl said. No last name attached, no middle name. She stared at Anise, her bright eyes glowing in her gentle face.
“Elizabeta, do you remember what happened? Do you know where you are?” Anise stood next to her and gently held her hand, as if the gesture could somehow coax out answers that Anise believed the girl knew.
“Kórház.” Hospital in Hungarian.
“Yes, korhaz. Do you know why?”