A young man lives on a cloud at the top of the sky. When he looks down, the Great Wall of China looks smaller than his outstretched thumb. The Atlantic Ocean is smaller than his hand and the Empire State Building is shorter than his pinkie toe. From all the way up there, the whole world looks peaceful. Even the biggest earthquake is just a little shiver to him. The world is calm. Oh, by the way, that man is me.
My name is Leo and this is my adventurous, somewhat cheesy, a little cliché, love story. Don’t get me wrong, there are no romantic dinners, but if you want to hear the story of a man in the clouds, falling to earth to impress the woman who brings light to his day, you should keep reading.
First I am going to set the scene for my adventure tale. I lie on the marshmallow clouds all day watching the stars shoot across the sky and wishing on each one. My wishes go to Stella, who sits on the biggest star of all, the sun. Stella is my love, if you didn’t get that already.
The shooting stars collect wishes that float up to them from Earth and deliver the wishes to the sun, way above the sky. They have to go very fast or too many wishes get attached and they collapse. Stella always wishes down to me and I wish up to Stella. That’s how we communicate. Cute, I know. Even though we only met a couple of times, we know a lot about each other. We could always talk on the phone, but wishing is more fun. When I met Stella in person, she glowed so brightly I almost had to shield my eyes. On the other hand, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Now, a little bit about me. I collect wishes from eyelashes. I have a small desk on top of the clouds and when my little messengers are plucked from people’s eyelids, they finally get their chance to return home to me! Eyelashes are better than stars, no offense. Each eyelash only holds one wish. Of course, they are more common than shooting stars, but I could argue about this all day so we better move on.
My two assistants, Eddie and Ethan, collect all the eyelashes that float up to my cloud. Eddie and Ethan make stacks of one thousand eyelashes, each with their own wish. The wishes sit waiting to be read and granted by none other than myself.
Unfortunately, by the time most of the eyelashes get to me, the wisher is already dead. Two millenniums ago, Eddie found an eyelash on a cloud that was at least four thousand years old! Even when the wisher is still alive when I get the wish, most wishers made the wish when they were young. By the time their eyelash gets to me, they no longer want that special blue jump rope in the shop, or the action figure that talks when you pull a string. Of course, the wishes are all granted regardless of whether the person still wants it. You don’t want to be the one to deprive an old man of a talking action figure, do you? There are still those few lucky people who get their wish granted at just the right time. Anyway, I’m getting away from the topic at hand, though eyelashes are pretty cool. Don’t stop reading though! I’ll move on now, I promise.
Stars are a more reliable wishing source than eyelashes. They almost always get to Stella, and are much easier to organize since so many wishes are attached to one star. The only way a star would not get to Stella is if it got overloaded with wishes and sunk, but that barely ever happens.
Ok, here is where the plot picks up. I’ll try to bring you in the scene as realistically as possible. Here we go.
Just then my phone rang “Eyelash wishes. At your service.” I am very official.
“Hey Leo, it's me, Blaze.”
Blaze is the birthday candle gratifier. “People just got to realize that they can’t wish on those everlasting candles! It defeats the purpose! I feel sorry and angry at them at the same time!” Same talk every week… Geez!
The way the candles work is that the smoke flies up to Blaze and he keeps it in containers. If one container breaks, he’s in big trouble because he only has a couple of seconds to read the wishes before the smoke disappears forever. That’s one of the reasons I like eyelashes. “Dude, chill. Just talk to Cora.”
Cora is in charge of coins. Coins are tricky business because if the coins actually disappear from the fountain, or wherever they were thrown, people get suspicions. She has to travel down to Earth daily, read the wishes, and record them before she can come back up. She’s the only gratifier to ever go in the sphere. Hopefully, you can start to see where my journey begins.
I decide to go back to work. I still have about two hundred more wishes to do by the end of the day and the sun seems to be setting faster today. Stella told me about sunsets and sunrises. Another lady named Sandra lives on the sun with Stella, and at the beginning and end of the day, Sandra pulls the lever to make the sun rise or fall. Stella says sunsets and sunrises feel like roller coasters to her. I have never been on a roller coaster but I smiled when she said that because she looked so excited.
I went back to decoding the lashes. The lashes are pretty big. I can’t imagine how big humans must be. I hold the eyelash in my hands and lean forward, looking into some small eye hair at the mini screen in the molecule. “I wish to lead a happy life.” The eyelash is gray and thin. The person who it came from must be old. I inject the lash with the gratifier solution and drop it back down to that sphere that Cora goes to every day. She says that sphere is amazing. I wish there were wells up here to throw coins in or even birthday candles that create real smoke. Oh, humans, with their crazy inventions. One day they will destroy the world, but for now, their crazy suspicions are creating a pretty cool place. I look down at that tiny sphere, hoping I can see it soon. Then, I crawl across the clouds and settle into a restful sleep.
I don’t sleep for long though. Ethan wakes me after what seemed like two minutes.
“Sir! Sir,” Ethan says, shaking me.
My eyes drift open, the view of darkness coming over me.
“What? Sandra hasn’t even pulled the lever yet. What’s your problem?”
“That! Sandra is missing.”
Fully awake, I jump out of bed, phone in hand.
“Sir, Stella is already on the line.” Ethan says, following behind.
“Leo, Sandra is gone. I don’t know when she left, but I just came back from Blaze’s station and now she’s gone.”
“You were with Blaze?” A twinge of jealousy in my voice. It’s pretty difficult to see another gratifier. Why would she see Blaze?
“Yea. He was just telling me about smoke boxes. Anyway, Sandra is not here. Listen to me!”
“Do you know where she went?”
“I think so. She went to earth. She left me a note saying she doesn’t want to live her whole life doing work for people she will never meet. She says she wants to see what impact she is making on the world and she wants me to pull the lever.” She talks really fast, sounding shaky and nervous. She definitely doesn’t know what to do.
I don’t know what to say. Just a couple hours ago, I was fantasizing about going down myself. But would I actually have the guts to go?
“We have to go down Stella. We have to find her.”
“I know we have to find her but-”
“Ok let’s go now. Lets-”
“Leo. What Sandra did was selfish. It is her job to pull the lever and nothing else. She couldn’t even do that. I’m not just going to abandon my job like she did.”
I pause. “I understand. Ethan and Eddie should be fine gratifying for a couple hours. I’ll ask Cora to go with me. I’ll be fine.”
“Stella, I have to go. I want to see the world as much as Sandra does. I’m sorry.”
“Leo, don’t do this. Don’t be like her.”
“Stella, I’m going.”
I pull the receiver from my ear but the noise kept flowing through. Stella still screams but I won’t let her convince me not to go. This is my chance. I page Cora and when she arrives, we get some sleep sacks, and shove the food injectors into a pouch.
“So how do we…?”
“We jump,” says Cora in a hard voice. “It’s fun, trust me.”
And just like that, she is gone. Becoming smaller and smaller as the seconds drone on. Ok, I think. On 3, no 10. “Oh come on. What would Stella say,” I murmur to myself. Then, I lean forward, rolling off the cloud and flying through the air. Winds push me in every direction yet I’m laughing, giddy with fear. “This is what Stella must feel like during sunset roller coasters.” I think. “Stop thinking about her. She probably doesn’t even like you anymore. You abandoned her.” After what seems like a couple hours of freefalling, I start wondering where the ground is but then a blue mass starts to rise, coming towards me. I right myself and roll into a ball.
My body hits the blue mass and it rises even higher all around me. The cold overwhelms me and my teeth chatter. The blue mass goes over my head and enters my mouth. It’s in every direction and I am sinking closer to the bottom. Suddenly a strong force grabs my backpack and pulls me up.
“What took you so long? But nice cannonball.” It’s Cora, grinning and shiny from the droplets of blue on her.
“What is this?”
“The ocean. You get used to it.”
“This is the ocean! The blue thing surrounding the sphere?”
I look in amazement at the thing I had dreamed about for so long.
“The ocean,” I repeat. The word feels different when I’m actually inside it.
“Come Leo, we have to go.”
Cora seems to have no trouble staying on the surface but I flap my arms and legs all around, looking like a complete spaz. Suddenly, I’m being dragged across the surface onto something slimy, green and huge.
“Cora! What the heck!”
“It’s just a fish. We’re too light for it to realize we are onboard and it will take us land.”
This is a truly amazing sight to behold, let me tell you. I am in the ocean, Sandra is in this sphere somewhere, waiting for Stella to pull the lever, and Stella is sitting up there, still mad at me. Oh, I hope she pulls the lever.
“Leo, Leo?” Cora waves her hand in front of her face.
“We are at land. You are about to stand on sand. Now on earth, the humans don’t really like seeing us. If they see you, they will try to squish you.” How welcoming of them, I think.
“Squish me?” I say, alarmed.
“Yea, but we’re small and they don’t pay much attention. Follow me.”
We sprint down the beach but I can’t help feeling disappointed. “Cora, where are all the people? I thought people go to the beach.”
Not slowing down Cora says, “They wait until Sandra pulls the lever to go, and they’re going to be really confused if the sun doesn’t come out in the next hour.”
We sprint until we finally reach pavement. “A road.” Cora says before waiting for me to ask. “We are about a 10-minute run from town, let’s go.” What town? Where are we? But there is no time for questions.
I can tell we reach town when the number of buildings increases and the rocky, sandy floor turns completely into pavement. Then suddenly, I see it, a large thing standing outside one of the buildings. A human! A real human! Right here, in front of me! I am stuck right here, staring in amazement at this giant creature. I am staring at the very source of my work. The very source of the eyelashes piled up on my desk. I wonder if I have ever granted a wish for this very person. It was very possible. Of course, there are still all those people who don’t believe in me and let their eyelashes go to waste inside the sphere but I don’t let them get to me. As long as you, my reader, believe in me, I’ll be ok.
Cora pulls on me. “Come on, she’s going to be at the towers. That’s where humans go to watch the sunrise.”
I tear my eyes away from the human and follow Cora down the street. The sunrise is supposed to happen in about thirty minutes. Can’t Stella understand the urge Sandra has to see her lifework? Hasn’t Stella ever wanted to find what who is wishing on the stars in the sky? Can’t she understand me? Oh, why can’t she understand me?
As we near the sunrise tower, I see the people start to gather on the top floor. I don’t see Sandra but I trust Cora that this is where she is. We enter the building and Cora finds what she calls a staircase that we have to climb. The stairs are huge, and it takes a while to climb one, let alone up ten flights. Cora says we can’t take the elevator, and since I don’t know what an elevator is so I see no point in arguing.
Cora steps on my shoulders to get onto the first step and then pulls me up. We do this again and again until we reach a sign that says: Observation Deck. “We’re here,” Cora says, thoroughly exhausted. The circular room with the see-through walls awes me. I look around, hoping to see Sandra. Then, Cora points. There she is, happy as ever, staring at the clear wall, waiting.
“Hello! What are you doing here?” Sandra says, surprised but happy.
“What are you doing here?” Cora says, slightly less ecstatic voice. Actually, to be frank, she is quite upset.
“I’m going to watch the sunrise! Care to join me?”
“Sandra,” I say. “You got all of us worried. Stella is freaking out. Ethan and Eddie have to handle my job alone, and you even got Cora and me to come all the way down here looking for you.”
The smile slowly fades from her face. Realizing all the commotion she caused in the last couple hours seems to make her become smaller. She doesn’t say anything for a long time.
Just then, a golden light shines over the ocean. Then it fades. Stella must have changed her mind. “Please, Stella. Please.” I mutter.
Sandra’s eyes are bright, like her sun, waiting. As the seconds pass, each one longer than the next, I feel Sandra once again becoming disappointed in herself for being so careless. We wait a long minute but nothing happens. “She won’t do it.” Cora says in a soft voice, putting her hand on Sandra’s shoulder. Sandra nods slowly and backs away from the window. We start towards the stairs again and almost jump down when the golden light appears again. This time, it doesn’t stop, growing bigger until the sun comes out of the ocean and keeps rising until it’s over our heads. It lights up the whole world with its golden light and everyone claps and laughs, including Sandra.
“This is what I do every day. I light up the world. I make the world bright and I love every day of it. I’m happy with what I do and I will continue doing it every day of my life, knowing that these people wait for me every day. All these people wait for me to pull the lever and they are grateful for my work. That’s all that matters.” And with that, Sandra jumps down the stairs.
Cora patted Leo on the back. “We did good pal. We did good.”
When we return home, Stella, Blaze, Ethan, and Eddie are all waiting. They cheer when we arrive. I feel pretty special, if I do say so myself. They cheer at our stories of the humans and the fish and the ocean. Stella doesn’t seem angry anymore. She crosses over to me. She looks at me for a long time and I start to think that maybe she is still angry, but then she leans towards me and kisses me on my cheek. “You are really annoying.” Stella said, “So why do I love you?” I grin, shrug and scoop her up into my arms. I raise one hand in the air in a movement of pure victory and scream, “The Gratifiers!” Everyone raises their arms in the same movement of happiness, purpose and unity and scream as family. “The Gratifiers!”
So, I hope you like my story. It is very important to me. Stella and I tell it to our children every night as they wish on the stars. Sandra and Blaze have a son of their own as well. I know, how do fire and smoke go together? You would be surprised what fits together when you give it the chance. I hope this story reminds you that you are very important. I mean, I’m smaller than your pinkie and still, I make a difference. Imagine what you can do. Imagine what you have done.