My Life As A Green Balloon, short story by Richard Allen at Spillwords.com

My Life As A Green Balloon

One of the problems of very gradual – almost imperceptible – change over a period of time is that everything becomes increasingly slightly less clear, more open to doubt and uncertainty. Indeed, the only crumb of comfort I took from this process was that as my skin became less taut, it would be more difficult for the furry creature with those exceedingly sharp claws to puncture me. But as it happened, I did not need to fear the furry creature. Later in the day, the large being accompanied by the smaller ones reappeared. One of the smaller ones noticed me and began to propel me around the room, using both its hands and feet. (I was pleased that – all the time I was moving uncontrollably through the air, along the ground or bumping into various items of furniture – I was able to recall to mind my knowledge of things like hands and feet). This lasted for a fairly short time and I was left on a flat surface close to a window which looked out over a street. I could see those large machines, which had so nearly ended by life when I was lying in the street previously, thundering noisily past at some distance below me. After a while lights suddenly turned on below me and the sky became dark. I began to notice that the plain glass in the windows was becoming complicated by lots of tiny shards of what seemed like some similar substance. But I quickly realised that these dots were in fact some form of liquid, as they rapidly coalesced and slid gently down the glass, forming tiny rivulets at the bottom, running off on to the stone window ledge below. I started to experience sensations of coldness. I had to assume that my proximity to the glass…..window, as I believe it was designated….somehow brought me into contact with some chillier part of the world. It might be that because you could see through the glass, the cold of the world outside the building permeated more easily than through the solid walls. However, it did not have the chance to speculate for long. The large beings made sounds and one of the smaller ones approached. But then pushed the glass upwards and thrust me through it, closing it behind me. I could just make out a sort of swishing and rattling sound behind me as I wafted into the cold night air, borne aloft on a breeze that was both icy and full of tiny darts of sharp liquid….rain, as I seemed to understand. Though this rain prickled my skin, I suddenly felt better than I had ever done in my life. I felt free from threats of bursting or being squashed. I was in my element, floating, occasionally borne further into the air by swirling currents of breeze. Surely, this was what I had been born to do! Though I could not direct where I was going, of course, it felt as though I was going exactly where I wanted to. Light as the air, I was unconstrained. I could barely see the streets and buildings, roofs and balconies below me and the street lights shone dimly in the distance. A couple of large birds – one mostly white, one mostly grey – flew past me, slightly below me, indeed! Above me were clouds, but somehow they appeared quite light and bright, even though it was night. Between them, I could make out a large misshapen orb shining as bright as any streetlamp. And, as I swirled around, high in the air, revelling in my freedom, I also saw between the clouds tiny pin-points of light – some moderately bright, some barely distinct. Some were even flashing. High above me I heard the roar of some huge engine and a dark shape, illuminated only by some bright white, yellow and red lights, tore past me, rumbling in a threatening manner as it went. Indeed, I felt as though it had disturbed the air, as I felt buffeted and dragged along for several minutes after it had passed overhead. The wind and the rumbling monster that had passed over head had been taking me in a direction well away from where I had been. Below me I could see fewer lights and buildings. The ground was dark and covered with many dark masses of things I did not recognise. But it seemed that my all too brief sojourn in the heavens was slowly coming to an end. The breeze ceased and I began to descend gently towards this darkness. A couple of smaller birds flew past me, but took no interest in me. I was relieved by that, as both appeared to have sharp beaks and any interest they might have shown could well have resulted in my skin being punctured. As I moved closer to the ground, I could see several long lines of lights with many vehicles shooting along between them, some trees in a dark space almost in front of me and a tall greyish- white pointed building just to the right of them. Gradually I descended, occasionally buffeted by gusts of wind back aloft, until eventually I settled in the branch of a tall tree, with dark spines rather than leaves. It was refreshing cool and being still for a while suited my mood. Though whirling through the air, feeling as though I might even touch the clouds, was exhilarating for a short while, it was so unexpected and unforeseen that I confess I had found it slightly alarming.
Also, though it had felt from time to time as though I was in my element, I also appreciated that I was being borne up by gusts of wind and currents of air and, though I shared that air outside my skin with that within, overall, I was marginally heavier. I felt that if I did return to the ground, it would not have been sudden, but as I descended I had visions of being drawn toward some heavy moving vehicle or even some sharp point, either of which would have ended my existence permanently. Where I was now seemed quiet, apart from the rumbling of the vehicles on the road some distance from me – along with the sharp blasts from their horns, the screaming of their brakes and the shrill wails of blue or white vehicles which sped past faster than the rest. Indeed, what I could see and my conceptions of it pleasantly confirmed for me that my understanding of the world around me continued to expand. Perhaps that tremendous flight through the air had extended my consciousness in some way. I realised that I was only slightly wedged in the fork of a branch of this tree. It would not take much of a breeze to dislodge me. But for the moment, the wind was gentle and pleasantly cool. I suspected that I was more likely to survive longer when the temperature on my skin was relatively cool. If it got too hot, not only would I feel debilitated, in pain, distraught and confused, it was more likely that my skin might burst, as I recalled happening to my similar when I first drew breath, so to speak. Unfortunately, I had no experience of the direct heat of the day. I understood somehow that from the moon and stars in the sky and the ambient darkness, that this was night. It felt pleasant. Not too cold, restful. Or at least, so I thought, at first. Then I began to notice small movements, faint noises, the fluttering of wings, the scurrying of what could only be small animals – both at the bottom of the tress and in its branches. Even branches near me. Though none approached me, the constant small movement was disconcerting. After a while I could detect several large black birds, with long, sharp beaks in the branches around me, two were on the very branches where I was presently wedged. It would take but an instant, if they were to investigate my presence, for one of those beaks to despatch me to eternity. Fortunately, I appeared to be of no interest to them. In any case, these birds were mostly somnolent, their movements and twitching occurring while they slept or drowsed. A couple of times I saw small furry creatures, which looked like a mixture of bird and mouse, flew past. They appeared to skim the large whiteish-grey pyramid which loomed over the trees where I was. What its purpose was seemed unclear. Unlike all the other buildings I had seen, it appeared to have no doors or windows – though I supposed it was possible there were some on the other side which I was unable to see. It felt very cold, very still and very old. But whether what I was detecting was in any way an accurate reflection of its nature, I had no way of knowing. After what seemed an immense stretch of time, I began to notice that the sky was becoming lighter in the east. Around me, the birds started to awaken, croaking loudly among themselves, hopping and flapping from one branch to another. Then, one after another, they set off out of the trees, cawing loudly to each other, before disappearing from my sight in different directions. At the same time, the noise of the motor vehicles started up, reminding me that I had enjoyed several hours’ respite. Below me, the world was coming to life.

Richard Hernaman Allen

Richard Hernaman Allen

I've written all my life. I took early retirement from a career in the UK Civil Service (Commissioner & Board Member of HM Customs & Excise) in 2006, to complete "Through Fire" which I started in 1976. I have written follow-up novels to it, but also a long series of detective stories, mostly set in Customs & Excise. I also write poems and occasional short stories. I live just outside London, have been married for 50 years to Vanessa & have 2 daughters & 2 grandsons.
Richard Hernaman Allen

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