The Mist Thief
I was still young when I first saw the Mist Thief. I don’t know how young. Mother left when I was born. Father was always too drunk to remember my birthday so I grew up thinking I didn’t have one.
It was cold the morning the Mist Thief came, and quiet with a quiet that felt thick and breathless and watchful. I woke up at dawn, though for once the rooster was silent. I watched through my window as mist crept in from the sea under a weak yellow rising sun. It swept up from the sand and wish wash and swallowed the low cliffs and came right up to the cottage, almost hiding the chicken coop from my sight. But I saw him. I saw the Mist Thief in his pale cloak and crooked hat reach out from the mist and steal a hen from the coop so softly she never woke, and when the sunlight touched him he disappeared along with the hen.
Father was furious when I told him the Mist Thief had stolen one of our hens. He thought I was lying and had let one escape. He would have hit me if his hands hadn’t hurt him so much. All his trembling fingers could manage now was filling his pipe and lifting a bottle.
I ran from Father shouting and did my chores in the garden. And plotted. I planned to catch the Mist Thief and prove to Father that he was real and get our hen back.
I hurried my chores that day and was in bed early. Father was happy about that. I left him drinking in his chair and when he was snoring I snuck out of bed and down the stairs and tiptoed past him and the empty bottles and dying pipe ash and out the front door. I burrowed under a gorse bush near the chicken coop and waited for the mist. To pass the time I named constellations and watched the moon as it drifted, drifted... I woke up cold and wet with dew to the sound of Father shouting from the cottage. Someone had stolen the half full bottle out of his hand while he slept.
He hit me when he found me, though I knew it hurt his hands.
I slipped out again the next night. In my hiding place I broke off a gorse needle and pricked my fingers one by one to keep myself awake. The sky lightened and the mist rolled in as it had before. I watched and waited. The mist edged closer and I thought I saw a shadow within it, a tall crooked shadow and the occasional swish of a pale cloak.
The mist neared the cottage and I saw the Mist Thief reaching his grey hands out towards the row of beautiful pots Mother had made and Father had treasured all the years since she left. I struggled out from under my gorse bush and sprinted on socked feet towards the Mist Thief and as his fingers touched the neck of a swan shaped flower pot I leapt to tackle him.
He dissipated like a dream. I sailed through the air where he had just been and crashed into the row of pots. They smashed. I heard Father wake up inside the cottage and stamp towards the front door. I lay shaking on the pottery shards, watching a crooked shadow caper on the wall of the cottage above me.
by Thomas Velterop