How grateful I am that I came across that advert for Christopher Columbus Discoveries, Inc. When I lost my address book I thought that I would never see it again, but after speaking to Mr Columbus on the phone I was confident that it would be restored to me in no time. He called round just two hours later with a crew of fifteen men in tow - rough but honest sailors whose cheery japery and easy confidence at once put me at my ease. Bringing with them as much food and water as would sustain a company of twice the size for a month or more, they stowed away their belongings behind the TV and at once started to get my front room shipshape in order to catch the evening tide.
Mr Columbus had with him a number of maps of my house and these we laid out on the coffee table. Then it was time for me to rack my brains, as Mr Columbus bid me remember where I had last seen my address book. I tried to give him as much information as possible, whilst he nodded sombrely, tracing lines on the map with his finger as he plotted our course in his head. Then, as eight bells tolled, we set sail.
By morning we had reached the kitchen. The weather had been favourable and the journey relatively calm. Hazy sunlight streamed through the dirt-streaked window, glistening on the greasy surface of the water in the washing up bowl. Seabirds cackled and cawed as they wheeled around our heads, occasionally swooping to forage amongst the bacon rinds and mouldy bread that spilled out from the waste bin. However, we found there no trace of my address book, and so we sailed on towards the cupboard under the stairs.
The wind was with us and we made good speed. The cupboard was dark and dingy, but we discovered nothing and so our voyage continued. The dining room, utility room, conservatory and hallway - all of them told the same story; all of them we drew a blank. It seemed like our quest had reached an end, but then Mr Columbus suggested that we tried looking upstairs. As these words spilled from his lips the men fell silent, for all present knew the dangers. The stairs could be treacherous at this time of year, and only the bravest or most foolhardy of mariners would attempt them. And little was known of what lay beyond. Few ever returned, and those that did spoke with the tongues of mad men.
But Mr Columbus was steadfast. He avowed that he was going to attempt the stairs, come what may, but he would not order any man to go with him. All those who did not have the stomach would be free to leave and he would happily put them ashore at the hat stand, just inside the front door. To a man, and to their eternal credit, each member of the crew stood firm behind their captain.
And so, without dallying further, we made fast the mainsail and mounted our attempt on the staircase. From the outset it was clear that the elements were against us. The going was much harder than we had ever imagined. Before we had even scaled the first five steps, three of the men were swept over the banister. Then, at the halfway point, a giant shagpile cockroach reared out of the carpet in front of us. One men fell to his knees in terror-stricken prayer, but the monster just plucked him from the deck and swallowed him whole. The rest of the crew fled. It was every man for himself as they dived over the side. Then it seemed to me that the whole deck reared up before me. I lost my balance, found myself tumbling and spinning, and then ultimately I was engulfed by darkness.
The next thing I remember I was clinging to a sofa. Half dazed, I allowed myself to be carried along by the current, until eventually I washed up in the bathroom. Here, I found my way into the airing cupboard where I constructed a crude shelter for myself and managed to survive on spiders and the fluff from bath towels. On the third day I detected something chillingly unexpected. As I made my way down to the immersion heater to check my traps, I discovered a second set of footprints. I was not alone!
This new realisation sent me into a quandary. Who was this mysterious stranger? Was it a native to my airing cupboard or, like me, just a visitor? And, most importantly, would they turn out to be hostile? With this last thought uppermost in my mind, I set out to find some way of defending myself. Using old deodorant cans and aftershave bottles I managed to rig up a fairly sturdy barricade. And a few bits of string and some discarded cotton buds made an excellent bow and arrow.
I spent a restless night that night. I didn't dare sleep a wink, and every single noise became magnified in my tortured imagination. When morning came I could take no more and so I resolved to end the mystery once and for all by following the footprints to their source. How delighted I was to find that they led me to none other than Mr Columbus, the only other survivor of the wreck on the stairs. Together we hatched a plan to escape by setting fire to the shower curtain in order to attract the attention of my neighbours.
I'll be honest, it was Mr Columbus's plan rather than mine, and it worked brilliantly. And, as an added bonus, as we were dragged from the smoking remains of my house and airlifted to the nearest burns unit, I happened to check my pocket and was delighted to find my lost address book. I had just a few brief moments to thank Mr Columbus for helping me to recover my property before I slipped into unconsciousness. So, in summary, if you find that you are missing any of your personal effects then why not call Christopher Columbus Discoveries, Inc. And if any of you have a spare room, I'm being discharged this weekend and I really need somewhere to stay until my insurance claim comes through.