An excerpt from my novel “Kafka In The Castle”, where l fill in his ‘missing’ diary entries.
01 March 1917
I was part way down the steps of the castle last night, on my way home. Perhaps a bit later than usual, I didn’t check my watch. I was passing one of the corners, where the locked doors bar entrance to the passageways, when I heard a rustle in the air. I doubt I would have noticed, were it not for my acute hearing. Nothing more than that, but I went to take a look.
A man was huddled by the stone – not sprawled or laying, but seated – and with his head resting against the cold surface. There was the smell of urine, and the smell of wine. He did not look up as I approached, and I wondered what to do. People and their choices – I prefer to let them lead their lives – but he could not spend the night where he was. He would freeze to death. I spoke, but there was no response. I debated between nudging him with my foot, or shaking him by the shoulders, although I found neither course of action appealing.
“You should go home,” I said. “It is too cold to stay here.” He made a noise, but I wasn’t sure what it was, so I leaned closer. The wine was so strong, I thought he must have broken the bottle. This time I could hear the trace of laughter, and his low voice.
“We meet again. The Herr Doktor.” I hurriedly stepped back. Recognition was the last thing I had expected. “You still walk the nights,” he said, and I then realized it was my next – door neighbour.
“I leave late,” I said. “But you still come home late.” And with less success than ever, I thought, but I did not tell him this.
“I broke the bottle.” He spoke unexpectedly, and startled me. “I’ve cut my hand.” He tried to struggle to his feet, and I reached for him, but he ignored me. Because it was less dark on the steps, I could see that his jacket and pants were wet, and his sleeve was smeared with blood. He was not even dressed for winter, and I wondered if he had lost his coat.
He started down the steps, but I turned him around. “Ah, yes,” he said. “To heaven.” He did not seem to want my help as he very deliberately took one step at a time. Near the top, he turned and spoke. “She’s a whore, that Julie. She’s no good.” Halfway through the court yard he said: “Her hair. Just to touch her hair.” At the entrance of the Alchemist Lane, he held up his bloodied hand as if to push something away. “There is a man, now. A man with her.” His voice slavered around the air.
I stopped him before his own door, and he surprised me by having the key in his hand. He put it in the lock slowly, but without difficulty. “I saw them.” As the door swung in, he turned to me. “Herr Doktor, my Angel of Redemption. So you have moved next door.” He shook my hand, leaving blood upon my fingers. “You do good work, Herr Doktor. But I search for the Angel of Death.”
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