What could it possibly feel like to be continually blown up and then the air released with such a powerful force that one was hurled upwards into the air, not knowing where one was going or where one might land? Though it seemed that my red companion suffered no damage…and landing on the ground in its original state meant that it would certainly suffer no discomfort or pain….what effect might that experience have on it? Would having air blown into it several times mean that its appreciation of the world around it be greater than those of us who had received air only once? But as the air was inside it for such a short time, I felt that was perhaps unlikely. Especially as it occurred to me that I was comprehending more, the longer the breath remained inside me. But it did start me thinking about something which hadn’t occurred to me before. Was my expansion permanent? Or was it inevitable that I would either burst and be shattered like those companions who had been destroyed during the expansion process? Or might the air inside me seep out over a period of time, leaving me eventually like my companions who’d been repeatedly expanded and then had the air let out of them in that unpleasant fashion? Would my final state be like them before they were expanded at last – a weakened, flabby, wrinkled, limp flat piece of material, a distended and corrupt version of what I’d originally been and a deflated reminder of what I’d been like when I was expanded? Would all that understanding which had come with being inflated gradually disappear as the air seeped out of me? Would I retain the level of consciousness I had before I was inflated? Would I retain more, some of what I’d known when I was at my full extent? Or would I become a complete blank? And would I begin to realise I was losing some of my ability to comprehend as the air started to come out of me? Or would I know nothing until I was already a wrinkled fragment of my former state? How quickly might I become deflated? Would it happen quite suddenly? Or over a longer period of time, during which my comprehension might regress in stages? Would I get some warning of this, for instance, if I could feel the air gradually draining out of me? Or might it be so slow and in such minute quantities that I would be unable to tell – at least for quite a while? And if that was accompanied by a simultaneous draining away of my faculties, might I not notice even then? Evidently, in my moment of maximum expansion and – presumably – maximum comprehension, the only possibilities for the future seemed to be worse than where I was now. But then, I told myself, I had feared my expansion and now could see what advantages it had brought me. I should perhaps not assume that whatever occurred to me in future was necessarily bad…It might merely be different. Along with my expansion, I had gained knowledge, but I was also acutely aware of my greater vulnerability. Perhaps deflated I might retain something of my knowledge, but without that black shadow hanging over me? At any rate, I didn’t have much time for such cogitations. Not long after all my companions had been expanded, with but one – a yellow one – bursting, a dozen or so smaller people came into the room, making a great, high-pitched noise. As I examined them, I realised they were smaller likenesses of the larger people who had been expanding us. Possibly they were like me and my companions, little now but would be expanded at some future time? However, my observation of them indicated that they appeared to be made of the same stuff as the larger people, so I began to doubt whether any increase in their size would be due to the same process we’d gone through. Indeed, they struck me as being composed of a much more solid substance than we were – not just more solid, but also a lot thicker. These smaller people moved – or perhaps ran was a better word – around a lot, making lots of high-pitched noises. From time to time one or more of them grabbed hold of one of my companions and hit them in the air or used their lower limbs to push them along the ground.
At one point, one of them either trod on a green companion or perhaps pressed it against something sharp, as it burst with the now familiar explosion of noise, accompanied by its body being shredded into small pieces, with solely a part of the life hole remaining in a recognisable state. At least it was a quick ending of its existence. And I couldn’t see how being shattered into so many small pieces could possibly allow for any continuing existence, certainly not in any sentient way. I certainly hoped so.
For that reason, I was grateful that none of these smaller people chose me to push, hit and kick around. I had no idea whether the experience was enjoyable, terrifying or somewhere in between. But I confess I had no strong desire to partake of it. If I could have moved myself out of their sight, I would have done so. But, incapable of movement of my own accord, I had to remain where I was and hope that their attention would be diverted on to others. A selfish desire, I admit. But as this appeared to be quite possibly a genuine matter of life or death, I could see no reason why I should wish for my death rather than that of companions, whose familiarity was based entirely on proximity and not acquaintance. After a while, the smaller people stopped doing anything with my companions and moved a short distance away and appeared to lower themselves on to small hard surfaces and then began to place substances into their heads. They seemed to have some sort of hole in their heads into which they placed this stuff, to which they added liquids of various bright colours poured into these holes using a container which they held in one of their upper limbs. Perhaps they used things like this to expand themselves in the way we had been expanded by air? They must be immensely heavy creatures, dense, solid. Though I realised I couldn’t fly through the air or bounce along the ground of my own volition, when I did move it was with a great lightness and freedom. Even before I was expanded, I had been light enough to be tossed around easily. These people were the antithesis. I imagined that even moving a limb across the ground or through the air must require great effort. And the enjoyment of floating – which I hoped I would experience eventually – was utterly beyond them. But, I had to concede, they evidently were able to move themselves – something which was beyond me. It also looked as though they could communicate between each other, something which I had long ago realised was impossible for me and my kind. How they managed to do this; whether it related to them being solid; whether it related to what they appeared to consume, I was naturally unable to tell. The thought occurred to me that if I had been able to gain such an increase in my understanding of all that was around me just from s few breaths from one of these people, how much greater must be the comprehension of those who made those breaths? But almost as soon as they finished this, a host of them came over to us, each one grasping one of us by the string which was tied tightly round our knotted life-hole and pulled us away from the hard surface where we had been resting and aloft into the air. Though I realised that I was slightly heavier than the air which surrounded me, which meant that I had a tendency to sink through it slowly, the small person holding the string moved forward at such a pace that I was continually waft up into the air whenever I seemed to float downwards. Indeed, sometimes the person pulled hard on the string, jerking me up further into the air. It was a curious experience. I had never felt like this before. To an extent, it felt somewhat precarious. The sudden pulling at my string and the subsequent bobbing around in the broad expanse of the air was vaguely unsettling. Hitherto, I had always been placed on something solid. It had given my existence a comfortable certainty. Generally speaking, I had known where I was. But now I was supported – if that is the correct term, but probably isn’t – by apparent nothingness. Though I could tell I couldn’t actually float in the air, the movement of the string and across the room and out into the great bright world outside made it feel as though I was.
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.