Cloudleapers

 

Local childrens author, Karen Larkins, is sharing her latest book, Cloudleapers

Part One

Welcome to Cloudleapers.

Part Two

The story so far: - Alex Bunting is in a lot of trouble for breaking the Chemist’s shop window, for which he pleads innocence.  On his way to his last day at Hollyfield School he encountered the three bullies who have made his life a misery since his first day at school.  He can’t wait to tell Tom about the broken window incident as he is the only person who will believe his story…

Part Three

The story so far: - Alex Bunting is in a lot of trouble with his parents for breaking the Chemist’s shop window. He has explained to his best mate Tom that it was Billy, Danny and Pete who set up the skateboard that sent him careering into the window, but will his parents believe him?

Part Four

The story so far: - Alex Bunting has been told he will be working in the Chemist shop until he has paid off the cost of the new shop window. Tom has arrived at Alex’s house with a copy of the local paper and has shown Alex a photograph of the ‘mad professor’ who has died.  Tom believes they have killed him.

Part Five

The story so far:- Alex and Tom realised that the death of the ‘mad professor’, Professor Hayes, had nothing to do with them, but they still don’t know what a Government worker was doing working in Attlebury. 
Alex has started his punishment of working in the Chemist Shop to pay off the cost of replacing the shop window.  

Part Six

The story so far:-  Alex and Tom have finally tricked the bullies but Billy, Danny and Pete have chased them into an empty 52 Barclay Road.  
Alex and Tom become trapped in an upstairs room with the bullies opening the door.

 

Part Seven

After climbing a chimney to escape from the bullies in the Professor’s old house, Alex and Tom found themselves on top of the clouds where they met Strato, a Cloudleaper.  He explained to the boys that the clouds were disappearing and Professor Hayes had built a cloud making machine and was on the verge of finding the fuel to power it when he died.  Alex leaps onto another cloud, but Tom misses and disappears from view...

 


 

 

Part One

September 2016

Alex Bunting stared at the sheet of paper flapping up and down in front of him with his eyes and mouth wide open in shock.  Surely his parents couldn’t believe it had been his fault?  After all he didn’t even own a skateboard, and just look at the colour of Dad’s face.  It had turned from pink to bright red and had settled at an angry shade of purple.  
 

Everything had been fine and the morning boringly normal until the post had arrived.  Molly, Alex’s little sister, had immediately deserted her breakfast as soon as she’d heard the letterbox rattle.  She was always hopeful of finding an envelope with her name on it but, apart from on her birthday, she was always disappointed.  “For you again Dad.”  She said as she handed two envelopes to Ben Bunting.
The first envelope was marked with the electricity company’s logo and, knowing it would be a bill, he handed it to his wife, Katie, to open.  The second envelope was more intriguing and Ben Bunting’s facial expression changed from puzzlement to anger; from pink to this angry purple in a matter of seconds.  Alex watched his Dad’s mouth move rapidly up and down.  He knew he was shouting at him but all the sounds seemed to jumble into one and he could only make out the odd word here and there.

 

“…...smashed window…...skateboard……HOW MUCH?”
 

Alex dropped his spoon and it fell into his bowl of cornflakes, splashing milk and soggy flakes all over the table.  Molly giggled and wondered what her brother had done now.  He was always getting into some sort of bother which was usually quite funny, but she’d never seen their Dad this angry before, Alex must have done something really outrageous this time.
 

“But it weren’t my fault Dad.  It was…”  Alex muttered, but his Dad wasn’t listening to him as he continued shouting; jumping to his own conclusions and finding Alex guilty without a fair hearing.
 

“We’ll discuss this tonight.”  Dad finished as he rose from his chair, wagging his finger at Alex’s stunned face.  “Don’t think you’ll be getting away with this.”  He shouted over his shoulder as he walked into the hall and picked up his briefcase.  “You’ll be paying every penny of that bill, and you’ll be punished.  You’ve done a lot of silly things before Alex, but this one takes the biscuit.”  Dad carried on muttering and mumbling as he walked down the drive and climbed into his car.
 

“Now see what you’ve done Alex.” His Mum spoke for the first time. “I just hope he can concentrate on his driving, I’ve never seen him in such a temper. He even forgot to say goodbye to us.” Katie Bunting didn’t seem to be as angry as her husband but you never could tell with Mum, she could stay calm and quiet on the  outside but you were never quite sure what was going on on the inside. “I hope he doesn’t crash the car,” she continued. Alex supposed that if he did that would be his fault too.
 

Katie picked up the letter that Ben had dropped on the table and read the contents with a worried expression on her face. “Six hundred pounds is an awful lot of money. Where on earth are we going to find six hundred pounds?” Mum stared into the space just above Alex’s head. Alex supposed she was wishing that something very heavy would fall on him. Luckily for Alex it didn’t.
 

“Honestly Mum, it weren’t my fault, and surely shop windows can’t cost that much. Anyway, it was…………” Alex began to explain the course of events that had led to his accident, but his Mum wouldn’t listen and just shook her head. “It’s no good trying to get out of this one me lad, you were caught red-handed. Now get yourself off to school and we’ll see what your Dad has to say when he gets home.”
Alex and Molly’s school was only a short walk away, across the green and down a narrow lane. They always walked to school together whether Alex wanted to be seen with his little sister or not; he was never given the choice as she was his little sister and his responsibility. Molly walked in front of Alex with her school bag over her shoulder, carrying a purple African Violet very carefully in both her hands. This pot plant was a gift for her teacher, Mrs Wilson, for the last day of term. Alex and Molly were both looking forward to the summer holidays that stretched out in front of them after today.

 

“Hurry up Alex. I don’t want to be late.” Molly called over her shoulder. Mrs Wilson was her favourite teacher and she would miss her next year, but then Molly thought every teacher she’d ever had was her favourite.
 

Alex dragged his feet and pulled his slipping rucksack back onto his shoulder. He wouldn’t mind being late as he hated school, but at least this was his last day. He’d be starting secondary school in September so it was goodbye to Hollyfield School and goodbye to walking to school with his sister, he’d be going in the opposite direction to get to Berrymead School. This fact alone should have made him happy, but the worry of what Dad’s punishment would be hung over him like a black cloud. Whatever it was he hoped it wouldn’t ruin his six week holiday. It was so unfair, it wasn’t his fault was it, so why wouldn’t they believe him? Mr Watson, the Chemist shop owner, didn’t believe him either when he’d roughly picked him up out of his window display. There was one person who would believe him though. He’d tell Tom what had happened – his best mate would believe him.
 

“See you later, Alex!” Alex looked up to see Molly running on ahead to catch up with a group of her chatting, laughing friends.
“Well, well, well, Baby Bunting!” Shouted a voice that Alex recognised and dreaded. He slowly turned round and saw Billy Weston striding towards him. He had had trouble with Billy Weston ever since he’d started at Hollyfield School. He had no idea why Billy picked on him. As far as he knew he had never done anything to hurt him. His Dad had said that some boys were just like that and that if Billy punched him, he was to punch him back even harder so he wouldn’t pick on him again. Alex wondered if his Dad had ever seen Billy Weston. Although he was the same age as Alex, he was very, very tall and very, very wide with two huge hands that made huge fists. He had short spiky black hair and black eyes that stared out of a menacing face and he was never alone, he always had Danny Fletcher and Pete Manning with him. They were not as big, or as menacing as Billy, but they were just as mean. Nevertheless, Alex took his Dad’s advice one day and tried to punch Billy as hard as he could, but the only person he hurt was himself, as he sprained his wrist on Billy’s giant torso. “You hit just like a baby, Bunting!” Billy had laughed at him before kicking him in the shins. Ever since that day Billy Weston had called Alex, ‘Baby Bunting’, much to the amusement of all the other boys in his class.

 

“So, Baby Bunting, what’ve you got in your rucksack for me today?” Billy sneered. Pete Manning grabbed the rucksack and roughly pulled it off of Alex’s shoulder. Pete was the smallest of the three bully boys, but what he lacked in size he made up for with meanness. He had a small stubby nose and a tiny mouth which now smirked at Alex as he handed the bag over to Billy. Danny Fletcher stood next to Pete. He had a sharp pointed nose, mean piercing blue eyes and a head of short red spiky hair.
 

Billy took the rucksack, tore at the zip and turned it upside down. All the contents cascaded onto the concrete path. Alex’s rucksack was always full of clutter. There was a couple of old Matchbox cars with most of the paint scratched off, that he used to play with; a few green plastic cowboys and red plastic Indians that he’d once received in a party bag; a few coloured pencils that could do with sharpening; some blue biros with well chewed ends; dozens of rubber bands and paper clips, and a couple of school work books.
 

“Ohh, crisps, and a chocolate biscuit!” Billy pounced on Alex’s break treats. “Salt and Vinegar! I prefer Cheese and Onion! Tell yer Mum to get me Cheese and Onion next time, BABY. Oh you can keep the apple.” Billy kicked the apple with such force that it sailed into the air, over the wire fence and landed on the school playing field.
 

‘Saved by the bell’ thought Alex as he heard the school bell announcing the start of the school day. “Thanks for the snacks, Bunting.” Said Billy as he punched Alex in the stomach and ran into the playground. Pete and Danny stamped on the plastic cowboys and Indians and ran after Billy. “Give us a crisp, Billy!” Yelled Pete.
 

Alex bent over, clutching his hurt stomach, before kneeling down to scoop up his dirty and broken belongings and put them back in the abandoned rucksack. He hobbled into school, hoping he wouldn’t be too late as he didn’t want to be in any more trouble today.

To be continued…

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Part Two

 

November 2016

The story so far:- Alex Bunting is in a lot of trouble for breaking the Chemist’s shop window, for which he pleads innocence.  On his way to his last day at Hollyfield School he encountered the three bullies who have made his life a misery since his first day at school.  He can’t wait to tell Tom about the broken window incident as he is the only person who will believe his story…

Part Two
 

“Here, have one of my Kit-Kat fingers” said Tom.  It was another scorching hot day, and already the chocolate was melting.  Alex peeled off the piece of foil wrapping before enjoying the wafer biscuit.  It was morning break and he and Tom were seated on a low brick wall in the playground.  They had been best friends ever since the first day of school.  Tom was slightly shorter than Alex but slightly fatter and he had a shock of white blond curly hair and pale blue eyes.  Alex licked the chocolate off his fingers and watched the other children run around the playground.  Some were playing football on the grass; others were skipping or chasing each other playing ‘it’ on the tarmac.  Billy, Danny and Pete, however, were doing their best to spoil everyone’s fun by knocking into them, pinching their skipping ropes or pulling their hair. 
 

“So what happened then?”  Tom asked Alex.  
 

At last Alex would be able to tell his side of the story.  “Mum asked me to go to the shops to buy a loaf of bread for tea the other day, so I said I’d go, even though I didn’t want to.  Anyway, who should I bump into, but Billy Weston?  Thought I was safe on a Saturday afternoon, but he was with Pete and they started on me again.  You know, following me, saying horrible things.  But when they started calling me Mum and Molly horrid names I’d had enough, so without thinking I turned round to face them.  I know I was stupid, but I’d had enough, then when I was staring up at them I had no idea what to do except turn back round and run away.  Trouble was they ran after me, so I decided to run to the High Street as I thought it would be crowded.  They wouldn’t hurt me with lots of witnesses around would they?”
“No they wouldn’t” agreed Tom.

 

“I got to the shops and turned round but they were right behind me and they didn’t stop, they just kept coming.  I really panicked then and just ran across the road.  It was full of cars going both ways, but I dodged them and jumped onto the pavement and that’s when it  happened.”

 

“What happened?”  Asked Tom impatiently.
 

“Well, instead of jumping onto the pavement, my feet landed on a skateboard.  I didn’t see it, I was looking behind me to see if Billy and Pete were still after me, I don’t even know how it got there, but the next thing I know I’m speeding along on this skateboard with people jumping out of the way ‘cause I don’t know how to control it do I?  I didn’t even know I could stand up on one.  I knew I was heading straight for the Chemists shop, but I thought that would be a good thing, I thought the window would stop me, but it didn’t did it?  Next thing I know I’m surrounded by bits of flying glass and I’m upside down in the window display.” Tom snorted as he tried to stop himself laughing.


“Oh yeah, you can laugh but I weren’t laughing and neither were Mr Watson when he saw me.  Me Mum and Dad weren’t laughing this morning either when they got the bill for the window.  I didn’t see him, but I know who did it, I know who put that skateboard there, it was Danny, it must’ve been. 

 

Honestly Tom, it’s not fair, no one believes it weren’t my fault.  Even Mum and Dad have forgotten I don’t even own a skateboard!”
“Well it’s a funny story though.  Maybe your Mum and Dad will be laughing about it when you get home from school.”

“I won’t hold me breath.”  Alex sighed.
“Leave him alone!  I’ve told yer before Billy Weston, go and pick on someone yer own size and leave me cat alone.”

 

Alex and Tom turned round to see Molly standing with her hands on her hips in front of Billy Weston.  Molly was small for her six years and looked a lot like her brother, she had the same freckled face and the same straw coloured, fine hair, although Molly’s was far longer than Alex’s and today it was scraped up off her face in a ponytail.
 

Alex wasn’t sure what to do.  He didn’t want to get involved with Billy again, but she was his sister and his responsibility.  Pete and Danny moved round behind Molly and now she was surrounded by bullies.  There was nothing for it, Alex would have to man up and help her out.  ‘Here comes another black eye’ he thought as he stood up and moved towards his sister.  A hand grabbed his arm and yanked him backwards.  “Leave her” whispered Tom, “you know she can handle herself.”  Alex knew Tom was right.  Ever since that day when Molly had fled home crying, after Billy and his cronies had picked on her because she was Alex’s sister, she had usually got the better of them.  Her Mum had told her that boys didn’t know how to handle their feelings and said that if a boy picked on a girl it was usually because he liked her and didn’t know what to do about it.  Molly had cheered up straight away and from that day onwards she always stood up to Billy, Danny and Pete, safe in the knowledge that they really liked her.  The next time they tried anything she said, “you boys, you’ll try just about anything to get me attention won’t yer?  If you want to play with me dolls, you only have to ask.”  Unbelievably that had worked and the boys had turned bright red, shuffled their feet and mumbled “you can keep yer girly dolls”, before slinking away.
 

Molly’s cat often wandered into the school, but this morning Billy had seen him first and had taken a tennis ball off of Jemima Jones and kicked it really hard at Violet.  The cat yowled as the ball thwacked against his body and he ran up the nearest tree.  Everyone wondered why Molly had called her tomcat, Violet.  Alex told her it was a stupid name and that a boy cat deserved a boys name like Henry or Buster, but Molly had made up her mind and nothing Alex or anyone else said could change it.  You see Molly loved the colour purple and all its different tones and hues.  She always wore purple clothes; her bedroom was a riot of purple with purple paint on the walls, purple  curtains and a purple carpet. 
 

She’d been so excited when her Mum and Dad had told her she could have the longed for pet cat for her birthday, but was really disappointed to find out that there were no purple cats anywhere in the world.  Instead she chose a completely black boy kitten and announced “I’m gonna call you Violet.”  The kitten didn’t seem to mind and so Violet he was.
 

Molly stared at Billy and stamped a sandaled foot.  Quite a crowd of children had gathered around as they were eager to see what would happen next.  “Billy Weston, I’ve told you before, if you want to kiss me all you have to do is ask and not pick on Violet.  Come over here then.”  Molly puckered up her lips.  The children laughed as Billy’s face turned bright red.  “I don’t want to kiss no stupid girl.”  He muttered, trying to look mean but not succeeding.
 

Just then the school bell rang out, signalling the end of break time.  The children reluctantly turned round and trooped back inside.  Tom and Alex high-fived each other, happy at Billy’s embarrassment, but the smile soon faded from Alex’s face as he wondered, once again, what his punishment would be.
 

To be continued……

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Part Three

January 2017

The story so far: - Alex Bunting is in a lot of trouble with his parents for breaking the Chemist’s shop window. He has explained to his best mate Tom that it was Billy, Danny and Pete who set up the skateboard that sent him careering into the window, but will his parents believe him?

 

Part Three
 

BANG! BANG! Someone was thumping on the front door. “Alright, alright, what’s the emergency?” Katie Bunting shouted as she opened the door. 
 

A very irate man pushed his way passed Katie and into the hall. He wore muddy trousers, muddy wellies and had a very red face.
“Where is he? Where is he?” He glared at Katie.
“Where’s who?”

“Your no good lad, that’s who” Katie wondered what Alex had done now to make this stranger so angry. As if he could read her thoughts the man continued. “Smashed me greenhouse he did. Threw a great lump of concrete at it – glass everywhere – all over me tomatoes. Just let me get me hands on him.”
 

“You can’t come barging into my home and threatening my son, how do you know it was him anyway?” Katie put her hands on her hips and glared back. “He told me didn’t he? Of course he ran away when he saw me chasing him, but he turned round and told me his address. So here I am to give him a piece of my mind and to get the money to repair my smashed glass.” 
 

The man stormed passed Katie and looked in every downstairs room. In the kitchen Molly froze with her hand in the biscuit jar as he stomped around the kitchen, leaving a trail of dust and dried mud wherever he went. 
 

“Up here is he?” The man shouted as he stomped up the stairs. He opened every door and peered in every room until he found Alex sitting on his bed with his opened laptop on his lap. “Okay lad, tell me where he is.”
“Where who is?”

“Don’t try and protect him, your brother, he must be your brother. Big lad, short spiky black hair.”
 

Katie stood behind the irate man. “He doesn’t have a brother; this is Alex, my only son. You must have the wrong house.”
“This is 11 Willow Way isn’t it?” Katie nodded. “Well that’s the address the vandal told me, so he must live here.”
“The boy must have lied to save his own skin. You saw him and you admit he’s not my son, so please leave.” The man’s red face drained of all colour as he realised he had been duped. 

 

“And thank you for bringing half of your garden into my  house.” Katie followed the man down the stairs and shut the front door behind him. 
“Well done Alex, now the house is filthy, and after I’ve spent all day cleaning. You can hoover this up as punishment.” She shouted up the stairs. 

 

Alex closed his laptop and sighed. His Mum knew he was innocent and still he was being punished. He knew who the culprit was. From the description it had to be Billy Weston. The summer holiday hadn’t properly started and he was already causing him trouble.
At the precise moment the irate man had banged on the front door, Ben Bunting, Alex’s Dad, had come to a decision. He leant back in his leather swivel executive chair at ‘Friendly Financial’ and gazed around his office; it was a medium sized room with a plush carpet on the floor, filing cabinets lined one wall, shelves filled another and a third had a huge window.

 

His desk stood in the middle of the floor facing the window, and was covered in files and papers. Ben often stared out at the view as he found looking at the countryside helped him make executive decisions. Today it had helped him solve a family financial problem. ‘What a brilliant idea’ he thought to himself, ‘I’m a genius’. 
 

His solution was a perfect one and one that should keep everyone happy. Everyone that is except Alex, but that would teach him to behave himself in future. He pulled the letter from his inside jacket pocket, looked for the telephone number, and dialled.

 

*****

 

“Dad’s home!” Molly shouted as she rushed to the door to greet him. Alex pushed the hoover into the under-stairs cupboard and expected the worst.
 

“Dinners ready!” Mum shouted, and they all assembled round the kitchen table and took their seats. Alex covered his eyes as his Mum and Dad kissed each other hello; ‘gross’ he thought. Dad surveyed his plate of pork chop, mashed potato and carrots “looks lovely love.” He said and sighed as he sat down.
 

“Alex, I’ve had a chance to think about the shop window business.” Dad said with a mouth full of meat.
“Can I explain about that now please Dad? You do know it weren’t my fault don’t you.”
Dad held up one hand to silence Alex. “And I’ve come up with the perfect solution that Mr Watson is pleased with.” 
Dad swallowed and forked mashed potato into his mouth. 
“Your pocket money will be put in the window pot until the window is paid for.”
“But Dad that will take years and years.” Alex moaned. A pile  of carrots quickly followed the mash. 
“Which is why the next part is so brilliant; from tomorrow you will work at the Chemist shop with Mr Watson, and your wages will also go in the window pot. This way you can pay off the money quicker.” 
Dad glowed with pride at the brilliance of his idea.

 

“Fantastic idea love. We don’t need to worry about where the money will come from and Alex will be occupied all over the summer holiday. That should stop him causing more trouble.” Mum said.
 

“I can’t believe you still think it were my fault. I don’t even own a skateboard.” Alex moaned, but no one was listening as they all talked about the Chemist shop and Molly tried to change the subject by telling her parents about her day at school as she believed Alex had had enough of the limelight for the time being. 
 

“Besides, I’m not old enough to go out to work!” Alex shouted in desperation.
“Oh don’t worry about that, you will only help out for a few hours a day; just doing little things to make Mr Watson’s life a little easier, but don’t think you will be having anything to do with all those pills and potions at the back of the shop.”
Everyone laughed at that, as if Dad had told a fantastically funny joke. Alex got up from the table, his dinner only half eaten, and stomped upstairs to his bedroom. For some reason he wasn’t hungry any more.

 

A little later Alex heard the doorbell ring and someone talking in the hallway.
 

Then Tom appeared at his bedroom door. “Hi Alex what’s up?”
 

“Oh you know, the usual, my family not believing me and handing out punishments willy-nilly. What you got there?” Alex gestured at the rolled up newspaper under Tom’s arm. Tom unrolled ‘The Attlebury Post’ on Alex’s duvet and began turning the pages over and scanning the stories until he reached his desired article.
 

“Look at that.” Tom jabbed at a black and white photograph with his finger.
 

“Oh, that’s the mad professor.” Alex said in surprise. “Why’s his picture in the paper then?”
 

“It seems he’s just died, and I think we killed him.” Tom replied.

To be continued……

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Part Four

 

March 2017

The story so far: - Alex Bunting has been told he will be working in the Chemist shop until he has paid off the cost of the new shop window.  Tom has arrived at Alex’s house with a copy of the local paper and has shown Alex a photograph of the ‘mad professor’ who has died.  Tom believes they have killed him.

Part Four
 

Alex read the article in the ‘Attlebury News’ under the headline ‘LOCAL SCIENTIST’S SUDDEN DEATH’.  “It says here he died of a heart attack, so we didn’t have nothing to do with it.”  
 

“I know” replied Tom, “but think about it, we wound him up a few times didn’t we?  And winding people up can cause heart attacks can’t it?  I’ve seen it on the telly, so it’s our fault.”
 

One of Alex and Tom’s favourite things to do was to play knock down ginger in Barclay Road.  It was the perfect location for the game as there were about twenty houses on each side of the road.  They all had small front gardens and low hedges ideal for boys to jump over.  Also some of the houses had alleyways next to them which made good hiding places for the boys to secretly watch the ensuing commotion.  
 

On one occasion Mrs Templeton blamed her next door neighbour Mrs Bucket, for ringing the doorbell and the exchange soon became quite heated until Alex and Tom could no longer control their laughter and left their hiding place to run down the road.  “Blooming kids.”  Both ladies said in unison.  
 

However, the ‘mad professor’ was the boys’ favourite target as he always found their hiding place and usually chased them down the road.  
Alex and Tom were never worried as they knew they could outrun him. They even had time to stop at the end of the road and look round at the old man as he puffed hard and leant against a lamppost, with his white messy hair all wet with sweat and his face bright red.  He always wore a white laboratory coat which is why the boys called him the ‘mad professor’.

 

Tom jabbed his finger at the article, “it says here his name was Professor Hayes and he was working for the Government.  What do you think that means?”
 

“Oh no, I can’t imagine what my punishment will be for this one.”  Alex said.  
 

Alex read more of the article before his face brightened.  “Hang on, we couldn’t have done it Tom, we haven’t been round his house for weeks now.”
 

On their last visit, instead of ringing the doorbell they had decided to knock on the downstairs window to scare the ‘mad professor’ even more, but they peeped inside the room and what they saw spooked them.  
 

Instead of a normal living room, with a TV and sofas, there was a long table taking up the whole of the centre of the room.  It was covered with Bunsen burners, microscopes and several racks of test tubes with multi-coloured liquids in them.  
 

All the walls were lined with metal shelves and every space on every shelf was full of bottles and jars.  Some of the jars had indescribable objects in them, floating in murky liquid.  
 

Alex was convinced the jars contained bits of people and the reason the ‘mad professor’ chased them was because he wanted to catch them, cut them up and put them in the jars.  
 

They hadn’t knocked on his door since that day and when they had to go along that road they ran passed the house.
 

“You’re right.”  Tom punched the air with relief.  “It couldn’t have been us.”
 

“I wonder what he was doing in that house though.”  Alex pondered.
 

*****
The next day was Saturday and the sun was shining brightly.  Normally Alex would be planning a day full of fun with Tom but today he was starting his first day at work.  To make matters worse Alex’s Dad was with him and they approached the Chemist shop in silence.  

 

The window on one side of the door was boarded up and Alex shivered at the memory of crashing through it.
 

“Ah I see you’ve used the door this time Alex.”  Mr Watson came out from behind the counter and shook Ben Bunting’s hand.  
 

Alex looked around him.  The shop had three aisles stretching down the length of the shop and was well stocked with all the usual chemist shop items, from plasters and sun cream to make up and shampoos.  
 

At the back of the shop was the dispensing counter and behind that was a separate room full of pills and medicines.  Alex had always wanted to go in this room and now maybe he’d be able to.  
 

Perhaps working here wouldn’t be so bad after all.
 

“Right, I’ll leave Alex with you Mr Watson and make sure he works hard to pay off the cost of that window.”  Dad chuckled as he exited the shop.
 

Mr Watson disappeared behind the counter and re-appeared carrying a white coat which he flung at Alex.  “Put this on and we’ll get started.”  
The coat landed on Alex’s head but he quickly pulled it off, found the right way round and shoved his arms into the sleeves.  The coat swamped him.  The arms hung down to his knees and the bottom of the coat almost touched the floor.  

 

Mr Watson grinned at Alex.  “That’s the smallest size I’ve got, we’ll just roll up the sleeves, like this.  Now everyone will know you work here and aren’t here just to cause trouble.”  
 

Even with the sleeves rolled up Alex felt like he was wearing a tent.  
 

“Right, your job is to keep the shelves full of stock.  The stockroom is here next to the dispensing room.  On no account are you to go in to the dispensing room.”  Mr Watson frowned at Alex and disappeared into the stockroom.  He re-appeared seconds later carrying a large cardboard box with ‘SOAP’ emblazoned down one side and put it on the floor next to an empty shelf.  
“Fill this shelf with these soaps lad, while I serve this customer.”

 

Alex opened the box, and apart from the sleeves of his coat getting in the way, he quite enjoyed taking out the single bars and piling them up on the shelf.  He had to be careful that they didn’t fall off of the end, but he pushed all bars in the available space and admired his wonky soap pyramid.  
 

He stooped down and picked up the empty box, but tripped over his long coat, stumbled, put out his hands to save himself and plunged them into the soap display which cascaded onto the floor.  
 

Mrs Thornton happened to be walking along the aisle at the same time and her legs and feet were bombarded with the falling soap bars until she was swamped up to her knees.  She glared at Alex.
 

“I do apologise Mrs Thornton.”  Mr Watson said.  “It’s his first day and he’s learning the ropes.”  Mr Watson leaped towards the disaster scene and jabbed Alex in his arm with his finger to indicate that it was him he was talking about.
 

“He ought to spend more time learning about soaps rather than ropes.”  Sniffed Mrs Thornton, but she took the bars of soap that Mr Watson held out to her.
 

“Please accept these with my compliments and apologies.”  Mr Watson helped extricate Mrs Thornton from the soap mountain and steered her out of the shop.
 

Alex gulped and waited for his telling-off.  
 

“Now, I hope you’ve learned how not to stack a shelf.  Never overload, just two soaps high is ideal.  Okay?”  Mr Watson negotiated the soap hurdle and ensconced himself behind the dispensing counter while Alex scooped all the soap back in the box and re-stacked the shelf.  
 

He couldn’t believe he hadn’t been told off or punished.  Mr Watson turned his back on Alex and studied the tablets on the back shelf as he stifled his laughter.  
 

They both thought that working together may not be such a bad thing after all.  However, at the back of Alex’s mind was the question of what Professor Hayes was doing in that house.

 

To be continued……………

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Part Five

 

May 2017

The story so far:- Alex and Tom realised that the death of the ‘mad professor’, Professor Hayes, had nothing to do with them, but they still don’t know what a Government worker was doing working in Attlebury. 


Alex has started his punishment of working in the Chemist Shop to pay off the cost of replacing the shop window.  

Part Five
Alex surprised himself with how much he had enjoyed his first Saturday morning in the Chemist shop, although he was pleased to finally take off the oversized white coat.  

 

He pulled out his mobile phone and began texting Tom.  “Ow!”  Said two voices in unison.  Alex and Tom had bumped into each other as both were looking at their phones instead of where they were going.  They both rubbed their heads and grinned at each other.  “Fancy bumping into you!”  Alex chuckled.
 

“Was just texting you to see if you wanted to get some sweets?”  Tom put his phone in his jeans pocket.


“Love to Tom, but I’ve no money. Everything is going to pay for that wretched window.”  Alex followed Tom into the newsagents.
“Well I suppose you can share some of my sweets then.”  Tom scanned the shelves and worked out which packets he could afford.  

 

“Suppose I’ll have to get extra anyway as Billy usually takes some of my weekly sweet stash.  He always seems to know when I’ve bought them, even when I go at different times.”
 

“I’ve got an idea about that.”  Alex whispered his plan in Tom’s ear and he nodded in agreement.  
 

With the sweets paid for, Alex and Tom wandered to the back of the shop where Tom put two of the packs in his pocket and opened the smaller bag of sherbet lemons.  They looked around to make sure no one was watching and tipped out the sweets onto a dusty corner of the floor.  They both giggled as they pushed the sweets around with the soles of their trainers, before stooping down to pick them up and put them back in the bag.  “That should give them something to chew on.”  Tom smiled.  
 

“Talk of the devil.” Alex nodded his head at the shop window as he saw Billy Weston peering in. 

Tom opened a bag of clean sweets and offered one to Alex, popped one in his own mouth and returned the bag to the safety of the bottom of his pocket.  The two boys sucked loudly as they walked out of the newsagents.

 

“Hello mates.”  Billy walked alongside the boys.  Alex and Tom could feel his hands on their shoulders as he steered them away from the High Street towards the relative quiet of Barclay Road.  
 

“Mates share sweets you know.”  Danny grabbed the open packet of sweets from Tom, and Billy pushed down on Alex and Tom’s shoulders so hard that they were forced to kneel on the pavement.  Billy stepped to one side as Pete came forward and pushed both boys in the back and they fell face first to the ground.  The second shove was such a shock that the boys didn’t have time to stop the fall with their hands and landed on their noses.  
 

Billy, Danny and Pete laughed as they ran away with the sweets.  
 

Tom and Alex sat up, both had grazes on their knees and Tom’s nose was bleeding.
 

“As plans go, that wasn’t too bad, but next time we’ll have to think about how we’re gonna stand up to them as well as getting one over on them.” Alex sighed.


Tom dabbed his nose with a tissue and nodded his head in agreement.

 

Further down the road Billy, Danny and Pete greedily sucked on the sweets, but soon their facial expressions turned from delight to disgust as they choked on the dusty, dirty sweets.  “Ohhhh, these are revolting!”  Billy exclaimed.
 

“They taste funny.”  Danny agreed as they all spat the sweets out and inspected the dirty contents of the bag.
“I don’t believe it they’ve finally got us, after all these years.”  Billy declared.  

 

“Come on, we have to fight back, we can’t let weaklings like them think they’ve won.”  Billy marched back towards Barclay Road with Danny and Pete following him as usual.

 

Tom and Alex were seated on a brick wall inspecting the damage to their bodies.  “You alright?”  Alex had never seen so much blood coming out of one nose.
 

“Do I look alright?”  Tom felt so sorry for himself that he wouldn’t be surprised if, when he took his tissue away from his face, his nose fell off.
 

Alex leant back on a wooden post and looked up.  At the top of the post was a board with red writing on ‘FOR SALE’ it stated.  
He looked round and realised that they were sitting outside number 52, the ‘mad professor’s’ house.  He nudged Tom, who gingerly took the tissue away from his nose.  It didn’t fall off and had finally stopped bleeding.

 

“Look where we are.”  Alex said and he walked into the front garden.  Tom followed Alex and they both stared in the front window.  All Tom could see was his own reflection.  He looked very pale and had blood all over his face and down his front.  Alex shielded his eyes from the sun with his hands and stared into the empty room.  Everything had gone.  It was as if the chemistry equipment had never been there.  Alex wondered if all the jars and bottles had been emptied or if they were now sitting in another room waiting to be used in some weird experiments.


“Ow!”  Both boys felt a sting of pain at the same time.
 

Billy, Danny and Pete had crept to the opposite side of the road and were now using garden gravel as missiles to hurl at Alex and Tom.  They were surprisingly accurate as they hit their targets again and again.
 

“Let’s get out of here!”  Tom yelled and both boys ran down the side alley away from the hail of gravel.  Unfortunately they were met with a dead end of high wooden fencing.
 

“After them!”  Yelled Billy and the three bullies jumped the garden hedge and crossed the road.
 

“In here!”  Alex had found the gate that led into the back garden of number 52, and they both ran inside with Tom shutting it behind him.  He leant against the wood and surveyed the garden.  It was just a patch of grass; there was nowhere to hide.  The gate didn’t even have a lock.

 

They were trapped.
 

Billy, Danny and Pete’s footsteps were echoing around the alleyway and in desperation Alex ran to the back door of the house and tried the handle.  
 

To his immense surprise the door opened and both boys ran inside and closed the door just as the three bullies entered the garden Alex frantically looked for a key or a bolt to lock the back door but there was none.  They dropped to the floor so the boys wouldn’t see them through the window and crawled out of the kitchen and into the hall towards the front door where they both stood up.  Alex turned the doorknob but it wouldn’t move.


“Hurry up; I can hear them opening the kitchen door!”  Tom whispered loudly.
 

“It won’t open, we need a key.”
 

Tom ran through the open living room doorway and looked on the windowsill and on the mantelpiece but there was no key.  
 

“Ha, ha, we’ve got you now.”  Billy’s voice echoed around the empty house as he entered the kitchen.  
 

Alex ran up the stairs with Tom close behind him.  They opened every door upstairs but every room was empty.
Billy was really enjoying himself as he could hear the frantic running of the boys upstairs and knew they were trapped.  

 

“We’ll give you a head start.”  He yelled.  “We’ll count to ten and then come and get you.  One….two….”  Billy continued to count slowly.
 

All the windows in all the rooms were locked.  They were trapped.  “What will we do?”  Whined Tom. 

To be continued……

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Part Six

July 2017

The story so far:-  Alex and Tom have finally tricked the bullies but Billy, Danny and Pete have chased them into an empty 52 Barclay Road.  
Alex and Tom become trapped in an upstairs room with the bullies opening the door.

Part Six
Alex and Tom stood in the empty room with Billy’s voice echoing as he counted to ten.


“He’s already at eight and he’s gonna be coming in, what’ll we do?”  Tom whined.  
 

“There’s only one place we can go.”  Alex nodded his head at the fireplace.
 

”I’m not going up a chimney.”  Tom didn’t like confined spaces or heights.
 

“It’s either the chimney or them three and I know which one I’d rather.”  Alex bent down into the fireplace and began to climb inside the chimney.  Tom jumped as the door handle moved.  
 

“TEN, ready or not here we come.”  Billy laughed and Tom ran to the fireplace.  He didn’t know how he moved so quickly, but he was soon clinging onto stones next to Alex inside the chimney.  

 

Billy, Danny and Pete entered the empty room.  “What you two playing at?”  Billy walked over to the fireplace and looked up the chimney.  “It’s not hard to find people in an empty room you know.  Come down here.”  Billy reached up and tried to grab Alex and Tom’s feet, but fortunately they were just out of his reach.  
 

“Okay, we’ll just sit here and wait for you to come down.  I think we can sit here longer than you can hold on to some old bricks.”  Billy chuckled and Danny and Pete slumped on the floor next to him.
 

“He’s right, isn’t he?  I can’t hold on here much longer, my fingers and toes are aching already.”  Tom whispered.
 

“We’ll just climb higher and see if there’s a ledge or something we can sit on.” Alex whispered back.
 

“I can’t go higher.”  Tom’s fear of heights was so severe that he even refused to travel on the top deck of a double-decker bus.
 

“It’s either that, or go down to them down there.  Come on you can do it.”  Alex began to slowly climb higher and wondered if they could get out onto the roof, although he didn’t mention that to Tom, who very slowly climbed behind him.  “The only way is up.”  Alex said.
 

“The only way is up.”  Tom agreed.
 

At that moment a strong gust of wind began to blow down into the chimney and played with the boy’s hair and tugged at their clothes. It grew stronger and pulled at the boys bodies.  They scrambled their hands and feet against the chimney bricks and tried to hold on but the wind was too strong.  It took hold of them and carried them up and up and up.  
 

Alex quite enjoyed the sensation and relaxed as the wind grabbed his body and took him skywards.  Tom, however, was panicking as he knew that what goes up must come down and he closed his eyes and braced himself for the impact of hitting the ground.
 

As suddenly as it had started the wind stopped.  Tom lay on his back and waited for the pain of broken bones to hit him, but he felt okay and looked around.  The sunlight was so bright he had to shield his eyes with his hand and he stared at foggy wisps of cloud that surrounded him.  “I’m dead!”  Tom shouted.
 

“Well, if you’re dead then so am I.”  Alex replied. 
 

“Don’t panic but I think somehow we’re on top of a cloud.  I looked over the edge and saw our houses and our school and the shops and everything.”
 

“What do you mean don’t panic?  There’s an edge?  A person can fall off an edge.  People can’t stand on clouds, we’re dead and we’re angels.”
 

“Neither of you are dead.”  The voice came from behind Alex, and both boys turned and stared at a strange boy.  He was dressed entirely in blue and had short white hair, bright blue eyes and translucent skin.  
 

“The Prof must have told you how to get here.  We haven’t seen him for days.  Oh, where’s my manners, welcome to the clouds.”
Tom groaned.

 

“Take no notice of him, he don’t like heights.”  Alex said.  “I’m Alex and this is Tom.”
 

“My name is Strato,” said the stranger, “and I am a Cloudleaper.”  He turned to Tom and tried to reassure him.  “Don’t worry you are quite safe.  The Prof was Human too and he never fell through a cloud.  Just make sure you don’t fall off the edge.”    
 

Tom’s face turned a delicate shade of green.
 

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you.”  Alex said to Strato and he explained to his new friend what had happened to Professor Hayes.  
Strato sniffed as if suppressing a tear and then he described to Alex how the clouds were disappearing; endangering their entire population as houses, shops and schools vanished.  

 

The Professor had been trying to help them make clouds and had already built a cloud making machine and was on the verge of discovering what was needed to power it.  
 

“Did he mention anything to you?” Alex shook his head.  He didn’t want to tell Strato that he didn’t really know the Professor or know how he and Tom had ended up on the clouds.  
 

“Don’t worry Strato, we’ll help you.”
 

Tom meanwhile had been on all fours testing the strength of the cloud.  Every time he put a hand down into the vapour it felt solid.  Puzzled, he decided to risk standing up and was surprised that it felt like standing on the ground.  
 

“What do you mean we’ll help?  We don’t know what to do.  How do we get down?”  Tom looked around him and the cloud seemed to be getting smaller.
 

“Course we can help, we’ll find a way to power this machine of yours, I’m sure we will.”  Alex stated.
 

Strato looked relieved and grinned. “Come on, I’ll take you to the machine.  It’s not far; we just have to wait for the right cloud to jump on.”
Tom laughed.  Strato couldn’t be serious.  

 

“We’re in luck, this one looks good.”  Strato indicated to another cloud that was slowly drifting towards them.  “I’ll tell you when to jump.”
Alex and Tom looked at each other and Tom shook his head.  

 

He knew he’d been brave to just stand up on the cloud and would never dream of jumping off of one.
 

“Here I go!”  Yelled Strato and Alex and Tom watched as he bent down before launching himself into the air.  He effortlessly soared upwards and across to land perfectly on both feet on the other cloud.  “Now for you two, JUMP!”
 

Alex gulped, but didn’t want to show any fear to his new friend.  He walked to the opposite side of the cloud, then ran to the edge, faster than he’d ever run in his life before jumping and stretching his legs as wide as he could.  He landed in a heap at Strato’s feet and looked round for Tom but he was staring back at him from the original cloud.
 

“Jump Tom.”  Called Strato.  “Any delay and the cloud will move further away and you won’t make it.”
 

“Don’t tell him that, he’ll never do it if he thinks it’s dangerous.  I know what to do.”  Alex whispered to Strato and then shouted to Tom.

 

 “Watch out, Billy’s behind you, quick jump over before he gets you.”  Alex lied.
 

Tom was frightened.  His fear of heights was acute, but his fear of Billy was worse.  He came to a quick decision and started to run.  He ran faster and faster until he was at the edge, then jumped into the air.
 

“Don’t look down.”  Shouted Strato.
 

Now of course when someone tells you to don’t, the first thing you think of is to do it and so Tom did.  He looked down at the blurry vision of Attlebury far below and felt very dizzy.
 

“TOM!”  Yelled Alex as his friend disappeared from view.

To be continued……

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Part Seven

September 2017

“Tom?”  Alex found it hard to believe his own eyes.  Had he just watched his friend fall off a cloud?  He looked at Strato who was lying at the edge of the cloud peering beneath it.  “I can’t see him.”  He said.  Alex wondered how he was going to tell people what had happened to Tom.  Who would believe he had fallen off a cloud?


“Can you hold onto my legs so I can look further down?”  Strato asked and as if in a dream Alex obliged.  “Hold me tight, I’m going over.”  Strato edged his body forwards until his torso was hanging in the air.  “I can see him!”  

Tom was holding onto the bottom of the cloud whilst his legs still ran in mid-air.  He was very relieved that the cloud was holding his weight, but his fingers were aching.  “C..c..can’t h..h..hold on m..m..much longer.”  He stuttered.


“Hold me tighter Alex, I’m going to see if I can reach him.”  Strato shouted and slowly swung his body back and forth like a trapeze artist at the circus.  

 

“Got you!”  He shouted as his hands tightly gripped Tom’s wrists just as Tom’s fingers gave up and let go.  Now Tom was swinging from Strato’s arms and screaming.  


Alex felt the extra weight and leant back as he tried to pull both boys up.  Sweat poured from his forehead and his arms shook from the strain.  He wasn’t sure where he got the strength from but he heaved and slowly managed to pull both boys to safety.  

 

“Thanks for saving me.”  Relief flooded through Tom, but it was short-lived as Strato said.    “That’s a bit of luck, the train’s coming.  Stand up and jump when I tell you to.”  

 

Alex and Tom watched a train shaped cloud approaching them.  “I’m not jumping again.”  Tom whispered. 

 

“It’s a lot smaller than usual so I hope we get on.”  Strato said.  “Okay, jump.”  

Before Tom knew what was happening, Alex had grabbed his arm and they both jumped up in the air.  When they came down they were moving through the sky on the cloud train.  To Alex it felt as though they were on a normal train; the movement was the same; the seats and windows were the same and there were a lot of people who looked like Strato sitting and standing in the carriage.  

 

Alex looked out of the window as they passed rows of houses and shops.  If he didn’t know he was in the sky, he would have thought he was on the train from Attlebury to Huntsford.
****
Billy, Danny and Pete meanwhile were sitting in the empty room of 52 Barclay Road and wondering when Alex and Tom were going to reappear from the chimney.
“How long do you think they can hold on for?”  Pete asked.  He wanted to go outside in the sunshine.
“It can’t be much longer you know how weak they are.  Don’t worry we’ll soon be able to give