In response to Tar Baby's questioning the similarities to the neverending story , I think this story kinda parallels Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky." I mean they both have a girl that falls from the sky with some creepy guy chasing them and now Iris and Colby are in a balloon that's about to go into the ominous cloud. That's similar to the two kids from castle in the sky hitching a ride with sky pirates and heading into the thundering cloud mass.
I'm sure it's all just coincidence, as the events are similar but the stories differ greatly. Keep up the good work Jim!
<img src="http://da4.figaming.com/VinceS/index/walken_blood.jpg">"I gotta fever, and the only prescription, is more cowbell!"