I woke up thinking today would be a normal day. I was wrong.
I put on my normal clothes, ate my normal breakfast and said a normal goodbye to my goldfish (the goldfish is perfectly normal, and so doesn’t understand the goodbye, it’s just a ritual that I enjoy). I walked my normal route, giving and receiving my normal neighborly greetings along the way. As I continued to crunch my way through the light dusting of snow that had fallen overnight, the walking warmed my body against the normal morning chill. A few short blocks later I arrived at Storybird Headquarters and started moving through my normal morning routine. My mind was already skipping ahead and straight to lunch - Tuesday is normally taco day at the cafeteria, yum.
It took a few seconds to realize what I was looking at. My taco fantasy slowly dissolving as I took in my surroundings. The atwork storage room at Inspiration Station was completely empty. Rows upon rows of empty pegs, hooks and shelves stared back at me. This wasn’t normal. Not at all.
Some quiet humming from around the corner woke me from my shock. I hurried past some shelves and found our handyman, Wilbur, happily fiddling with a screwdriver.
“Wilbur, where is all the artwork?”, I asked.
“Hmm? What do you mean?”, Wilbur replied without taking his eyes off his work.
I struggled to keep my voice steady, “The artwork. That’s normally in this room. Where is it?”
Sensing the stress in my voice, Wilbur finally looked away from his screwdriver. “How should I know? You’re the one who sets it out from storage every morning. I got in early to tighten some loose hooks and figured you were up even earlier than me.”
“I just got here!”, I practically shrieked. “It’s always right here when I arrive. Janice puts it away at night, and I set it out in the morning. That’s how it’s been every day for years. I saw Janice cleaning up yesterday, so I know all the artwork was here last night, and now it’s gone. Without the artwork Inspiration Station will just be...empty. How will anybody start a story? It’s the holiday season, everybody will want to write holiday stories and there isn’t a snowman or candle painting to be seen! This is a disaster!”
I darted out of there before Wilbur could respond. I had to find the artwork. Where could it be? I decided to check the Artist’s Attic first. Surely they’ll know where it went, they created it.
I ran up the thirty flights of stairs and barged through the door to the Artist’s Attic. Rows of puzzled expressions greeted me from behind rows of easels.
“Can we help you?”, they asked in unison.
“Yes. All the artwork at Inspiration Station is missing, do you know where it is?”, I panted, completely out of breath.
The puzzled expressions quickly turned frantic as dozens of panicked artists started wildly running around the room and shouting. “You lost our art?”, “I spent weeks painting that unicorn!”, “My beautiful landscape!” I gathered that they wouldn’t be much help in this state.
“Alright, alright, calm down everyone. Don’t worry, I’m going to find the artwork.” That settled them down enough to stop running around and look at me again. “But...just in case...how long would it take to replace it all?”. That sent them right back into panic mode.
“Weeks!”, “Months!”, “Years!”
It was clear that I wasn’t going to find any help here. I quietly shut the door and left them to their chaos. Where could it be? Time to be thorough. I’ll just look everywhere. It has to be somewhere. Right?
I looked everywhere I could think of. Picturebook Park, Longform Lagoon and Poetry Plaza were all sad places. There was no artwork to be found, and no new stories were coming in. I looked in offices, under desks, the coat room, the cafeteria (I didn’t stop for a taco, much to the dismay of my grumbling belly). I even checked APT 25, though nobody had moved in yet. No artwork, anywhere.
Finally, after hours of searching, I had to face the music. The artwork was gone, and it was time to go to the chocolate tower. I had to tell the Big Boss the bad news.
Full of dread, I crossed the bridge and climbed the stairs, finally arriving at the Big Boss’s door. Knocking quietly (and licking the chocolate off my knuckles), I ventured to hope that he would be out for the day so I could put this off.
“Come on in!”, his cheery voice contrasted sharply with my gloomy mood. I opened the door and stepped in.
“Yes, yes, good to see you. How are you? Would you like some hot cocoa?”, he continued as I entered and shut the door behind me.
“No thank you. Sir, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“Is it the accounting robots again? It’s like they expect us to do our year-end reports every year!”, he chuckled to himself.
“No sir”, I replied, “It’s not the robots. It’s much worse than that. It’s...” I took a deep breath before continuing in a rush, “...it’s the artwork at Inspiration Station. It’s missing. I’ve looked everhwere and I can’t find it. It was there last night and this morning it’s gone, and I don’t know what to do.”
“What, you mean he isn’t back with it yet?”, he replied nonchalantly.
“I...what? Who? What?”, I sputtered.
“Oh, Binky took it all to be cleaned. Kind of a suprise holiday gift for everyone. I didn’t think you’d mind. I figured he’d be back by now, but that lad, you know, he’s a bit.... Oh, there he is now.”, he said, pointing out the window at a line of trucks coming through the gate.
I followed his gaze, and sure enough, there was Binky, our Chief Mayhem Officer (that’s not an official title, just an accurate one), leading a convoy of trucks filled to the brim with sparkling clean artwork.
“Oh thank goodness! Thank you sir, everything is fine! Great! Wonderful!”, I shouted, running out the door and down the stairs, nearly colliding with the morning truffle delivery.
And so the great mystery of the missing artwork was solved. Binky helped me set it all back up in Inspiration Station, and the stories flowed better than ever. I couldn’t even be mad at Binky after seeing all that wonderful gleaming artwork, so I bought him a taco as the perfect end to an exciting day.
From all of us here at Storybird, thank you all for yet another amazing year of stories. Enjoy the shiny artwork and keep writing. Happy Holidays!