River Mist Tales: The Shadow Collector

Come in, come in, the river mist will be gone soon enough, but here you’ll find some tales, some warmth so make yourself comfortable. There’s tea in the pot, or perchance, you brought some wee dram of your own.

Please sit by the window, you’ll have the best view, and easy hearing. Ignore the cats, no matter what they say, and don’t open the window for the tapping crows.

I’ll be working at the table in the corner, if you have any need, or she knocks upon the door. And until you stop by again, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

Until your next visit, until the next photograph, the next 12-line story, good fortune and safe wanderings.

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The Shadow Collector

The day was hot, dusty, the crowd was pushing, loud and demanding.

Sloane wished she had stayed home, or a least brought a hat with her, or a bottle of water, or a big stick.

Two hours had passed since she lost sight of Brenda and Tilly, still Sloane was no closer to finding the shadow collector than she’d been for the past five weekends, and her friends, her friends were tired of looking, tired of spending their weekends walking among dust and strangers, but quitting was not an option for Sloane.

She knew Brenda and Tilly did not believe her, thought Sloane was telling another faery tale, well, not until Liam, Sloane’s younger brother, refused to step outside the house, during daylight hours, claiming his shadow had been stolen from him.

Liam had wanted a scooter, would take on any job if it paid, would sell just about anything he owned.

The scooter stood unused behind the garage, shunned by a frightened Liam who avoided windows and opened doors, and somehow Sloane knew it was her fault, knew she needed answers, needed a better deal than Liam had inadvertently negotiated.

A few stalls ahead, she caught a glimpse of Brenda and Tilly moving with the crowd, heading toward the north gate of the market, an impulsive decision turned Sloane around, headed her toward the south gate instead.

Working her way slowly, paying little attention as offers for tastes and samples were thrust at her, ignoring direct greetings, Sloane focused upon a row of brightly colored tented stalls standing along the broken fence, at the far edge of the market, disappearing into the forest.

Even the patrons mulling about the blue, yellow and green striped canvas hooded booths were unlike any of the other crowds Sloane had jostled through during the long morning.

Then Sloane saw them, the black silhouettes standing solid and straight, appearing as most folks believed, nothing more than cutouts, plywood painted black, and among the cutouts she saw the man.

There was a house on the old road, leading up the mountain, a mile out of town, the yard filled with black silhouettes of men, women, children, dogs, cats and wild creatures from the forest.

Sloane had heard the stories, wild tales told on dark nights, but there on the mountain road, and here in the popular flea market stood the man, the man who owned that old house, who collected, and sold, not black painted cutouts, no he collected, sold and traded living shadows.

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