A quiet man, Doctor Varias has spent most of his twenties and thirties out on Romania's roads less traveled. Preferring towns that barely register on the map, he works tirelessly, keeps to himself in his rare spare time, then moves on. If he only offers the merest hint of a thin-lipped smile towards entertaining local superstitions, most villagers are just grateful to see a doctor from the city, and leave him be.
It's the way Varias – who has not worked or lived in cities since medical school – prefers it. Away from the bureaucracy, the politics, the childish name-calling. In fact, in the medical registers of Bucharest there is a surprising absence, perhaps even a deliberate absence, of his family name.
Like many young doctors, he doesn't sleep a lot, instead poring over yellowed textbooks and dog-eared manila folders until the early hours. He's learning Russian, and takes a special interest in villagers old enough to remember the Soviet occupation. It's for his hobby, he explains – he likes to walk. To explore the old bare walls, the abandoned places.
No one thinks there's anything sinister about him. “He has a good heart,” they say, and it's true. Varias is a good man, a proud man, who took his Hippocratic oath seriously. He has no dark secret of his own.
Trouble is, he might have inherited one.