Did you know you can tour the inside of Bran Castle? (See link below.) That’s the castle famous for being the home of none other than Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula himself. And do note that I said Count Dracula and not Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler aka Vlad Dracul). Dear Vlad never lived there. In fact, it is thought that he likely never even stepped foot inside that castle.
Earlier this year, I submitted a story to a contest looking for 350-word Weird Christmas stories.
My story didn’t make the final cut. Which, if I’m honest, is a little disappointing (and if I’m even more honest, the stories that made it are great!). But, as a writer, I have come to understand that rejection is just part of the game. And, what’s amazing is that I keep on writing.
So, since I’m not part of the contest, I can freely publish that story whenever I want to.
How’s now sound?
Christmas in Transylvania
“I googled these woods. They’re haunted,” Justin said as we approached the clearing.
It was cold. And dark. And my two-mile hike had started to seem more like a three-hour tour. “You’re not scared, are you?” I taunted.
“Great way to spend Christmas, Tass. Cold and lost in some haunted forest!” Stumbling, he groaned, “No pie. No presents. Just creepy old trees and ghosts!”
Growing up in New York City had not prepared Justin for the old country.
“Stop freaking out. Those are legends. There are no ghosts and people don’t just go missing out here.”
“Whatever, Tass. Can we go back?” Dodging unseen specters, my boyfriend hugged his shoulders and twisted on the spot. “Please?”
Arms wide, I sauntered into the open field and twirled. “I told you, I came here every year when I was young. I know this place like the back of my hand.”
Transylvania at Christmastime is beautiful: Snowy mountains. Vibrant old-world traditions. Children caroling. It’s magical. And no, no vampires. But he was right. The Hoia-Baciu Woods are famous for their strange happenings. My family won’t even venture out here, especially not at night. What was I trying to prove? Dropping my arms, I lumbered toward Justin. “Let’s just head back. It’s time for dinner, anyway.”
Two steps away from him the air around us wobbled, and I heard a loud zippering sound behind me. An icy chill buzzed through my body. “Justin, did you feel that?”
“Justin?” Silence. My skin prickled. Could the legends be true? Was he taken? Did he simply disappear? “Justin!” Searching frantically, I paced circles in the clearing and retraced our steps back toward my grandparents’ cottage.
After an interminable journey through the woods alone, fatigue slowed my steps. Tears streaked my weary face. Trudging toward the cottage, my body shook with fear and anger. How could Justin be gone?
Reaching for the doorknob, I froze. Through the wall, I heard Justin’s voice.
“To Tassa,” Justin said. “It’s been five Christmases since you disappeared. May the woods guard your spirit.”
“To Tassa,” my family chanted in reply.
* * *
If you want to read more about the Hoia-Baciu woods and their legends, click here.
(Featured banner photo credit: cgcowboy on pixabay)