As the sun slipped silently below the horizon, the sunset elves climbed down from the clouds with their watercolour paintboxes and began to work.
First, a little orange stripe, then a puddle of pink. Maybe a little purple tonight, and ultramarine blue brushed lightly across the underside of the clouds. Turquoise brush dipped into the ocean to spread and fan across the waves. And fiery red ladled over the glowing sun as it sets.
The elves surveyed their work, brother and sister hand in hand, proud and happy. It was a truly beautiful sunset; the elven children watching through their windows would be thrilled.
Sighing with weary contentment, the elves climbed back up the silk ladder to their home.
A cloud home is not the same as an earth home. There are no bricks, no wood or nails, no stone or sand or wet cement. A cloud home is a wispy thing, always twirling and rolling and changing shape. Cloud homes sparkle like raindrops. They shimmer in and out of view. They puff out like marshmallows and then swirl up and away.
It is sometimes hard to find things that were there only a moment before.
The elves entered their home through a door which, when they had left, had been a chimney pot. They placed their paintboxes on the kitchen counter while they removed their cloaks. The cloaks were woven in the bright threads of their favourite sunset, unravelled for them by the rainbow elves on their last birthday. The sunset elves hung them carefully on a hat stand that had previously been a sofa.
There was only one place in the elves’ cloud home that did not change shape at the whims of the wind: a small chest, the colour of lightning, sparkled and crackled in a curve of the room. It was here that the sunset elves kept their pallets of watercolour, their golden paintbrushes and their paint-making tools.
Tonight, while painting the sunset across the sky, they had used the last of their ultramarine blue and they would need more before tomorrow. The weather elves had predicted slow winds, blue skies and low cloud and the sunset elves must be ready to paint.
Out of the chest, they pulled a blue linen drawstring bag half filled with blue chips of lapis lazuli. Next, came a great pink marble bowl and a marble ball that fit snugly within. After that came a glass vial with a cork stopper and jute cord wrapped around the neck. Finally, a package made from a sycamore leaf tied up tightly with twine.
The glass vial glittered a rainbow everywhere – onto the table, onto the marble bowl, onto the faces of the elves. Inside the vial was a single dragon tear, caught by adventure elves on the one day that a dragon mother cries: the day her dragon child leaves the nest and flies away to begin a family of their own.
One elf held the marble bowl while the other poured the viscous dragon tear from the vial. It fell with a sigh and pooled at the bottom of the bowl.
The elves opened the sycamore package; inside, pressed gently together, lay a hundred thistle seeds. These seeds had blown across the meadow into the town and had been caught up in young elven hands. Wishes had been whispered hopefully to the seeds and then they were blown away, over the fences, through the trees, to the wishing place between the riverbanks. Fairies had already granted these wishes; the thistle seeds were spent. Now the elves added two handfuls of seed to the dragon tear in the marble bowl.
Last, they opened the linen bag of lapis lazuli and poured half of the stone chips into the bowl.
Then, in with the heavy ball.
The elves pushed up their sleeves and placed their hands on the pale marble. It was cold beneath their fingers but soon it would warm and then it, their hands and the table would be splashed blue.
The elves rolled and rolled the ball and beneath it’s weight the stone chips were crushed and the seeds were flattened and the tear softened everything into a paste and the paste was blue.
The blue of a sunset. The blue of a dream. The blue of the earth.