I love stories. They are doorways to other worlds. Here are a few doorways of my own.
Bik & Bok
On a small moon circling the small blue planet, there lived two creatures. One was Bik and the other Bok. Some people said they were different, but that didn’t even start to explain this strange pair!
They were total opposites, like the chalkiest chalk and the cheesiest cheese. Like the hottest fire and the coldest ice. What one liked the other did not. What one did the other did not.
They both loved meteor storms, huge big rocks falling out of the sky. Well, it takes all sorts! They were both members of the Intergalactic Debris In Our Time Society (IDIOTS to you and me) and each had one hundred books on the subject of meteors.
But apart from this they had nothing in common.
Bik was happy but Bok was not, Bik was bright yellow but Bok was not, Bik liked lime jelly sandwiches but Bok did not, Bike played the trombone but Bok did not.
It so happened that during the month of Do (the other month was Don’t) a huge meteor shower was due to light up the sky of the small moon where they lived. Never before had so many rocks fallen from the sky. This was the big one, the main event, the real deal, the unmissable, unstoppable, greatest of al – it was quite important! Bik and Bok were very excited but, of course, in very different ways.
Bik looked for a good spot but Bok did not, Bik packed himself a nice lunch but Bok did not, Bik wore an “I love meteors” T-shirt but Bok did not, Bik picked a snazzy hat but Bok did not.
And so came the day of the meteor shower. Bik set out with his lunch nice and early and strolled to the place he had chosen on a leisurely walk the day before. He had decided that to get the best view he would climb to the top of a huge, solid rock as old as the moon itself. He climbed steadily and carefully, taking time to work out all his foot and finger holds. At the top he looked at his clockometer and found he had time for a lime jelly sandwich before the show started.
Bik was early for the show but Bok was not, Bik was full of yummy food but Bok was not, Bik was ready and relaxed but Bok was not, Bik was enjoying his morning but Bok was not.
Bok woke up late and fell out of bed in a panic. He ran around in circles for a while until he realised that it was not getting him anywhere and then ran outside. He ran back inside and changed out of his pink pyjamas and into some proper clothes. Then he half ran, half walked, trying to tie his shoelace on the move. Not a good idea unless you like falling down a lot. He completely forgot his hat, his coat and his food.
Bik was playing the trombone but Bok was not, Bik was watching the sky but Bok was not, Bik had lots of time but Bok did not, Bik was ready but Bok was not.
At the last minute Bok arrived at the site. He was tired, hungry and generally discombobulated. He looked up to where Bik was happily waiting; it looked like a good place. It looked solid, reliable and had a great view. He looked down to where he stood. It was muddy and he could not see a lot. But Bok stayed where he was. He couldn’t be bothered to climb the rock – it was too much effort.
“It will be just as good from here,” he said to himself sulkily, but he didn’t really believe it. He knew the rock was the best place to be.
On top of the rock Bik started to count down.
“10, 9, 8…”
In the mud Bok was shrinking. At least, that’s what it felt like. He looked down. He wasn’t shrinking, he was sinking. Right up to his knees.
“7, 6, 5…”
Right up to his waist.
“4, 3, 2…”
Right up to his neck.
Bok sank completely into the sticky mud making a tiny shloop sound as he did.
Bik watched the biggest meteor shower ever but Bok did not, Bik saw the sky turn orange, crimson, and pink but Bok did not, Bik jumped up and down with joy but Bok did not, Bik was as happy as could be but Bok… well, Bok was not.
One of Our Bloopers is Missing
As you may know, bloopers come in all shapes and sizes. You probably even have a favourite. Maybe the wooly blooper or the spotted blooper, maybe the giant blooper or even the big-bottomed blooper. You may also know that bloopers gather together in herds with a mixture of every kind of blooper. If you have studied Bloopology (as I know many of you have) you will also know that each blooper makes its own sound and when mixed with the sounds of all the other bloopers, this makes music. This is no ordinary music. The music made by bloopers is soothing and calm and makes even the grouchiest person happy. It is like the first spoonful of your favourite pudding. It is like stretching in bed when you know you do not have to get up. It is like your favourite day.
But did you know that if just one blooper stops singing, the music goes wrong? It sounds almost the same but with something missing. Then it is like going on a journey and knowing you’ve forgotten something but not being able to work out what it is. It is like that feeling in your tummy when you first realise something has gone wrong. It is like an itch, an itch you cannot scratch.
One day El got that itch.
El looked after the bloopers. He knew them all by name, even Bo and Jo the twins, who he never got mixed up. He helped them to find snuzzleberries (a real treat for a blooper), he removed tangles from the wooly ones, he made sure the smaller ones were not accidentally trodden on by the larger ones and sometimes he would sing to the music they made. He loved them very much.
On the day that El got that itch he was sitting on his favourite rock on the hillside above Blooperville watching the bloopers at play. He had just finished curing San, a crested blooper, of the hiccups when he noticed that something was not quite right. He looked around and there in the distance was Bloo in a place he should not be.
Bloo was a spotted blooper, a curious one at that, and sometimes he would wander off. Most of the time it did not matter because he did not go far and always came back when El called him. But this time Bloo could smell snuzzleberries. The smell was so strong that at first Bloo thought they must be quite near. So he went a little way from the herd in search of the snuzzleberries but he couldn’t find them. He crossed the stream and started to look around on the next hill but still he could not find them. At the top of the hill Bloo heard El calling his name. He knew he should go back but the snuzzleberries could not be far away and they smelt so good.
What a feast it will be, thought Bloo. He pretended not to hear El calling him.
I will just get the snuzzleberries, he thought to himself, and then I will go back.
So Bloo carried on his search, getting further and further away from the herd. Over streams and across fields he travelled, around huge trees and through small bushes. Soon he found himself at the edge of an emerald forest. The afternoon sun shone through the dancing leaves, the birds sang and the grass was soft under his feet. He looked all around but still couldn’t find the snuzzleberries. He searched under the jumble bushes and behind the findle trees but still nothing. The smell was very strong now and Bloo searched even deeper into the forest, and there he found it. What he found was not a snuzzleberry bush at all but a thorny snaggleberry bush. As all good Bloopologists know, snaggleberries smell a bit like snuzzleberries but they do not taste as good and they give you tummy-ache.
Maybe I should go home, thought a disappointed Bloo.
But when he looked around him all he could see was trees and their branches did not seem so pleasant now that the light was fading. He could not remember which way he had come and could not think which way to go. He was lost.
Back on the hill above Blooperville, El shouted as loud as he could, calling Bloo’s name, but Bloo did not turn around. In fact, Bloo disappeared over a distant hill.
“Do not go anywhere, and stay out of trouble,” said El to the rest of the herd and with that he set off to find Bloo. When he reached the top of the hill Bloo was nowhere to be seen but El guessed he must have gone into the forest. He sniffed the air.
“Snaggleberries,” he sighed.
Bloo, meanwhile, was trying to get home but no matter how he tried, he always seemed to end up back at the snaggleberry bush and now he was hungry. He looked at the snaglleberries.
Just one will not hurt, he thought – and ate three. He tried to convince himself that they were not that bad and ate five more. Soon his tummy started to hurt and he felt woozy. Bloo fell over, right into the thorny snaggleberry bush. He tried to get out but he couldn’t. He was tangled in the spiky branches and the more he struggled the more tangled he got.
Why did I wander away? thought Bloo sadly, and he gave a little bloop: “Bloop!”
“There you are,” said a voice.
It was El.
“Oh Bloo, you have got yourself into a real mess. Let me help.”
El waded into the snaggleberry bush and though it scratched his hands and his feet, he didn’t care because he loved Bloo and wanted to see him safe. Soon El had lifted Bloo from the snaggleberry bush, and gently carried him back to the herd.
When he got back he had lots to do. Two sticky bloopers had stuck together, a short-legged blooper had fallen over and could not get up, and a long-tailed blooper had a sore tail from being stood on by a (very embarrassed) big-footed blooper. El put Bloo on the ground and watched him for a while as he played with the othe bloopers.
“Bloopers,” said El, shaking his head. And he listened to the soothing music they made.
Once on a small blue planet, a long way from here, there lived people just like you and me. They may have lived in different houses and played different games, they may have eaten different food and spoken in different languages but inside they were just the same.
Now this small blue planet was closer than normal to the stars, so close in fact that on occasion, dust from those stars would fall through the sky and land twinkling on the ground. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you might be walking through the jumble bushes and see, on a flower petal, a shining speck of stardust.
The people of this small blue planet spent lots of time searching high and low, far and wide, hoping all the time to find even the tiniest speck of stardust. It wasn’t the fact that it shone even in the day or that the colours were so beautiful – the real reason was that when you held the stardust in your hand something very special happened.
As you closed your hand around it a warm feeling started to grow somewhere deep inside you. The feeling grew and grew until you were warm all over and then it happened. Suddenly you remembered all the best bits of your life, all the happiness, goodness, fun and laughter, and not only that, the stardust reminded you how special you really were. Special, not because of what you had done or how much you had, but because you were you. So you can see why so much time was spent looking amongst the twizzleberries, just in case a small speck of stardust had fallen there.
One day, one of the people of the small blue planet (she was called Halbonbaltiddlyaljofal but her friends called her Hal for short) was out in search of stardust. Like all of her people she was loaded up with all her possessions. That’s the way her people liked to do things – they carried everything. When i say everything, I mean everything: all their clothes, all their bedding, all their shoes, all their special things. Hal kept all her special things in a beautiful red leather bag. People even took their not so special things everywhere, like the pink bunny suit a distant aunt had sent them for their birthday. Some people believed that the more things you had, the more important you were.
Hal dreamed of finding even a tiny piece stardust but no one had found any in such a long time and Hal had never even seen any.
Now Hal was very clever and instead of looking under the snoring stones or among the dillydaffs like the others she stopped and thought for a while.
Where can I find some stardust? Where does it come from? Where would it land? she asked herself.
She looked up to the sky and then looked all around and when she had finished thinking she knew just what to do.
Across the river was a high hill and on the high hill was a findle tree which grew higher still, higher than anything around.
That’s the place, thought Hal.
With all her possessions still strapped to her back, she crossed the river and climbed the hill until she came to the base of the findle tree. It was enormous.
Even though she was already tired from scaling the hill, Hal started to climb the findle tree branch by branch, rising higher than any of her people had ever been before. Finally she reached the top of the tree. The branches were narrower here and could barely hold Hal’s weight but she would not give up. Very carefully she pushed her head through the last of the findle leaves and looked around. There, not far from her, she saw a piece of stardust, not small at all, but as big as a pebble. Hall just stared. She had never seen anything so beautiful, so bright, so alive with colour. Just looking at it made her want to cry with happiness, to sing and dance and shout. Not that she did, you understand, for dancing and thin branches are not a good combination.
Eventually Hal reached out, stretching as far as she could, but she couldn’t get the stardust. She climbed a little further up the ever-narrowing twigs but her weight made the branch bend further away. No matter how she tried she couldn’t reach the stardust. Tears of frustration filled her eyes but she wasn’t about to give in.
As we already know, Hal was very clever and she stopped for a while and thought.
How can I reach the stardust? What can I do? she said to herself.
She looked up to the stardust and then looked all around and when she had finished thinking she knew just what to do.
Hall undid a buckle and removed a strap, and a sack of not very important things, including a ghastly pink bunny suit, fell from sight and crashed through the leaves never to be seen again. The branch moved a little closer but nowhere near enough.
Though it was hard, Hal undid some more buckles and straps and three bags of important things fell away, never to be seen again. The branch moved a little closer to the stardust, and Hal reached out, stretching her fingers as far as she could, but it was still not enough.
Though it was harder still, and not many others had ever done it, Hal undid even more straps and buckles, and two bags and a box of very important things fell through the tree never to be seen again. The branch moved a lot closer to the stardust but still Hal could not reach it.
Hal had one bag left, her beautiful red leather bag containing her most precious things. After a moment she even dropped that too, never to be seen again. The branch moved, Hal reached out as far as she could and plucked the stardust from its resting place.
Carefully Hal climbed down the findle tree and sat with her back against the trunk, exhausted. She could not take her eyes from the shining beauty of the stardust. Carefully she closed her hand around it and felt, deep inside, a warmth that grew and grew until it filled every part of her. She started to remember all the best bits of her life, all the happiness, goodness, fun and laughter. Then she remembered how special she was, not because of what she had done or what she had, but because she was Hal, Halbonbaltiddlyaljofal.
A Small Patch of Hope
The town was beautiful; full of light and colour, full of artists and gardeners, built with care and covered by a vast, hopeful, blue sky.
However it wasn’t perfect and someone from that beautiful town noticed a field mouse gnawing on a tiny grain of wheat.
“Let us build a small wall, just big enough to keep out those gnawing mice.”
And they did.
The gnawing stopped but someone noticed a brown rabbit nibbling a flower in the gardens.
“Let us build the wall a little higher, just big enough to keep out those nibbling rabbits.”
And they did.
The nibbling stopped but someone noticed a wild boar that had strayed into the village blundering into a statue and knocking it over.
“Let build the wall a little higher, just big enough to keep out those blundering boar.”
“But it only happened once,” said a small voice.
“Let’s do it anyway.”
And they did.
The knocking down of statues stopped, except for that time when the baker accidentally hit one with his cart.
“We should build the wall higher so that wolves cannot steal our children.”
“Has that ever happened?” asked the small voice.
“No, but what if it did?”
So they built higher.
No children were taken by wolves. In fact, no-one ever saw a wolf in that part of the world.
“What if robbers come and steal our art?”
“But our art is freely given,” observed the small voice.
“Yes, but what if they take it all?”
So the wall grew even higher.
Art ceased to be made and what was already made was hidden in dark cellars.
“What if ogres come and steal the tiles from our roofs?”
“Is that likely?” questioned the small voice.
“You never know.”
So they built the wall higher still.
No ogres ever got into the town.
“These walls are not high enough. What if giants come to squish us?”
“Are giants even real?” puzzled the small voice.
“We can’t take the chance.”
So they built as high as they could and asked the small voice to leave.
Nothing could get in and nothing could get out.
The remaining inhabitants of that once beautiful town looked at each other.
“You are different to me. What if you gnawed my grain or nibbled my garden or knocked my things over or stole by children or took my art or removed the tiles from my roof or tried to squish me?”
“What if you did the same?”
And so everyone built a wall around them as high as they could build.
Everyone was safe.
“Safe and scared and cold and all alone with only a tiny, distant, blue sliver of hope above them,” said the small voice.
Grey (a story)
Once there was a town where everything was grey. The houses were grey, the gardens were grey, the people were grey and even their pets were grey. It wasn’t even a particularly interesting grey – it was the most tedious, uninspiring grey there ever was. It was hardly surprising then that the town was called Grey.
Nothing ever changed, every day was the same – even the weather was grey.
Every morning, as the grey sun rose above the grey horizon, the people of Grey got out of their grey beds, they put on their grey clothes, ate their grey food and said grey things to one another. At a quarter past grey they passed through their grey front doors, walked down their grey streets and went to work at their grey jobs. In the evening, as the grey sun sank below the grey horizon, the people of Grey returned to their grey houses, ate more grey food, said more grey things and retired to their grey beds to dream grey dreams. So it was grey day after grey day, grey month after grey month, grey year after grey year.
One grey morning in the town of Grey a grey girl rose from her grey bed, put on her grey clothes and went out into her grey garden. She sat as she always did and did nothing as she always did. Then, all on its own, her grey hair moved and she felt something on her grey face. It was the wind. It blew her grey jacket, it blew the grey flowers and it blew the grey trees and then it was gone. The girl looked around to see where the wind had gone but she couldn’t see it. She started to search behind the grey bushes and around the grey tool shed but she could not find it. So she stopped and sat down as she always did and was about to nothing as she always did when she thought of a question.
“What if?” she whispered.
The whole grey world seemed to pause.
“What if there was something else? What if things were different? What if there was more than grey?”
She looked around.
“What if that flower was not grey?”
The flower turned yellow, white and green and the girl laughed. She had never laughed before but she liked it so she did it some more.
“What if that tree was not grey?”
The tree turned green, not one green, but a thousand greens and the girl danced. She had never danced before but she liked it so she did it some more.
“What if the sky was not grey?”
The sky turned a beautiful blue and the clouds became fluffy and white. The sun shone brightly on the yellow flower and the green tree and made them even more beautiful and the girl sang a song. She had never sang a song before but she liked it so she did it some more.
“What if?” she would ask and more and more shapes and colours entered her grey world.
“What if?” she sang and other grey people noticed things were changing.
“What if?” they whispered.
“What if?” they laughed.
“What if?” they danced.
“What if?” they sang.
And Grey was never the same again.
Very few people have seen the peak of Spindle Mountain. It climbs so high that it pokes its head through the ever-present clouds that continually rain into the Huckaboo Lakes. The creatures who live on the lakes dress in large cones to keep dry and float on the giant leaves of the kidoo tree. They float gently and peacefully through life on a diet of hickory fish until, when they are as old as can be, they take off their cone and tumble gracefully over one of the many waterfalls. But their story is for another time.
Today we look high up, beyond the clouds to the highest place there is – the peak of Spindle Mountain. You will see there is a nest, as old as time itself, and on that nest there sits, in eager anticipation, the Waloo. The Waloo is a giant bird of great distinction with an even greater plume upon her head. Wondrous in colour she dreams of flying in the bluest of skies and though she has dreamed for many centuries she has never, ever, not one single time, taken to the sky.
The Waloo has read every book there is about flying and seen pictures of birds and flying machines and bees. She has even read the Book of the Air by Esua Wagglewings, probably one of the most boring books ever written – as dry as the desert and as long as school on a hot summer day. She has also memorised the Bumper Book of Stuff that Flies and can recognise anything that flies by their silhouette against a sunset. All except the Waloo, of course, because the Waloo never flew.
The Waloo had been to Flight School and studied intensely the theories of aerodynamics. She had achieved a first in her Degree and had gone on to gain a Masters in Flapology. There was nothing that the Waloo did not know about flying and every Thursday would teach a course at the local university on the subject of Flight. There was no-one who knew more, but apart from a hop, a skip and a jump her feet had never left the ground.
The Waloo did intensive exercise three times a day to strengthen her wings which she preened and cleaned to cut down on drag. She tested her reactions by juggling crabs that clacked and snipped and rattled and snapped. She looked after her eyes and trained herself in observation; many would say that she could see a gnat blink from three mountains away. She did all these things and more but she had never felt the wind lift her wings or rush past her face.
The Waloo had purchased, from Sebastian Silverstein (Suppliers to the Sky) the finest leather aviator’s hat that money could buy with an altimeter built in the side. It was beautiful, in purple and gold, with the emblem of an eagle with a crown on his head. It was made by master craftsmen for the elite aeronaut and the Waloo wore it every day but it was no more than ornament for it had never flown at all.
The Waloo was the Founder and President of the Society for all Things that Fly. Every month she would publish The Flyers Gazette and on alternate Thursdays she would show films of flying things, you know, birds and flying machines and bees. Once a month she would invite a speaker to talk about their experience of flight and once had even hosted the great air ace Fondly Trouserton-Hive. He was the only bee she knew with a walrus moustache. After the meetings were over she would retire to her nest and continue her dreams of soaring and gliding and swooping and diving – things that the Waloo, that lovely Waloo, would never ever do.