28 November 2004

The Fisherman of the Clouds

I've spent many hours of my life searching for lost things. Books, keys, pens, everything and anything has seemed to go missing at some point in its life. Now I'm not superstitious, but when people lose things at the same time, then something odd is happening.

This story is about a strange occurence that had everyone in the land completely at a loss

If my memory serves me correct, it all took place one desperately cold winter. Icicles hung from overhanging rooves, the sky bubbled and rippled with grey clouds, and every tree lay barren and tipped with snow. Suffice to say, it was a cold time, and chimneys were constantly frothing with the smoke of fires.

One morning, people woke to see trees and plants gone from their gardens. Mr Bumbling noticed his birdbath had vanished, Elsie Crowbar realised her shed had disappeared, and the Greenwing Stables found that all their horses had gone. Once word got round, it came to light that everyone had lost something or other. Whether it was a small conifer from someone's border or a very expensive statue of Otto the Great, it was very much a cause for concern.

The following morning everyone woke to find even more things had been stolen. But this time it wasn't just from outside: paintings had vanished from walls, cakes no longer sat on the kitchen table, armchairs were conspicuous by their absence. Poor old Dennis Drewshank woke up with frostbite as his roof had mysteriously left the building. This situation couldn't go on any longer.

It was decided that everyone would stay awake that night to catch the thief. As the sun set, people readied themselves; torches were at the ready and eyes were pinned wide open.

In the dark of the night the crook was caught. But not easily.

It took someone with very keen eyesight to notice that a thin, hook-ended wire kept descending from the sky to make off with whatever it caught. And it took a very clever person to catch whoever it was doing it. Panker Tankhurst had a brainwave: she sat on her garden bench just as the wire descended, hooked it onto the arm and was dragged into the sky.

She slowly rose. Luckily she wrapped up warm, as the higher she went, the colder it got. She could see fires in living rooms burning brightly below, and the land looked beautiful. Eventually she felt the clouds on her face and everything went dark. She was still rising, slightly slower now, but she knew she was almost there. And then, suddenly, she burst out into the open air, the nighttime sky shining brilliantly above her. And in front of her, almost eye to eye, she saw the thief, hovering in a puffy little cloud.

He wasn't much to look at; a small man, wrapped up in scarves and mittens, and in his hand was a giant fishing rod - to which Panker's chair was attached and dangling. A look of shock passed over his face. He was caught!

He made a smile, expressed deep apologies for taking people's belongings, and shot off in his cloud, Panker in tow, to the peak of a mountain that breached the cloud cover. The mountain was bejewlled with trees, and the thief came to rest in a large cave adorned with all the rich pickings he'd stolen from the land below.

Panker was impressed, and distressed, at the sight. As amazing as his home was, he had no reason to go around stealing things, and she made absolutely sure that she told him so. He apologised profusely and explained that he only meant to take a few trees, but the urge got the better of him and soon he couldn't stop himself.

He was eager to give everyone back their belongings, and within a week he'd gone to every house distributing goods. To each thing he stole he attached a note saying sorry and promised never to do it again. He even replaced Dennis Drewshank's roof, to much applause at his skill and dexterity with a fishing rod. The people struck up a friendship with the man, and whenever any help was needed when pruning tall trees or mending chimneystack, they knew who to call.

And that Christmas, when everyone rose from their peaceful night's slumber, people found stockings filled with sparkling silver stars resting in front of their fireplaces. No-one was fully sure where they came from, but they all had a good idea.