By Eddie D. Moore
Gavin’s head pounded and he could see nothing but the floorboards when he cracked open his eyes. He had hoped to catch the thief that had been sporadically working the area for months. Unfortunately, the thief had caught him instead. The underbrush at the edge of the property had offered a perfect place to hide and watch the house. The last thing he remembered was the soft shuffle of leaves behind him, a moment of panic, and a stinging pain as something struck him on the back of the head. He should have guessed that the thief would use the same vantage point.
He dared not give any sign of consciousness as quick paced footsteps passed. The board under his cheek gave a slight creek and a breeze stirred his hair as the thief passed into the adjacent room. Other footsteps and rummaging could be heard above him. The steps had too short a stride and were too light to be produced by adults. He began to wonder if the robberies were the work of a group of children. His ears burned with embarrassment at the thought of admitting that a scrawny miscreant had caught him unaware and knocked him senseless.
Gavin slowly surveyed the room, got to his feet and moved to a corner. Through the doorway, a couple feet away, he could barely make out a whispered voice in the adjacent room. The voice seemed too deep for a child and sounded odd, almost unnatural.
“Yes. Yes, that is frabjous. More, there must be more. Keep looking.”
An odd giggle and the crash of objects hitting the floor were the only reply. Slowly, Gavin positioned himself to peek around the doorway. What he saw left him staring in awe. Two creatures wearing tailored clothing with no shoes were rummaging through his things. The creatures were only about three feet in height and their movements were volitant as they searched for plunder. They ran, leapt and demolished the contents of the room while they searched every possible crevice. When they found an object that shined, glittered or was crafted with great detail, they would stop just long enough to admire it before bagging it and then continued their pillage.
Two more of the creatures, carrying full bags, ran downstairs and joined their companions. They all gathered in a circle and opened their bags to give the others a glance inside. After a moment of inspection they all spoke in unison, “Pretty.”
Gavin swallowed his apprehensions, stepped into the doorway and spoke with a stern voice. “I don’t know what or who you are, but your thievery ends today.”
All four of the creatures turned to look at Gavin with a snap. One of the creatures tilted his head to the right, then slowly to the left as he looked Gavin over and then spoke. “You make pretty things?”
“Some say that I do. I’m a cobbler by trade.”
The creature tried to force his tongue to use the unfamiliar word, “Cobbler?”
“Yes. It means that I make shoes for a living.”
The creature cocked his head in question, “Shoes?”
Gavin pointed to his shoes, “Shoes.”
All four creatures looked wide eyed at Gavin’s shoes and smiled. “Oh, pretty shoes.”
To Gavin’s complete surprise all four creatures jumped him. Blows seemed to come from every direction but it was the creatures’ speed that caught him off guard the most. Before he knew what was happening, he had been bound hand and foot, tied to a make shift litter and dragged from the house.
They stacked their bags of stolen goods on Gavin’s chest and legs, and then dashed through the woods. The underbrush scraped his face and briars snagged his flesh and clothes as they ran. They took trails he would have thought only rabbits traveled and eventually entered the mouth of a small cave. Down they traveled in the darkness; it did not take long for Gavin to become completely lost and blind. Something sharp stung Gavin’s leg and he lost consciousness.
When he opened his eyes again, he found himself in a cell made of rock and iron bars. It appeared to be the dungeon of an old castle. One of the creatures sat on the other side and pushed a tray of food under the bars as Gavin sat up. Then he pushed through another tray of leather, tools and shoe lasts.
“Eat, make pretty shoes.” The creature did not wait for a reply and walked away.
After the creature was gone a voice whispered to Gavin from the adjoining cell and he could see a hand wave from around the wall. “Hello.”
Gavin came closer and whispered in return, “Hello, my name is Gavin. Who are you?”
“My name is Franz. I am a tailor by trade. These creatures have been forcing me to make clothes for them for months. If you want your next meal I suggest you make shoes he requested. They will not offer more until you do.”
“Do you have any idea how to get out of here?”
Franz laughed with a weak mocking sound, “If I did, do you think I would still be here working for my meals?”
“Good point. Do you have any idea what these creatures are?”
“They are 20 inches at the chest, have an 11 ½ sleeve. Their pants require an 18 inch waist and a 15 inseam. Other than the fact that the bars are solid, and the rocks are hard that is about all I can tell you.
“Well aren’t you just a ray of sunshine?”
“Sorry, but after a few months of making shoes, you will be just as cynical.”
Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Saturday Night Reader and Every Day Fiction. He can be followed on Twitter @EddieMoore27