the ultimate thief by Bogdan Dragos

sparks blazing in her
eyes,
she watched him from
across the fire

sitting silently on her
small log,
bracing herself

shivering a little

“You see,” he said, “this fire
gives off more sparks
than flames.”

She nodded

And he went on, “It's because
it uses souls as
fuel. I'm burning
things that once used
to be part of people,
things imbued with
their
essence.
A favorite scarf gifted by
a loved one
before departing,
a wife's beloved ring,
a child's doll
that resembles their mother,
a purse that
is seen as magical by a rich
merchant who
thinks she got rich
by holding money in it,
an army general's lucky
loincloth.
These objects have in them
parts of the
souls of people who used to
own them.
Other thieves think they're stealing
things of value, but
they don't know what
true value means.
Me, I'm no ordinary thief, as
you can tell.”

She nodded
and a long silence
stretched between them, only
the crackle of the flames
and the sizzling of the sparks,
and a very distant
wolf's howl
made the air vibrate

Then he told her,
“A great storm is coming.”

Concerned, she looked around
into the night
sky and then back
at the fire and the man
across from it. But she said
nothing.

“Let's go,” he said. “Inside my
cabin. We'll be safe there.”

Now she spoke. “No. I can't.”

“You can't?”

“I'm sorry. Cabin is too... narrow.
I'm afraid.”

“I have a cat's hind leg
preserved in salt
there. Wouldn't you want to kiss
and suck at the pillowy
paw? To trace its
claws across your tongue
and lips?
It feels great. Comforting.”

She shook her
head. “I can't. Can't go
into...”

“Into narrow spaces,” he finished
for her. “They terrify you.
You've always been
like that, haven't you?
Hence, you came to me,
to the greatest thief of all
times. You want me
to steal away your fear of
small, narrow places.”

She tried to speak
but managed only
a fervent nod

“I see,” he said. “Well then,
rest assured.
You've been robbed
already. You've been robbed
the moment you
set foot in here.”

“H-how?”

“I told you. I am the thief
of all thieves. Before you
see me once,
I will have seen you
for a lifetime. The ultimate thief
is he who is so good
that the victim doesn't
even realize they've been
stolen from.
So stand now, dear, and follow
me inside the
narrow cabin.
Your fear is now in my pockets,
however I was so
subtle that you didn't notice. You
think you still have it.
Yet I must ask
you, what is there
for the dead to fear?”

She hesitated. “I... don't know.”

“That's right. You don't
know. And never will. And what
you don't know
can't hurt you, can it?
Now stand, child. And follow
me inside.”

She stood
but didn't follow as he
departed for the cabin

“What's wrong?” he asked

“The storm that is approaching,”
she said. "I don't fear
it either. I don't
need safety.”

Her words made him burst
into laughter. “Ah, I knew it
was a great idea to
let you find me.
Very well then. When you've had
enough of the storm,
I'll be waiting for
you inside.”

He went in
and closed the door

the storm was
getting ever closer

She brought her log closer to
the fire
and placed her naked feet
in the flames,
looked up at the sky
and laughed

the thunder laughed
right back 

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