I saw him in the supermarket. The Story Stealer.
There was only the dim light and me. Also, there was this queer atmosphere that made my two eyes to roll anxiously. As if it was one of the horror movies, the light started to flicker madly. My heart pounded faster than ever. I pushed the cart hard to the exit door when the light finally died out. I froze from head to toe. The wail of a toddler ripped the nervous silence. I jumped, and hid behind the tall shelf, when a tall silhouette approached the baby. I peeped and watched the panorama of the baby’s future happenings flowing out of the mouth of the baby, and into the balloons of a man. The balloons turned black as the stories filled them. The man opened the exit door, carrying the ragged sack stored with the balloons.
I tracked him out of the supermarket. The white snow fell upon his silver hair. The strong blizzard made me to almost lose the track of him. When I managed to catch him up, I saw him entering a closed bookstore. The signboard was worn off and the printed words merely stood for “THE STORY SELLER.” From the window, I watched him pressing on some of the books on the dusty shelves. The shelves moved apart, and the small wooden door appeared. The man opened the door and entered. As soon as he entered, the shelves started to glide back to their own places. I rushed to the door before the shelves completely covered the door. As I opened the door, I saw the pressed books. The first letters of their titles stood for THE STORY MARKET.
When the door closed behind me, a whole new sight was awaiting there. It didn’t look like any part of the town where I lived. The surrounding was still dark, but there were no neon signs or buildings. There were only several streetlamps glowing in the wet street. I looked around, but I lost the sight of the man. Some strangers passed by, splashing on the pools of water. They were all wearing long black cloaks with black masks. All of them were in a great hurry. My inquiring feet followed them to the place that looked like one of the marketplace. However, it was slightly, no, much different from the ones I knew. The customers and the merchants were keeping their voices low, and when they finished their shopping they hastened to leave the place.
Only few of them were not wearing masks. Surprised by their faces, I gasped. They were all one of the famous authors, movie directors, and storytellers. All of them were crowded in front of a small cart. Hundreds of black balloons were floating in the sky, but they were all tied on the cart. I noticed the merchant beside the cart. It was the man.
I asked one of the customers standing beside me, “Excuse me, sir, do you know who that man is?”
“Don’t you know the Story Stealer?” surprised the stranger. “He is most well-known in this place.”
“The Story Stealer? I’ve never heard of him,” I answered him with a frown.
“Listen kid. If you want to be famous by writing books, you should better buy stories from him. He steals interesting future events of babies and sells them to people like us,” explained the stranger.
“But how about those babies? What happens to them?” I asked with worried lips.
“It is simple. Those stolen events won’t happen in their lives. Oh, I have to go. It’s time for the bargain.” The stranger strolled away after checking his watch.
My eyes were widened of that shocking story. Feelings of pity toward the poor babies filled my heart. I felt extremely sorry for the babies whose future stolen by the evil man. I wanted to restore the future back to the baby I saw. ‘But…HOW?’ I thought. There was no way I could take all the balloons without getting caught by the Story Stealer. He never left his balloons. When I was deeply in thought and making plans, a bell rang. Suddenly, many people, standing in front of the cart, shouted numbers. The ring of the bell meant the start of the auction. I looked up the balloons. Each one has a number written on it.
One shouted, “$200 for number 5!”
The other shouted louder, “$400 for number 5 and 7!”
The price got higher and higher. Then, one man proclaimed, “$100,000 for all of them!”
The silence fell upon the place. The Story Stealer asked in an excited tone,
“$100,000! No one more than $100,000? 1, 2, 3 –"
“$1,000,000,000!” My mouth shouted without the order of my brain. Everyone gasped, including me, of the great amount of money. I couldn’t believe that $1,000,000,000 came out of my throat.
‘Are you crazy? You don’t have money to afford 1billion bucks!’ I scolded myself.
“$1,000,000,000! Wow! No one more than $1,000,000,000? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10! All the balloons to that little lady!” The Story Stealer exclaimed with joy.
“No, no, no, no. This can’t– this can’t be real,” I mumbled to myself. The Story Stealer was approaching me with a big smile hanging on his face. I ran and ran. I passed by the Story Stealer, and passed through the surprised crowd. I reached to the small cart, and snatched the rope of the balloons. Then, I ran to the street that led to the door. Voices of the people shouting, the stumbling of the feet, and the whooshing of the wind banged on my ears. When I ran to the door, the rope slipped from my sweaty hands. Hundreds of balloons were set free, and rose up, and up. The black balloons turned to yellow, blue, pink, and all kinds of colors. The people grabbed my shoulders and dragged me, but I saw. I saw the rising sun touching each balloon returning to their owners.
I smiled. I stole the stolen stories of the Story Stealer.