In a Balloon (flash fiction story)

Life inside a balloon is not all circuses and carnivals. From the inside, it’s a lot of red rubber and helium. When its sunny outside, you can see shapes; that’s pretty cool. When it’s not raining, you can hear the buzz of children laughing. When you’re tethered by string to a gentle young hand, you have a sense of being anchored, though you’re not always sure to what.

Always, you’re fighting for breath. The air is thin and does not nourish your lungs. Life is a sequence of moments, each spent sliding around the interior surface of the balloon, looking for purchase on the smooth rubber walls, gasping for oxygen that is not to be found.

When it’s sunny outside, you catch a glimpse of the phantoms that other people mistake for the real world, visions that haunt you as much as they fulfill everyone else. When it’s not raining, you can hear thin traces of joy, love, and happiness, impressions without distinct words, mirages that people outside the balloon hear and remember. You can only imagine what they mean. When you’re tethered by string to a gentle young hand, you have a sense of being guided by something or someone more grounded than you, though you’re not sure what the ground is, let alone who it might be that is guiding you.

But what you really hope for is that another hand will flick a lighter, apply flame to the string, and light it like a fuse. You wouldn’t see the flame creeping up the string. You wouldn’t feel the fire heating the ballon. You wouldn’t have any warning before the ballon swelled and burst, releasing you into the sky.

If it were sunny, you could watch the ground approaching as you plummeted towards it at terminal velocity.

If it were not raining, you could hear the crowd gathered below gasping, not for air, but in horror.

If below you there is a gentle hand, holding a bit of string, your eyes might meet other eyes, and you might feel anchored.

Flash fiction originally posted in 2013, edited in re-published in 2019.

by C. N. Nevets

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