Sigrid Sanders
The starcatcher
Page 4 of 8

"Hold on, Emma!" shouted the Starcatcher.

They raced the comet across the heavens, the Starcatcher going faster and faster still than he had before. But not fast enough. The comet pulled further and further ahead, its fiery, flaring tail sweeping from side to side like the fin of a swift fish, and at last the Starcatcher gave up and slowed down, laughing and breathing hard. The comet's tail grew dim, and disappeared in the distance.

"Oh well, I'll catch him next time," the Starcatcher said.

Something thumped Emma on the side of her head.

"Ow," she said. Then another something hit her on the back of the head.

"Ouch," she said. "Is somebody throwing stones at me?"

"Uh-oh," said the Starcatcher. "It's a meteor shower. I was too busy racing to see it coming. We'd better get out of here."

Emma looked up and saw a turbulent horde of tiny streaking sparks coming toward them. The Starcatcher sped up, but it was too late to escape. In another moment, they were blown about by a whistling wind and pelted by hard little balls of fire. The Starcatcher tried to dodge them, but it was no use. There were too many - it was like trying to dodge the rain. As he twisted hard to avoid an especially large meteor, Emma's hands slipped - and she fell from the Starcatcher's cape!

"Help!" she cried. But her voice was lost in the wind. She didn't even know if the Starcatcher would see that she was gone.

She tumbled head over heels, heels over head, down and up and around, getting tossed and hit from all sides like a leaf in a gusty, swirling hailstorm.

"Help! Help!" she cried, but there was no one nearby to hear. It seemed as if she might keep tumbling and tossing and getting bruised about forever. Finally, she fell out of the storm, as if it had spit her out, and she fell straight down and down and down through an icy cold blackness.

"Help! Help!" she cried again. She tried to spread her arms and legs and fly, but it didn't work at all. She only cartwheeled over again and fell faster.

Then - swoop - swoosh - the Starcatcher scooped her up in his arms and she felt herself held securely and flying in one direction again, smooth and easy.

"Don't worry. I've got you," he said.

"Oh, I was so afraid!" said Emma.

"You didn't need to be," said the Starcatcher. "After all, if I can catch a falling star, then it's nothing at all to catch a falling girl."

Emma giggled. "Are you going to put me in your sack?"

"No. You might get lost in there, and I've just now found you again. Are you hurt?"

"A little. I think I've got bruises all over."

"Maybe you need to rest for a while," said the Starcatcher. "I know where we should go."


"To the other side of the Evening Star. Hold on tightly this time, and I'll show you."

Emma often had gazed at the Evening Star from her special little hill. She knew it well. So she watched for it eagerly now. But what she saw as they approached it made her draw in her breath in surprise. From her little hill, the Evening Star looked like a twinkling diamond, but from here it looked like a swirling stained glass window of rose and turquoise and saffron and violet, all the colors distinct and yet swimming together and shimmering like the surface of a lake when the wind blows.

"Ooooooh. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," Emma whispered.

They flew right into the swirl of colors and through it. It felt like flying through a waterfall of rainbows. When they came out on the other side, the Starcatcher landed on a mountain top with a view that reached as far as Emma's eyes could see and beyond, in all directions. And what she saw was a land filled with clouds of every imaginable kind.

"The Evening Star is the entrance to the Cloud Kingdom," the Starcatcher explained. "This is where all the clouds come from. Over there," he said, pointing to a group of billowy white and hazy peach confections, "are the summer day clouds." Ostentatiously practicing puffs and curls and flourishes, the summer day clouds looked vain and rather lazy. They were combing themselves into elaborate and dreamlike shapes of castles and minarets and angels, and lingering to admire their own abundant, voluptuous forms.

"Over there are the ones that specialize in sunsets." Emma saw an elegant, streamlined gathering of crimson, orange and royal purple clouds, trimmed in gold and midnight blue.

"And there," he continued, "are the storm clouds." The black giants milled and swelled about restlessly, flexing their round gray muscles and rumbling in gruff, growling tones. As Emma watched, one of the storm clouds petulantly tossed a bolt of lightning at a poor little wisp of fog that had wandered into his path.

"Ouch!" he squeaked - and he hopped, skipped and jumped quickly out of the way. Emma couldn't help laughing, for he didn't seem to be hurt much, and she'd never before heard a wisp of fog make any sound at all.

"I have to get back to work now," said the Starcatcher to Emma. "Why don't you stay here for a while and rest. I'll come back for you before too long."

"But I'll be all by myself," said Emma uncertainly.

"The puff clouds will keep you company," he said. "Won't you, kids?"
A group of friendly-looking puffy little white clouds had gathered around Emma. They were bouncing softly up and down, looking at her like curious puppies that wanted to play.

"Don't worry. They'll take care of you," said the Starcatcher.

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