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

My Life As A Green Balloon

Almost immediately, the same thing began to happen to another of my companions, coloured dark blue. As it expanded, it became lighter blue. I started to wonder whether this was going to be done to all of us…and what it might feel like. Then something truly awful happened. With tremendous shattering noise, my blue companion seemed to burst in some horrendous explosion. A few tiny pieces of it shot through the air past me and the remains – a limp dark blue, slightly wet lump – lay briefly on the surface where I and my other companions were lying, before one of the long thin shapes appeared to sweep it away out of our sight. Plainly, its existence was ended. Those pieces of dark blue substance were most surely bereft of life. What a dreadful way to end one’s existence. Another one of my companions – a yellow one – was the next to be taken up and began to expand. I realised I was likely to be taken up after a couple more. Would I be expanded like the crimson companion, spending my days in possibly an uncomfortable bloated state, doing who knows what? Or would I follow the example of my blue companion and become almost immediately a shattered, defunct wreck? What would that feel like? I could scarcely imagine the agony and horror of the moment when my skin burst apart with that horrible shattering screech and pieces of me exploded into the air. It was too terrifying to contemplate. Yet it seemed to me that I had but a short time to reflect about it. And if that was all the time that was vouchsafed to me, it was surely better to contemplate my end, rather than ignore it or tell myself it wouldn’t, couldn’t happen to me. And though there was nothing I could do about it, at least if I’d thought about what might happen to me, I might face it with greater steadfastness and less timorous fear. Though plainly the moment when my existence ended was likely to be extremely painful, it visibly happened extremely rapidly. Certainly, it seemed unlikely that I’d feel any lingering pain or know what it was like to be a damp, wrinkled, shattered piece of myself, with other pieces scattered far from me. But was that all there was to it? To me? I realised that I could recall nothing before my consciousness of my existence began, when I lay on that surface before being placed into what not seemed the welcome safety of the plastic container. Had I been conscious before that, but for some reason had forgotten about it? Had I appeared differently before then? Perhaps my consciousness of my existence had only occurred when I assumed this particular form? When I changed my form, might that consciousness cease? So, for instance, even if I survived this immense expansion, would I lose my consciousness? I certainly hoped that if I burst and was shattered that I lost my consciousness permanently. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my existence looking back at what I had been like and what my life had been like then. For I couldn’t believe that the shattered thing that had been almost swept away by the shape could have any sort of tolerable existence. And if being completely unconscious – as I had been before my consciousness appeared – was my fate, it was perhaps a return to my natural state….with my brief span of conscious existence being but a short interval in a lengthier period of unconsciousness…perhaps even non-existence. Indeed, I began to ask myself whether what was happening, what been happening to me, was not perhaps some illusion? A dream? Perhaps – though where this idea came from I do not know – I
was the dream of something else? Perhaps in a different reality, I didn’t exist? I was just the flimsy and ethereal substance of another’s dream? I wasn’t sure whether I found this comforting or disturbing. At any rate, it distracted me for a while my yellow companion was expanded and tied up like the crimson one had been. But was that sudden shattering which ended one’s existence preferable to living in a grossly bloated state, with one’s life hole knotted and tied? I guess I would discover quite shortly one or the other…but evidently not both. So I realised I’d never know. I could surmise to some extent…especially if I survived the sudden expansion. But if I was shattered, plainly I’d know nothing at all. But now a shape took hold of another blue companion and began to expand it. I wondered whether perhaps it was solely blue companions which burst, but this one became progressively lighter blue, its life hole was tied up and the strip of thin hard material attached to it – all without apparent mishap.
It was followed by my nearest companion – originally red, but as it was expanded, turning to orange. I realised it was inevitable that I would be next. Moreover, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I felt frozen, paralysed with the terror – not so much of the unknown, since I knew what, of two alternatives, was about to happen to me – but of the uncertainty. Would this be a brief space of time when I would be expanded in a manner which was bound to be strange and probably uncomfortable, possibly painful and then embark on an existence entirely different from what I was used to? Or would I be shattered into fragments and relapse into permanent unconsciousness? Two thin shapes gripped me. They carried me up what seemed a long way. Then they placed my life hole into another, larger shape. Suddenly, there was a great rush of something through my life hole and I could feel myself expanding. It felt curious. I had wondered whether it would feel painful, but it was uncomfortable, strange, unnerving. It certainly didn’t hurt, but an almost pleasant feeling of relaxing and filling out was inevitably accompanied by the fear that I might be expanded too far or fast and would burst like my blue companion. More and more of this slightly warm, damp substance was blown into me. I was already many times my original size, becoming lighter green all the while. And as I grew, something weird began to happen. I started to perceive things differently, understand more. The shape that was forcing this substance into me resolved itself into a face – with eyes, nose and a mouth which was blowing into my life hole….air, apparently. Evidently, as I expanded, my understanding and knowledge expanded as well. The thing blowing into me, making me expand, was a person and I was, so it seemed, the property of this person. I suppose that, having blown this change in my life into me, the person felt it had a right to do with me as it wished. But I also felt an extraordinary terror that just as I’d begun to understand the potentialities of my expansion, I might burst before I’d ever had any chance to develop them. That would be a cruel fate, indeed! Already lots of things began to pour into my consciousness – and what I could now perceive…or, indeed, see – was unfolding in a picture of many objects that was truly fascinating…..yet that might be all there was. But then the person stopped breathing into me, twisted my life hole round on itself to prevent the air from flowing out of me and then tied the thin, hard substance – string – around it securely. Then, floating through the air – which appeared to be and yet not to be the same substance that was inside me – I was led by my string to a table, as I now understood it was called, where I lay next to me expanded companions. Regrettably, the expansion of my understanding – and presumably theirs – appeared not to include any ability to communicate with each other. But at this moment I felt no need to communicate. I wished to come to terms with my new state and my new ability to comprehend the world around me. I realised I could now see quite clearly. There were four…no five…large people in the room along with a couple of much smaller ones. It seemed that they could communicate with each other as they made noises to each other and either exchanged these sounds or moved away and did something. It seemed a wonderful thing to be able to do. I wished I could communicate with them, to see whether they could tell me what my purpose was, what this place was, what they were.

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