Weeping Thief

For best reading, turn on some instrumental scary music from Youtube, turn down the lights, and listen carefully for the call of the Weeping Thief.

Updated 2015-10-31: If you want to hear this tale told instead of reading it, head on over to Blurry Photos and feast your ears upon Ghost Stories 4, where it is featured as one of their submitted stories!

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Weeping Thief

by Rick Cook Jr

The Weeping Thief is outside my inn door and I don’t know what to do.

How she knows me as a wanted man, a robber of banks, is unimportant. She is here. The Weeping Thief has come.

I know the stories. I could call out, but she’d silence me before help arrived. I could barricade the door but she’d find another way in. I could arm myself with flintlock or saber, but she’s impervious and relentless.

The song that children sing drifts out from under the door, a woman’s voice and yet somehow thin, translucent:

The Weeping Thief is come
to sweep away your dreams,
when night forever falls
no one will hear your screams.

 The Weeping Thief is here
a-knockin’ on your door,
if you don’t answer quick
you’ll answer nevermore.

The Weeping Thief is tired
of hearing ’bout your sin,
offers you this one chance
to come and let her in.

 The Weeping Thief is glad
to be busy on this night,
for ev’ry lesson taught
is a wrong set right.

 Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
won’t you come and play?
Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
bring vengeance on this day.

And then the scratching begins. First a skittering, then silence. Then several more taps and another skittering. I am petrified with fright, moved to immobility. Surely this is a joke. Surely it is some rapscallion playing at night terrors.

But that voice… oh, that voice. I lift my body from the bed, approach the door by scant candlelight. The skittering, scratching, whispering continues. I lean close, ear to the solid wood of the door, and though it is summer and the night hardly cool, my breath frosts out from in front of me, shallow plumes of mist seen by candlelight.

“Who calls at this hour?” I ask, and the scritching, scratching is the only response. “Is it Peter, or Thomas, playing some prank?”

The first verse of the children’s rhyme comes again, the voice hauntingly quiet but clear as a bell.

The Weeping Thief is come
to sweep away your dreams,
when night forever falls
no one will hear your screams.

“Annamarie? It’s late, please just let me get some sleep,” I beg. The terror in my voice I cannot contain.

Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
it’s time to come and play.

Whatever is on the other side of the door slams against it. The frame shudders and I fall back, losing my footing. The light from under the door is pale, not like the gas lanterns in the hallway. I expect the shuffling shadows of a pair of boots but it is a nightmare drifting, choking the light and swirling as though made of fine threads whipped in circles.

The shadow overwhelms the light and the door pulses, like my thudding heart. Crash, crash, crash. The voice whispers again:

Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
your sins are come to bear.

I pick myself up off the rug, trembling hand on the bedpost, eyes on the door as it shudders in its frame with each jolt. Surely someone will come. Surely all this racket is raising the other lodgers, my friends, the innkeep, somebody!

But no one comes. The whispers, the scratching, the banging on the door.

Maybe they’re just too scared to come and look?

“Cowards,” I say. “Just a prank,” I tell myself. Or at the worst a more generic thief in the night, playing upon the terrors of a child’s rhyme to perpetrate crime.

Slung over the chair is my pistol and saber. I drag the pistol from its holster, bolstering my courage. No petty crook will have my wits tonight.

I come back to the door, still banging, still scratching. Shadows shifting. Voice whispering:

Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
only fools daren’t believe.

“Come to call on my sins, you say? Come to weigh my guilt, eh, Weeping Thief? Then come in and see how you do!”

I release the latch and step back, pistol at the ready. The door quiets. The pale glow from under the door brightens, takes on the warmth of the gas lanterns once more.

For a moment all is silence in the dead of night, and I dare to exhale.

And my breath mists as before. The voice whispers, quieter:

Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
have you said your prayers?
Weeping Thief, Weeping Thief,
come to calm your cares.

A chill wind sweeps the room and the candle first flickers, casting shadow puppets along the walls, over the door. Then the chill wind, the bitter to the bone breath, snuffs the candle and all is darkness. All is creeping dread.

I scramble back, tripping over the chest at the foot of the bed, falling to my knees before the desk and chair. There are matches in the desk, in my pack, and so long as the door is closed I can contain my fear, still my trembling fingers.

The light from under the door cracks up the wall as the handle turns in the darkness. The light fades to that pale glow as hinges in dire need of oiling creak and groan. The pale shine outlines a womanly figure draped in threads of gray, melting like candlewax.

Not possible. I swing the flintlock her direction as she enters, seeming to float along the wooden floor, and pull the trigger as the door swings shut behind her.

The gun puffs a tiny ball of flame, blinding in the new darkness, but the shot is a dud. Black powder fills the room, and something else. Something I can’t describe, sweet and suffocating.

No time to reload. No time to do anything. I drop the pistol and fumble in the darkness of the pale night, for the chair, for my saber, for the candles or the candlestick. If my fingers light on a pillow I will throw it.

The voice whispers, across the bed from me:

The Weeping Thief enters,
is grateful for invite.
Are you ready, sinner,
for the price you pay tonight?

“Get you gone, demon!” I shout, shoving on the bed. If I can make the door perhaps I’ll live to tell the tale. But my loot is under the bed! Dare I risk it? Weigh it against my life, my soul?

I abandon the satchel of money, my possessions. Just the saber, unsheathed from scabbard as I dart away from the bed, towards the scant glow from under the door.

From behind me the whisper. So close I can feel the warm words brushing my ear:

The Weeping Thief is come
to help you shed those tears.
You’ve stolen many lives,
will pay with all your years.

I ignore it, hand battering at the latch in the near-darkness, her breath cold on my neck. The handle twists but the door won’t come free, as if the frame shrunk around the door since it opened last. The latch is loose but the damned thing holds on. I spin, swinging the saber blindly in front of me, so hard it catches in the wall next to me with a thud and jolts my arm so hard I let go.

She is near me, I can hear her though I can’t see her. With both hands I yank on the saber and it comes free. Just as I am swinging it wildly the other direction, a wet, cold hand grips my wrist, and though the touch is light I cannot hold the saber any longer. It drops and clatters to the ground at my feet while I yank my arm free of this chill touch.

“What do you want?” I cry, kicking at the door behind me. Someone, anyone, has to have heard it all. It is like kicking solid stone.

I feel her lean in close, and the aura of chill emanating from her freezes the blood in my veins. I would sob if I could but I am too frightened. The sing-song quality of her voice drops away, and she is so close her lips touch my cheek.

“Do you know why they call me the Weeping Thief?” she asks, and the candle suddenly sparks to life, pale glow like the light from under the door. It lasts only a moment, but in that flash I see twirling hair and angry, blazing eyes before the candle snuffs out and darkness consumes the room. I have seen her, in all her terrible beauty. Arms reaching, fingers caressing, tears streaming from her eyes.

“I asked you a question, bank robber.”

“I don’t know, please, I didn’t hurt anybody,” I beg, cringing from her touch.

She runs a freezing hand across my cheek. “I weep for those who cannot. Those dead, those with no redress. You and your kind steal the livelihood of honest men, honest women, and then claim no harm. Without their livelihood, they starve. Without their savings, they wither and die. While you claim innocence.”

All the strength has run out of me, such that even if I could muster the courage to fight back I could not lift a finger. The tears are forming, and though she emanates a cold to freeze the heart my tears run.

Abruptly the normal voice is gone, and the sing-song verse comes back:

Are you ready, robber,
for the price that you must pay?
I give to you the many tears,
the Weeping Thief’s dismay.

All the suffering leaves her and enters me, and though she vanishes from my presence and the candle flickers to life once more, I am blinded by waves of grief, of sobs unparalleled. My eyes boil over and drown me, and the last thing I hear is the Weeping Thief’s litany, started on another door down the hall.

The Weeping Thief is come
to sweep away your dreams,
when night forever falls
no one will hear your screams.

~End~

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#horrormoviecackle #lightningsound

2 thoughts on “Weeping Thief

  1. Pingback: Listen To My Story (Being Read By a Podcast) | Panning For Clouds

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