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

My Life As A Green Balloon

But I could discover no way of doing so. But on the other hand, in every other respect, the expansion seemed to have given me many new attributes. After the uncomfortable strangeness of my expansion (coupled with the fear that I might burst), I felt that my present state was the one I was meant to be. My previous state felt as though it was a preparation for what I was like now. Though in some regards I felt more vulnerable – not least to the possibility of bursting – what I had lost in terms of my greater vulnerability was more than compensated for by my ability to see and comprehend so much more. I recognised that I was no more master of my own fate than I had been before. But whatever my fate was, at least I would see the world for what it was, rather than as a series of movements and dim shapes and varying degrees of light. More of my companions joined me on the table…though I also heard the ghastly sound of another one bursting – a reminder, if one was needed, about the fragility of my existence. Indeed, one of the things I began to understand was that, in my expanded state, my skin was immeasurably thinner and hence more vulnerable. It was less that I would ever expand beyond my present state. The people who had expanded me appeared to have set a limit on my level of expansion. But with such a thin skin, I was plainly vulnerable to any sharp objects or, conceivably, heavy pressure placed on me. But as I could do nothing about it, I remained where I was, moving slightly in the currents of air as people moved around or opened or closed windows and doors. An effect of my expansion. I began to understand things like windows and doors. I wondered how this had come about? Perhaps because my expansion had been achieved by one of these people blowing into me, I had somehow acquired some of its knowledge of the world around me from that air breathed inside me. I had started to comprehend what that invisible substance – air – was. And I also realised that these people seemed to draw air into themselves and then expel it. Perhaps it gave them life and comprehension too? Indeed, I wondered whether they started their existence as something flat, rubbery and insignificant like I had been and some other person blew into them and expanded them to their present shapes? I would be quite interested to see that happen. But as they were so much bigger than me and appeared to cover themselves in a variety of fabrics, including what I initially thought was a fabric on their heads, perhaps their previous state was so large that they were expanded somewhere else. And my new understanding revealed to me that what I thought was fabric on their heads actually grew out from inside them – and was called hair. Indeed several of them appeared to have this hair sprouting out from their faces….which I’d realised was where they perceived or saw things, blew out air – both for themselves and when they expanded objects like me – and also emitted noises of various sorts, which appeared to allow them to communicate. I began to comprehend that each face was different. At first it seemed strange, unnecessary. After all, apart from our colours my companions and I were indistinguishable and it seemed to cause us no problems. But perhaps if they communicated with each other, they needed to look different so that they were able to communicate with the correct person? I wondered what it would feel like having a face and being able to communicate? Was it something people enjoyed? Or did they only do it because they had to? Perhaps how they communicated set each one apart too? The only thing now that differentiated me from my companions, apart from our original colours, was the extent to which we’d been expanded – which showed up in subtle variations of our colour. For instance, fairly close to me was a green companion who’d been expanded a little less than me. He was, as a result, very slightly darker in colour.
Did the extent we were expanded also reflect our new powers of comprehension? Might it be that the more we were expanded, the more we understood? So perhaps those who had burst because they had been expanded too much had achieved the ultimate knowledge in those few instants before they perished? Or perhaps it would have been too quick. After all, I realised my perception didn’t expand immediately, but took a short while – certainly longer than my poor companions had before they were shattered. I decided to take my mind off uncomfortable thoughts like that. I had survived and I should enjoy my new state and use it to learn as much as I could about the world I was existing in. I had no idea how long this state might last and whether I might burst at any time. Thinking about it wasn’t going to stop it happening. I might as well live for the day. There was no point whatsoever spending whatever time might be left to me pursuing gloomy reflections and shadowy fears. I was just beginning to think positive thoughts about my circumstances when something rather unsettling occurred. One of the people picked up a crimson companion and blew into it. When he had reached about the same size as me, the person started to pull its life hole sideways very sharply. Instantly a high-pitched screaming noise emerged, which the person manipulated in its intensity and pitch by moving the life hole. It sounded as though my crimson companion was in the direst agony. I found it hard to imagine what it must feel like. Though having the air blown into one was unsettling, that was more because it was experienced for the first time. Otherwise I would describe it as not unpleasant. But having it let out of one while having to undergo such horrendous screaming noises through one’s life hole struck me as probably highly uncomfortable at best, and quite possibly extremely painful. My crimson companion, with the air all removed from it in this way, lay on the table, lifeless. It hadn’t returned to its previous, original condition, but was slightly larger, slightly wrinkled and baggy – as though its skin had been weakened and permanently expanded a little. However, it had little time to get used to this situation as the person expanded it again and did the same thing, letting the air out to the accompaniment of a series of wailing, shrieking noises. From what I could see of the people around, this caused them to communicate loudly….something which I eventually perceived was called laughter – the expression of great pleasure. How this was affecting my crimson companion I could scarcely bear to contemplate. I just had to be grateful that it hadn’t been done to me. At any rate, after doing this six times, the crimson companion was finally expanded and tied up as the rest of us had been. I wondered whether, as its comprehension expanded, it would recall those dreadful experiences and whether it would have affected it in some manner. Might the dreadful experience actually have expanded its comprehension more than the rest of us because it had received some six times more air from the person? Or was the air within its body for such a short time that it had no effect? But I’d never know….and decided it was probably better that way. But almost immediately something even more terrifying occurred. One of these people blew into a red companion, expanding it as full as possible. Then it was let go, the air being released forcing the red companion up into the air in a series of loops and jerks, until all the air had come out of it and it flopped on to the ground. The people made loud noises, some high-pitched, as this happened. It was then done four or five more times. Each time the red companion leapt high into the air in an uncontrolled, unpredictable manner, accompanied by the sounds of the air it was emitting from its life-hole, accompanied by these loud noises from the people. Finally it was expanded and its life-hole tied up like the rest of us. I wondered what it must have felt like. Though being expanded had felt strange, slightly uncomfortable and worrying – that was mostly because it had never happened to me before and I was – rightly in my opinion – concerned that I might explode. But it had happened only once.

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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