The Thief

The Thief

A Story by Paige
"

My best short story, and my favorite. I even created a "cover" for it. Click the thumbnail fore full view

"

Silence. 

Silence was all that existed in the night.

Pure silence.

It was wonderful.

So thought the boy as he rounded the corner, the black of midnight becoming the cloak that he wore as he scampered down the streets, bent almost double, head down, darting this way and that to avoid being seen by the staring windows of the houses around him.  A year ago, he would have tripped on this cobblestone path on his night’s foraging… Stella would silently laugh before helping him back up.  But since Stella was gone now, he had to be quick-witted enough to survive on his own. 

And now, the night was his path, the moonlight his eyes as he shot quick as an arrow from a bowstring towards the grandest house, standing clustered to shabbier, duller houses, which only added to its luster.  He’d been here many times, and he knew how to get in and out quickly, getting only what he needed.  He stared up at it for just a moment; being the homeless rogue child on the streets, he always wondered at people who lived in comfort like this.  His family could have lived in a house like this… a family he had never known or could not remember.  He shook his head and vaulted over the low black fence, the gothic spikes on the top no problem for his nimble young hands.

He dropped down silently, landing on all fours like a cat, making barely a sound on the cool grass with dew that clung to the blades and touched his bare feet.  The grass really is greener over here, he thought to himself, making his way around the yard between the fence and the bushes that lined it, until he reached the servant’s door.  He looked around quickly, shaking dark hair from his green eyes, before flicking out his knife and inserting the blade in the lock.  In less than ten seconds of careful tinkering, the lock clicked and the door swung in.  The boy snapped his knife shut with a snick and tucked it carefully into the pocket of his cloak, checking to be sure it was secure and in reach in case he would need it again.  Then he turned to the hall.

He walked a few tentative steps, straining his ears to hear any stirring from the stories above, any soft footsteps, muffled by slippers, through the hall.  The house was still.  He let out the breath he had been holding and headed for the place where the food was stored, going over the mental map he had made from previous raids.  He was only there for food, he told himself, but he couldn’t resist letting his crook’s hands swipe a diamond ring and pearl necklaces from tables and counters… surely people as rich as these wouldn’t miss them!

He forced back memories that resurfaced from where he had tucked them away a year ago… he and Stella coming here… their first raid on the house… finding food… suddenly Stella gone, lost forever.  He clenched his fists, stopping until he had the emotions under control.  He didn’t want to blindly stumble on a piece of carpet, or run into one of the many display shelves where gems and paintings were shown.  He’d be caught for sure.  He turned, passed door after door, ignoring them all, before turning into the kitchens… and straight into the arms of Mr. Havens, owner of this grand house. 

The man blinked, his thick gray mustache quivering like cat’s whiskers.  His blue and white striped nightcap, matching the rest of his sleeping clothing, flopped in front of his face.  In other circumstances, it might have been funny as he raised the top of the hat from his eyes and squinted at the person in front of him, but the boy was frozen in terror, unable to move, as if hoping that Mr. Havens wouldn’t see him.  It was a worthless hope.  Mr. Havens blinked again, then bellowed.  “You, boy!  What do you think you’re doing in here?”  The boy could only shake his head quickly and take a step back.  Mr. Havens squinted his piggy eyes at the boy before bellowing, “You!  You’re that thief-child!  Lek!”

The boy, jolted back to his senses from the sound of his name, not spoken to him in over a year, reached for his concealed knife, raising it with trembling hands.  Mr. Havens, however, was already reaching for the rifle that lay against the wall, and Lek’s heart skipped a beat.  Mr. Havens raised the gun, face purple and red with rage.  “Dirty scoundrel!  You’ve been stealing from me for years now, haven’t you?”  Lek’s throat tightened, and he didn’t bother shaking his head this time.  The rifle went off, shattering a lamp behind him.  The boy nearly blacked out in his terror, but he had the sense to dive behind the fancy red couch. 

Rage flooded through him, stopping the shaking of his hands.  That was the gun that had taken Stella!  But at a second gunshot, the fear overrode the rage, and Lek sprang from the couch and made a beeline for the door.  He had dropped the knife in his haste, and covered his head with his arms as he ran closer and closer to freedom… but he wasn’t fast enough.  Mr. Haven’s hand caught the collar of his dirty jacket, choking him for a moment.  The cloth ripped, and the jewelry he had taken spilled and rolled on the ground like glittering stars.  The boy tried to run again, but Mr. Havens caught him around the chest, holding him tight.  “You’re mine, boy,” he sneered.  Lek struggled, but it was no use.  He was caught.

 

The other events passed in a blur to the boy’s eyes.  He remembered parts: Mr. Havens carting him away from that terrible gun and dark room, to what Lek called “the jailers”; standing, aching from the bruising hands of the man; hearing Havens’ angry bellows that made him dizzy and wanting to cover his ears.  Then, bewildered still, he found himself shoved into a dirty, underground cell, bars closing him in on all sides, where he trembled like a captured animal doomed to die.  He’d huddled for over an hour, in a blank state of mind.  He’d never been caught before… a close call here and there, surely.  What would they do to him?  He found out as guards walked down the rows of cells.  “Death’s Row, for traitors and thieves,” the boy heard one of them drawl in an unpleasantly bored voice.  “They’ll be cleared out soon… tomorrow, maybe.”

The words jolted Lek out of his numb mind.  He had to get out!  If he stayed in these pressing bars any longer… he’d lose his mind!  He sprang from the hard stone cot he was curled on and flung himself at the bars, searching the pockets of his cloak.  He pulled out a small iron pick and rattled it at the lock, his hands sweating, making loud clanking noises.  The door swung open and he leaped out, desperately searching for an exit.  He had time to take one hopeless step for the passage that led up into freedom, before a rough hand grabbed him, ripping his cloak from his back and holding him firm.  “Idiot!” the boy heard the bored, drawling guard say to the guard that held him.  “You didn’t check his pockets?”  Lek struggled, kicking, trying to free his arms from the guard’s iron embrace.  He twisted, biting hard into a hand that had reached forward to cover his mouth.  He heard a grunt of pain and felt the man’s grip slacken.  Kicking free, the boy dropped to the ground, his mind several steps ahead of his body as he imagined himself running free, up out of the jail and into the embracing arms of the night.  Something hard and heavy slammed down onto his head, and he felt himself hit the ground before the world ebbed away.

 

Lek awoke in his cell, his vision full of spots. There was a terrible taste in his mouth, like copper.  He blinked as the cell swam into focus and sat up from the hard, stone floor that he had been lying on. 

It hadn’t been a voice that had awoken him.  Nor had it been sunlight, or a bad dream.  What woke him was the feeling of a presence in the cell with him… like another person was there.  He quickly flung himself over, sitting up and crouching against the wall, looking again like a cornered beast waiting for doom.  When he saw who it was, his eyes widened, and he rubbed them, wondering if he was still dreaming.

Standing there, with both hands clutching the bars of the cell, peering in at him with empty eyes, was someone he knew well.  Lek froze for a moment, his heart beating fast.  “St-Stella?” he asked weakly after a moment.  “Y-y-you’re dead.”  He had watched her die… he had felt her grow cold beside him.  Yet here she was.

Memories of Stella flooded his vision.  Lek’s first time stealing bread, when he had turned and tripped over his own feet, Stella’s alarm and her quick-thinking as she spirited both away from the angry shopkeeper.  Stella laughing about it afterwards, calling him clumsy.  Stella’s voice that cut through both fear and thunder when they were crouched under an overturned boat, the only shelter they had been able to find from the storm.  Stella pretending to crown him the master of all thieves, even though she was two years older.  Stella’s innocent smile as she hid a change purse behind her back, and Lek collapsing into giggles at the red-faced, irate, and confused victim of Stella’s nimble hands.  Stella had always been in his life until a year ago, when she was suddenly gone from the world, leaving Lek to fend for himself.

The one word to describe the girl was… gray.  She was wearing a white-gray gown, like a rich lady’s nightgown.  Her face was pale, and when he peered carefully at her, he realized he could see the wall behind her.  Ghost!  The word sprang to his mind, and he touched his eyelids and the hollow of his throat in the sign that warded off evil.  Stella’s cold gray eyes brimmed with sadness, and the boy froze, slowly lowering his hands.  “Y-y-you’re dead…” he repeated in a whisper.  Stella’s face pressed against the bars, and her mouth opened as if to speak, but no sound came out.  She closed her mouth again, and instead, he heard an echoing sound flow through the air, as if he was in a canyon filled with a thick fog.  Leave this place.  It was Stella’s voice, but the girl looking at him hadn’t moved her lips.  She dimmed a bit, as if the effort exhausted her, then she beckoned to him with an urgent hand.

Poor Lek nearly fainted in his terror, but he reached behind him for the wall and clawed his way up into a standing position, stumbling over to the bars.  Before he reached them, Stella pressed her hand to the lock and the door swung open silently.  Lek hesitated, but the girl beckoned again and turned, took two steps, and vanished.

It wasn’t vanishing in the sense of… poof, disappearing in a cloud of smoke.  It was as if she had stepped behind an invisible stage curtain, like there was some hole in the air.  Lek stopped dead in his tracks.  Not real… not real… he chanted in his head, but he knew that it was most definitely, certainly real. 

Come…” was Stella’s voice again, and Lek saw a shimmer, as if a mist had appeared, glowing faintly in the dark hallway.  All of his instincts told him to turn and flee in the opposite direction… flee even back into his cell and lock it tight… but he forced his unwilling legs to take one step after another, following Stella as she rounded the corner.  I’ve always trusted her, he reminded himself.  I’ve always trusted her.  I can still trust her now.  He followed the misty gray shape up the dark tunnel.  Guards were drinking in a room off the passage, but he was silent as he crept by and they didn’t look up as he passed.  The girl’s silent form led him up out of the rows of cells, and Lek followed until the orange light of a sunrise fell upon him.  Shielding his face as his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw a wavering gray form standing on the dock that stretched into the sea that bordered the town.  Next to the dock was a small, wooden boat, bobbing gently on the morning’s waves.  The boat… the boat could take him away from here! 

He walked to the dock and reached out with a hand, touching the boat, as if to make sure that it was real.  Satisfied, he cut the rope tying it to the dock and swung in.  Stella’s ghost leapt in after, sitting on the bench as she took up an ore and he took up the other.  Neither said anything, for both were now sure of where they were headed.

He turned one last time to look back at the town, but there seemed to be no need for a good-bye.  After Stella had died, it had never been a home to him.  Home was where Stella was.  The two figures took up the oars, rowing out to the sea, leaving the town behind them.  The small shape of the bobbing boat and the two children grew fainter as they moved out to the open expanse of sea, and soon they were gone from sight entirely.

The world slowly rose from its slumber.  The townsfolk moved out of their houses as the sun rose above the sea, each going about their daily business as if nothing had changed.  For them, nothing had.  The great breathing of the waves was a noise in the background of each action and conversation held.  The salty breeze stirred lightly, blowing dust in the streets and the corpses that hung from the gallows in the town square.  As the townsfolk walked by, they turned their faces to the bodies handing from the coiling rope.  Some passed with barely a glance, well used to seeing the residents of Death’s Row swinging on the gallows.  But Many shook their heads in regret before moving on, as they saw the eighth figure hanging from the gallows.  The body of a small boy with dark hair and green eyes.

© 2011 Paige


Author's Note

Paige
I've changed this a lot since I first wrote it, and I'm still not completely satisfied. Any critique helps!

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Reviews

I have to say, I think you have a nicely-written story, I like your storyline and your characters, and I'm pretty impressed by your ability to create an entire story in so few words. (Although I could see this as belonging to a larger story or being expanded.)

As far as critique goes, you give a lot of description, which I appreciate, but I think some of it is a bit disorienting and could do with a little rephrasing. On one hand, some of your details really do contribute well to your story, like when Lek comments that the grass is greener. Not only does it offer a visual, but it also says something about his life. On the other hand, I feel like you're giving lot of details, but they're a bit overdramatic, irrelevant, or I just can't picture them very well.

For example, where Lek runs into Mr. Havens, you say he's just entering a kitchen, but then Mr. Havens grabs a rifle lying against the wall and Lek ducks behind a fancy, red couch. Why is there a rifle lying against the kitchen wall, and why would said kitchen have a fancy, red couch? I understand the actions going on, but I can't really figure out the setting. At the same time, you describe Mr. Havens to bellow, then sneer as he speaks, his face as turning "purple and red with rage," and the jewelry to have "rolled on the ground like glittering stars," all of which I feel is almost too cartoon-like (overdramatic).

There's also a lot of backstory going on at the same time as the events here, and it's a bit... distracting, maybe? I think it's a little confusing to get a clear image of Lek's situation since there's no point where you can explain the background information without interrupting the flow of the current story. I'm still not really sure what the backstory is, actually, i.e., the family Lek came from or the world/time period he lives in.

Beyond that, I spotted a few comma (or other punctuation) errors/typos, but those are rarely a major concern.

As far as the characters go, I like the fact that you managed to create a set of solid, constant characters, and it's easy to empathize with Lek. If I had to pick on something, here, I'd say that I'm not very certain about the relationships between characters. It's fairly minor, but I'm not sure how Mr. Havens knew Lek, or at least, I'm not sure how Mr. Havens knew Lek's name. Speaking of, I'm not sure why Stella is always referred to as "Stella," but Lek is primarily called "the boy" despite clearly having a name. If the reason is that he hadn't heard it in a year, then why was he intermittently referred to as "Lek" in the narrative at all?

I realize I'm probably not explaining myself as well as I could, so if you message me, I can elaborate on/clarify any of the above. I can even do my best at a line-by-line if you like. (I have more spare time than I probably should. ^^)

Other than that, though, I particularly liked your intro; I really do think you started strong. Overall, I like the story you've created, and I can definitely see it going places. I wouldn't be adverse to see it being expanded at all, but it's also perfectly fine at its current length. I hope I'm not nitpicking too much or being offensive; I generally try not to be, and I sincerely apologize if I am. Again, I liked it as a whole. ^^ Good write.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on February 22, 2011
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Paige
Paige

About
My name is Paige Pfannenstiel. I'm 16, I love writing, and I have a published book titled "Skyline: The Opal Chance." However, I'm having terrible writer's block and I can't make myself keep writing.. more..

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