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

My Life As A Green Balloon

This seemed to conclude with my string being tied to one of the small person’s digits. But instead of then holding me aloft and allowing me to glide freely through the air, the small person kept me under its arm, presumably through some fear that I might escape of my own volition…or possibly that it would let go of me, as the other small person had done. I was, as I suddenly realised, being kept safe. Being kept safe suggested that I had some value in the eyes of this small person…and possibly the larger ones too. It seemed a strange notion, as hitherto in my existence, I felt that I and my now long lost and separated companions had been treated as though we had no value at all. I supposed it was possible that as I had been the only one of my kind lying in the street, I had acquired a temporary value, which would be lost when the people who now had me found others like me. Or perhaps the small person holding me so tightly had a rival for possession of me. Once his rival got interested in something else, perhaps their mutual interest in me might decline. But whatever value I had now or might gain or lose in future, it felt quite pleasant….now I had accustomed myself to it…being held securely. At least I was unlikely to burst and I was now well clear of those rapid and solid vehicles and of peoples’ feet. I should be thankful for small mercies, I told myself. We continued in this way for quite some time. We went along several streets past buildings with large windows which seemed well lit and with lots of objects in them. Occasionally we stopped and the people stared into them. On one occasion, one of them went inside and came out with some sort of package under its arm. I would have liked to have gone inside to see what it was like. But the little person carrying me – and therefore I – remained outside. We then approached one of the fast, solid machines. One of the larger people opened what was evidently a door and others followed. The little person carrying me got in and sat down on a seat which smelled of plastic. Then something familiar happened. The person in the front turned placed a small metal object in a slot in the front of the vehicle and twisted it. The vehicle started to roar in a manner I hadn’t heard since I and my companions were moved from where I first was conscious of my existence. That was succeeded by similarly familiar noises as the vehicle moved forward and began to pick up speed. Being inside one of these things, rather than at their mercy lying in the street, seemed a vast improvement in my circumstances. Though we moved too fast for me to see very much, I was evidently safe and appeared to have become part of the world of these persons. Indeed, as their breath percolated around me while I was in the car, my comprehension increased further. The little person holding me was a child, a young version of the larger people. These were of two sorts – a man, who had short hair, and a woman, who had long hair, whose eyes and lips seemed to be covered in some sort of paint and who smelled strongly of something chemical….. perfume, I realised. Naturally, the younger persons were also either men or women…called boys and girls. It was one of the latter that continued to hold me tightly. She had long dark hair and brown eyes, partly obscured by glass placed in front of them….spectacles – that’s what they were called. They continued to talk amongst each other….But unfortunately my augmented understanding didn’t extend to being able to comprehend what they were saying to each other. I felt this was a pity as I would have liked to have known what they were talking about. Though I could see little out of the window of the vehicle…car, as I now realised it was called…I could see lots of other cars, larger vehicles…vans and buses…and frequently smaller vehicles where a single individual sat on top, normally wearing a metal helmet, which weaved around among the other vehicles, frequently making a loud hooting noise…..motor scooters…that was what they were termed. From time to time, our car seemed to bounce around quite a lot…I could only assume it was related to whatever surface we were driving on…as sometimes it felt quite smooth. It also appeared that the ground we were travelling on rose and fell, sometimes quite steeply.
I was beginning to wonder how long this journey might last, when suddenly we came to an abrupt halt. Then the vehicle went in the opposite direction from that in which we’d been going and stopped again. The doors to the vehicle were opened and, still securely tied to the little person’s wrist, I was taken out into the open air. But only briefly. In front of us was a large building, painted a dull ochre colour, with a dark green door and several windows and balconies stretching up towards the sky. Almost immediately we went inside. It was gloomy and even when the light was switched on, it just made the gloom appear a weak yellow. We went up a flight of stairs and through another door, which was closed behind us. Inside, once the lights had been switched on, it was much brighter – an almost white light. My string was untied from the small person’s wrist and then removed from round my life hole, and the little girl and one of similar size tapped me up into the air between themselves for a short time, then let me settle on the floor, by a large wooden object. Meanwhile someone had switched on some kind of apparatus which showed pictures and people talking and some running around. Indeed, some of those running around appeared to be chasing after an object broadly the same shape and size as me. But when they caught up with it, they seemed to give it a hard kick with their feet. So I felt grateful that I was lying on this carpet. Being ignored was greatly preferable to that. The carpet was plain, a plain dark blue, and smelt of some substance which I hadn’t encountered before. I expected that I would be there for only a short while, but after a time, all the people moved away from that part of the building into another, turning off the apparatus which they had apparently been observing. I could hear various sounds and more conversation, but I was unable to see anything. After another fairly short period of time, the larger people returned and switched the apparatus on again, appearing to watch it keenly for a while. Then they switched it off again, rose from their seats and disappeared whence they, along with the smaller people, had gone previously. As they departed, one of them bent over me and pressed a switch above my head. At that point all the lights went out. I was left in the dark. Though, as I almost immediately became accustomed to the darkness, it was lighter than it had seemed at first. Though some kind of hard material covered the windows, light appeared through the slats and round the sides. I imagined this might well come from lights in the street outside. I could hear noises in the street outside – both vehicles coming past and the voices of people…some possibly emanating from apparatuses like the one the people who had brought me here had been observing earlier. As time passed, these noises lessened until there were virtually nothing coming from outside the building. Inside, there were constant reminders of various contraptions which hummed and buzzed and occasionally squeaked. From time to time, I reckoned one of the people emerged from wherever they had gone and caused various different-sounding flows of water, from a gently tinkling to a sudden thud followed by a great gushing sound. All this was accompanied by a distant rumbling sound, which appeared to be associated with one or more of the people dwelling in this place. Eventually, the yellow artificial light outside was replaced by the dawning of a new day, creeping almost unnoticed through the slats of the window-coverings. After a while, people started to appear, one of whom opened the window covering by pulling on a string somewhat like mine. Noises of more contraptions could be heard, including one gurgling and spluttering. One person switched on an apparatus which made lots of noises, some sounding like the people when they conversed together. Indeed, for quite a time, there was much movement about the room, with people – both large and small – coming and going. But quite soon, the various contraptions were switched off and all the people departed from the door whence we had all come in.

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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